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Old 03-01-2013, 13:05   #1
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Fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

Hi, I have a 36 foot sailboat that came with a 20 gallon fuel tank. The boat is praised as a fine blue-water cruiser; but 20 gallons seems way shy of what I would need to carry down the Pacific side of Central America and perhaps a puddle-jump. Is there a consensus on how much to carry?
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Old 03-01-2013, 13:37   #2
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

I used 38 gallons, one full tank, from Gallapagos to Australia.

If you are not happy take a few Gerry cans.
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Old 03-01-2013, 13:42   #3
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

I would guess it would depend on how much ya must run your engine ! If ya depend on the diesel to run your electronics for charging batterys, or running your fridge/freezer, then it's a bunch small ! if you only need it for makeing ports or anchoring it should do fine ! and ya can always jerry can a spare supply if ya think ya need it ! If your worried enough about it ! well add another tank or a bladder to carry more !! Lots of boats have cruised the pacific with less fuel, some with only an outboard ! Hope this helps LOL
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Old 03-01-2013, 16:15   #4
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

You've got a boat that sails well in light air, so as long as you have the I'm going to sail not motor attitude, you will do OK. I had a 25 gal tank in my J 37 and added a soft tank of about 12 or 14 gals. I did this because I don't like jerry jugs on deck. I used a car electric fuel pump with quick disconnects between the main tank and the soft tank. I would flip it around to fill or empty the soft tank to/from the main tank.
There are some pretty long runs from the central Mex coast to Panama that often are very light air.
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Old 03-01-2013, 16:30   #5
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

I bet most of you would spend a lot more fuel if had the tankage.. Thou I might be a bit contestable to judge you becouse I'm building 1.5t diesel tanks in a 6t boat
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Old 03-01-2013, 16:36   #6
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

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Originally Posted by TeddyDiver View Post
I bet most of you would spend a lot more fuel if had the tankage.. Thou I might be a bit contestable to judge you becouse I'm building 1.5t diesel tanks in a 6t boat
Yea, if you load the boat down with enough fuel weight it won't be able to sail in light winds, so you will be motoring. Most of your cruising will be in light air for most people.
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Old 03-01-2013, 18:12   #7
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

" 20 gallons seems way shy"
.....It depends a lot on your philosophy of sailing. If you're content to sail VERY slowly in light airs; to wait outside a port, sailing on the main alone, or whatever, waiting for light enough to see to enter safely; if you're happy to pick a different harbor because you can't make the tide for the one you at first intended; if you have set up your boat to be very stingy with electricity, then of course it's enough!

Lots of people motor if boat speed gets below an agreed-upon speed. Many are willing to enter never before visited ports at night. Some are destination-flexible while coastal cruising. But what some or lots of people may or may not be a factor for you.

No one but yourselves can figure out how much electricity you'll need and how you want to provide it, but I've noticed a number of cruisers add gen-sets which use less fuel per hour than their main engines, for charging batteries, charging eutectic refrigerators, and running water makers. If you can learn to be extremely frugal with water and fuel, then it's probably still adequate. But if minimalism isn't the way you want to go, it's time for some hard thinking about what kinds of trade-offs you want to make...the two of you ought to reach a consensus of opinion.

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Old 03-01-2013, 19:18   #8
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

I carried enough fuel to motor over a thousand miles. I used jerry cans and bladder tanks.

When the speed drops below four knots, I turn on one engine and motor.

When the batteries need charging because the solar panels and wind generators are not producing enough electricity, I run one engine.

For me, fuel is an insurance policy that gives me more options, and I like to carry lots of it.
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Old 03-01-2013, 19:26   #9
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

You'll need the jerry jugs anyway to get fuel in out of the way places, so start off with 20 gallons in jugs and transfer into the tank as soon as possible. Even though I carry 115 gallons (38 footer) I always start off with four full jerry jugs. It's nice to be able to fill up when it is cheap, and to be able to fill up using the dinghy.
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Old 03-01-2013, 19:36   #10
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

I'd say you should carry a minimum of 50 gallons, so add 30 in jerry jugs. That should give you a motoring range of 5-600 miles at 5 knots. The leg you will need it most for is the 1000 miles from Panama to the Galapagos.
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Old 03-01-2013, 19:38   #11
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

Pacific Central America has long stretches between fuel stops, and plenty of light airs or flat, swelly calms where inducing forward motion is far more comfortable than wallowing. It is nice to be able to motor for at least three days nonstop at five knots, and more range would of course be nice.
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Old 03-01-2013, 19:54   #12
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

I would never go offshore without at least one Jerry can. Just in case something happens to your main supply. Like getting a wee bit of rag stuck in the fuel uptake for some unknown reason.

Ever take your tank clean out off while at sea?

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Old 03-01-2013, 20:00   #13
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

If you read blogs of sailors crusing the Pacific from the Americas where most are always chasing fuel and water(of varying quality) in the remote areas such as Galapacas, Marquesis, etc one could say most vessels have inadequate tankage. I guess remote is usually accompained by not being able to pull into a fuel dock and take on bulk, having to lug jerrycans or pump out of questionable 44 gal drums.

Increasing storage in a vessel after market is offen difficult and lashing jerrycans to the rails seems somewhat poor seamanship though some have no option.

Few vessels in my view have adequate capacity for long distance cruising in remote areas.
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Old 03-01-2013, 20:32   #14
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

My dad took his boat (now my boat) from Puget Sound down to the Sea of Cortez for a one year cruise. He started out (not really knowing what to expect) with just the 30 gallon internal tank. When I met him in La Paz, Baja, he had jerry jugs lashed all over the decks - at least another 30 gallons worth. While not a sailing "purist", he also was not particularly fond of listing to the engine and was not in a hurry either.

Among the many changes I made to the boat afterward was new fuel tanks that total 100 gallons. These tanks are normally less than half full for weight consideration. So far I have not had water-in-fuel problems but this is certainly a possibility as a tank full of air may produce more condensation than a tank full of fuel. Always trade-offs............

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Old 03-01-2013, 22:34   #15
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Re: fuel capacity for small cruising sailboat

My current boat has 30 a gallon tank with an additional 15 gallons in Gerry Jugs for passages. Got me to Kona from SF with about 24 hours powering out of SF to find wind and 18 hours from Hilo to Kona when the tradewinds didn't blow. Had quite a bit of fuel left in the tank when I got home. Have ample solar charging capacity so don't turn engine on for other than making time. Engine is a 3GM Yanmar and boat displaces 13,000#s. Powered way more than I normally do on that trip because of no wind conditions.

Our old Westsail 32 had 70 gallon total in two tanks and carried an additional 10 gallons in Gerry Jugs. Did the loop from San Diego-Tahiti-Kona without refueling.

I'd like to have 48 hours of fuel on a passage. With a 25hp or so diesel, that's about 24 gallons. Has proved more than enough fuel for the long distance passages I've done.
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