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Old 11-08-2016, 11:48   #1
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Has anyone had a similar leak?

Our personal boat is a 1975 Morgan OI 51. This is our second Morgan of similar vintage that developed a fuel tank leak at about the same approximate age. Surely someone else has experienced this. If so, please share your discoveries and solutions.

Here is our current scenario:


1. About two years ago I discovered a strawberry milkshake solution in the water separator bowls. Maybe unrelated but maybe not. We are in the yacht services industry, so I polished the fuel and carried on.


The starboard tank seemed to be worse. Port tank was possibly contaminated from fuel return going to port tank. I can align valves to direct the return to either tank. Another detail of which I am not certain is that the problem seemed worse with starboard tank topped off. Thus, I pointed my finger more at the STBD tank.


2. Since then, a fuel smell has developed below decks.


3. My bilge is pumped into the centerboard trunk. The cockpit scupper drains also are piped into the trunk. One day we were sailing at about eight knots which had us heeled over. Fuel backed up into the cockpit through the drains. This is how I discovered fuel is definitely in my bilge. Since fuel is lighter than water, the fuel obviously remained trapped and contained in the center board trunk area instead of sinking or pooling around the boat.


I believe the tanks are constructed of steal. I can access the tops of the tanks which appear to be in good serviceable condition. Of course the tanks are located low and mostly if not completely below the waterline.


We otherwise are very pleased with this boat. It has been refit and updated as needed and is close to new condition in most aspects. Therefore, I would really like to correct this problem and keep the boat. Before I remove the tanks, I would appreciate input from anyone who has experienced a similar situation and successfully solved the problem. If I do have to eliminate these tanks or take them out of service, I'm considering going back with less tankage and locating a new tank above the waterline. I am a big fan of fool proof systems like sight glass gauges. Plus, I want to see the new tanks. I would like the benefit of identifying and correcting any problem easily and quickly.


Thanks for your input,
Darien
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Old 11-08-2016, 12:07   #2
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

I cant give you OI specifics but... Tanks under the floorboards are very susceptible to developing holes. I've had it happen in 7 years from new. It's usually where the tank sits on a support under it, it stays damp or wet there between the support and the tank. The fix is to remove the tank and have a new bottom put on it, or replace it. Often most of the tank is in great shape.
or...Sometimes the welds at the bottom edges get leaks from corrosion.
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Old 11-08-2016, 12:24   #3
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

Thanks Cheechako. Useful info. This also helps confirm that I would like a tank above the waterline. Most all of the power yachts we operate have visible tanks. I'm pretty sure I can address stability and still have a tank higher than these. I have space.

Thanks again,
D
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Old 11-08-2016, 13:06   #4
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptDHill View Post
Thanks Cheechako. Useful info. This also helps confirm that I would like a tank above the waterline. Most all of the power yachts we operate have visible tanks. I'm pretty sure I can address stability and still have a tank higher than these. I have space.

Thanks again,
D
If you can do that you can just abandon the existing tank in place. One boat I had with a leaking bilge tank also had tanks under the settees, port and stbd. For quite a while I just used those instead. It's a space that's a pain to access anyway for storage.
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:56   #5
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

You may have black iron tanks.Why waste such good real estate on the boat? If its impossible to remove and repair, then look into dropping in fuel bladders. For long distances we used several bladders buried all over our ws ketch. Fairly easy to plumb into the existing fuel system. Most likely will not even have to vent them.
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Old 12-08-2016, 10:43   #6
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

I would think raising the tank/s above the water line would change the motion of the boat, with all the weight being raised. Also balance. I like the idea of bladders as replacement.
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Old 12-08-2016, 15:07   #7
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

Until it's fixed, put oil absorbing sausages in the bilge. They absorb a huge amount of oil/fuel and can be burned for disposable. Better than having the CG after you.
The strawberry milkshake is probably water in the fuel and that's what caused the leak. Water allows micro organisms to live in the bottom of the tank. Their waste causes mild steel to be eaten away. Using a good fuel conditioner would have prevented this.
If, and this is a big if, you can open the tank and install a cleanout port, and then remove the fuel and clean the bottom, it's possible to weld up pits. Also, the tank bottom can be cleaned with something like acetone and then epoxy poured to cover the bottom. I have done both successfully, but epoxy needs absolutely clean, dry steel. Removing a small tank would be easier than repairing.
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Old 12-08-2016, 20:26   #8
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

Do NOT try welding a steel fuel tank unless you are using an inert gas system and self breather. Diesel fuel is absorbed into the molecular structure and it will ignite and blow up the boat. I have brazed fuel tanks after imersing them in water up to the point of the leak but even that can be dicey. I have opened up the tanks and fabricated a hatch using large rivnuts and then used "Proseal" ( aircraft tank sealant) or an equivalent to repair the leaks and coat all of the tank bottom and about 4 inches up the sides to prevent further corrosion. Works well on aluminum tanks also.

Good luck with it.
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Old 13-08-2016, 00:33   #9
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Re: Has anyone had a similar leak?

My Columbia had original steel tank. Pulling it was not easy but it was sensible, I couldn't see keeping a leaky tank in that 16 or 18 gallon space.
I was gifted an aluminum powerboat tank from a fellow sailer. I made it fit in the starboard quarter berth and still had room under it for storage, alone with the space from the deleted tank.
My situation was unique .
But I can't see keeping two rotten Steel tanks in a boat in any case. Just a waste of space. But that's me. I don't know how much dismantling you must do to remove your tanks. There are several vendors out there whom can custom build "plastic" tankage for any application with clean outs and fittings where required.
Now I'm in a position where the tank and the A4 in my Columbia both will come out and an electric conversion will replace nasty problems associated with old fuel guzzling cantankerous internal combustion gremlins. It just makes way more sense to me. The technology is out there and it works.
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