No Fueling Around
Proper fuel storage, whether on board or on the hard, will help keep your boat running smoothly.
By Capt. Ken Kreisler
There are very few on the planet that disagree with the scenario that oil is the result of decaying matter of once living organisms compacted over untold tens of millions of years. As layer upon layer of sediment settled one on top of the other, the increasing pressure and the ensuing rising temperatures produced a chemical change whereby the remains—way too complex to discuss here—were transformed into the raw material that would eventually lead to petroleum. And while it took some time to figure out just how to properly store and distribute this energy source–surely a work still in progress–we still have to contend with our need to often have it at the ready and in places that may not be on the beaten path.
For our discussion then, let’s center things on our boats. I would venture to say that most of us, traveling from point A to point B, perhaps over to point C before returning to A, if not re-routing to D, E, and F, are usually savvy enough to chart our necessary fuel ups with plenty of reserve built in just in case.
If you enjoy covering long distances, and may not have the proper tankage, or do not trust the quality of the fuel in a certain port of call, you might consider carrying bladder tanks to store your extra fuel.
“Not all fuel bladders are created equal,” said David Dack, VP of sales for Aero Tec Laboratories (ATL), a company specializing in flexible containment technology, as we discussed several tips for those wishing to use these devices. “First off, always look for the best quality possible. Money should be no object with this equipment. The one thing you do not want to deal with when carrying volatile diesel fuel or gasoline is an inferior product.”
Dack’s company manufacturers bladders constructed from rugged military spec rubberized fabric equipped with such built-in safety features as pressure relief and anti-backflow valves. “The former prevents any pressure build up as the fuel expands, for example, with the bladder sitting in the sun in the cockpit. The latter prevents any back spill while taking on fuel,” he said.
Ease of use is a primary concern as well. Make sure you position the tank(s) so the weight is evenly distributed as not to throw your boat off. “The bladder must be firmly fastened to the deck with a tie-down kit that is secured over the stand pipe and then ratcheted down. We suggest using a cargo net as an added security measure in case of rough seas,” Dack indicated. “Bladders are most stable when full and can be easily rolled up or folded and tucked away within a vented compartment.”
With ATL equipment, a ½” brass ball valve assembly with a composite hose barb fitting is standard with an optional 1” ball valve for those who are looking for faster fuel transfer. Reinforced hose is then slipped over the barbed fitting on the outlet while the other end is run into the vessel’s main tank. A siphon or gravity feed is then initiated to start the flow of fuel from the bladder to the main tank. Alternatively, an explosion proof pump may be used to transfer the contents of the bladder to the boat’s main tank.
“We also offer our space-saving FueLocker™ design not only for those whose deck space is limited but to maximize those areas where traditional pillow type of tanks can take up lots more real estate,” Dack commented.
If you are a seasonal boater, you will want to pay special attention to having to deal with the fuel in your
tanks when getting ready for winter lay up. “For inboard gasoline or diesel boats, and with all the issues concerning ethanol, we top off the tanks, this to minimize the chance of any water condensation from happening and stimulating biological growth and corrosion, and add a fuel stabilizer,” said Dan Cordano. Service Manager for the Suntex Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, NJ. For outboards with small portable fuel tanks, Cordano suggests running the engine until it stalls out before putting it away. And with those portable tanks, make sure you use the familiar red plastic for gasoline and yellow for diesel, this to avoid any confusion.
On the subject of fuel stabilizers, Janis Grundman, National Sales Manager for Technol, a company specializing in these products, also had some thoughts. “Besides the inherent nature of fuel degrading over time, boats have a vented system and the possibility of introducing water, whether during seasonal storage or not, is always a problem. You want to do whatever you can to avoid that situation,” she said. “Make sure of your fuel source, keep your tanks topped off whenever possible, and use a stabilizer during those lay up times as well as an additive during regular operating times will help to prevent any engine problems. And always follow the manufacturers recommendations for amount to use per gallon.”
Until we figure out a better way to power our boats, perhaps with solar, wind, electric, or another energy source or combination thereof, this is what we have to work with. Taking the proper precautions and getting the best out of our fuel systems, and the proper way to store it while traveling, will help keep your boat running smoothly and safely.