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Old 19-04-2017, 13:43   #16
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

The reason I started this thread was I'm hoping to step up my fire safety practices. But it's hard to know where to start when you don't know what the most likely culprits are. It would be great if there were a list somewhere with the root causes of a couple hundred boat fires from the last 20 years. Then I could comb through that list to see where to focus my attention.

For example, fires caused by the cabin lighting circuit would probably be quite rare - less than 1% I suspect. And fires caused by diesel fuel are also pretty rare. Fires caused by propane stoves are also pretty rare, though not rare enough to ignore - but uncommon enough on modern systems to not be your #1 concern.

I'm focused on unattended fires because they're the most likely to sink or total the boat. Fires while you're on it can still do that too (as in the case of S/V Sandpiper), but at least you have a chance of fighting it. And preventative measures for unattended fires are likely to also be preventative for attended fires.
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Old 19-04-2017, 14:25   #17
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

Smart Plug is the way to go. I know they aren't the cheapest kit around but for sheer safety you can't really beat them. We installed ours shortly after purchasing our boat and have never had an issue. Easy to install and loaded with safety features. I can't beleave ABYC hasn't adopted them as mandatory on new boats. But aside from the main power cord I feel that the wiring in most boats is undersized and poorly maintained. Fire scares the crap out of me, and the thought of our boat catching fire with or without us on board is the subject of nightmares.

You just can't be careful enough with your wireing. The smallest wire for our main feeds in the cabin I have used is 10 AWG. That's for A/C and D/C. With the circuits fused properly I don't have to worry about things getting hot when I'm using an electric heater or hot pot.
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Old 19-04-2017, 14:58   #18
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

Try and cut off every electrical appliance and switch you can, when leaving a boat unattended. Especially amp hogs like AC and heat.
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Old 19-04-2017, 15:36   #19
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

I one harbor in Greece on windy days the wind drives the sea over the dock. One big worry I have is paddling over to the power box to unplug my cable.
Is the earth OK? I bloody hope so!
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Old 19-04-2017, 16:29   #20
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

All the stories so far are about electrical fires. My story is more complicated. The fire started 8 1/2 hours after I left the boat. It was put out quickly by the harbor master who was alerted by a worker on a nearby boat. Only a curtain and the headliner burned. The propane tank was empty. But it had not been empty when I left. It appeared I had left a skillet on the stove with nothing in it. What happened in the 8 1/2 hours is not known. But results are that leaving any sort of cooking stove on can cause a fire. Luckily no one was hurt and the damage was minimal
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Old 20-04-2017, 04:55   #21
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

I have been witness of a fire on board a sailboat resting at its mooring. It was caused by a short into the starter solenoid of the diesel engine. In many boats the link beween the starting battery and the engine is direct. without breaker protection. Even when everyting is off the solenoid, still connected may develop a high resistance et over heat, over a period of time. That may start a fire bu itself.
In another case in a marina, a boat on its craddle had its engine start by itself in the middle of the night. The engine overheated(no cooling water!) and burned and started a limited fire in the engine room.
re. The insurance compagny had a hard time accepting the fact that this engine started with the switch off. But in fact for the engine, in this installation, only the exitation wire of the starting solenoid would be disconnected through the main switch and the heavy gage wire wire to this solenoid was still fed. Some time also, the batteries are left to insure the charging via shore power or silar pannels, the fridge operation.
A good electrical installation would require a separate switch to the main wire to the starter solenoid to avoid this danger.
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Old 20-04-2017, 07:28   #22
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

I'd lay money on lousy wiring jobs. Wires unsecured by anything but the terminals abrading on anything they are coming into contact with Or undersized wiring maybe from adding an additional load or done by someone with no clue.
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Old 22-04-2017, 01:38   #23
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

At last nights boaters lounge get together, no less than three of the eight present related to electrical problems. One had his frig fry, he claimed the line had only 85volts ac.
Another had his shore power receptacle fry with wife and child aboard. We have a temperamental 30amp receptacle in the dock pedastal. After some investigation amongst ourselves , we find 50 , 30, and 20 amp plugs all wired on same circuit.
What do you do with a Marina owner like this? Where do you start? He also runs the tug barge fuel dock and is obviously "connected" in town politics.
This guy needs to be reigned in before somebody gets hurt.
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Old 28-04-2017, 06:55   #24
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Does it make sense to have an automatic extinguisher behind the el-panel?

Or am I being silly now?

They exist in many engine rooms. Why not where(else) fires are known to start?

b.
Why indeed. Like you, we have them behind the panels as well as the engine compartments.
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Old 28-04-2017, 07:03   #25
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Does it make sense to have an automatic extinguisher behind the el-panel?

Or am I being silly now?

They exist in many engine rooms. Why not where(else) fires are known to start?

b.

I have three, I think put there by Island Packet, they were there when I bought the boat.
One in the engine room
one in the Lazarette
one in the compartment immediately behind the electrical panel
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Old 28-04-2017, 07:12   #26
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

Thinking about it, I think I have an easy solution to avoiding fires on an unattended boat - open the seacocks.

If the boat is resting safely on the bottom, you can pretty much guarantee that it's not going to catch fire while you're gone.

When you get back, close the seacocks, pump her out, and you're ready to go...

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Old 28-04-2017, 08:06   #27
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

I imagined so. I have seen small 1 pound abc units that are automatic. There is enough free space behind our el panel to fit one.

Cheers,
b.
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Old 28-04-2017, 08:22   #28
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

They are not that expensive, I think mine are 5 lb? Heavier than you might think.
I believe the only inspection possible for a Halon extinguisher is to weigh them, sort of like a propane tank, they hold pressure until they are empty
https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...t.do?pid=13033
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Old 28-04-2017, 10:07   #29
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Re: Avoiding unattended boat fires

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
They are not that expensive, I think mine are 5 lb? Heavier than you might think.
I believe the only inspection possible for a Halon extinguisher is to weigh them, sort of like a propane tank, they hold pressure until they are empty
https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...t.do?pid=13033
I may be wrong? I thought Halon had been discontinued. Probably the ozone layer and global warming nonsense.
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Old 28-04-2017, 12:32   #30
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Avoiding unattended boat fires

It has, but hasn't.
I'd guess some has and other forms of Halon are still around. 1211 and 1301 are still around, just don't ask me to explain the difference
http://www.aircraftspruce.com/search...=HALON&x=0&y=0

I think maybe like Freon, I'm licensed so I can buy R12 I think, haven't in years but I'm told if your licensed and willing to pay it's still around.
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