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Old 18-04-2016, 10:08   #16
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

I have had fuel vent issues several times on my sailboat. Here is what I have done and it seems to work without taking all the hard to reach hoses apart.

Warning this can cause fuel spills in and around your boat. Use at your own risk, and be prepared to clean up.

This should work to clear most sailboat fuel tank vents.

1. Get a wet/dry utility vacuum like a shopvac.
2. Take the attachment off the end of the hose so it is just the flat end of the hose.
3. Make sure the shopvac is clean and dry inside the container and the hose.
4. Put the hose on the output side of the shop vac. This is the opposite of how you normally use it. So it will blow air out of the hose instead of sucking in.
5. Turn on the shopvac and put the other end of the hose over the air vent on the outside of the hull. The hose should fit completely over the vent and tight against the hull.
6. Let it blow air into the vent for a few seconds then pull it off and let the air come out.
7. You should here the whistle from the vent if it has a whistle attached. You should just hear the air coming out if it does not have a whistle.
8. Now go below and check for fuel leaks. Putting air pressure on the tank will show you where you have potential leaks, loose hoses, loose caps or cracks.
9. If you finds leaks correct them.
10. If you did not hear air or the whistle you can repeat 6 thru 9.
11. If after several tries you still do not have air coming out of the vent there is one more thing you can try but it will be messy. switch the hose to the vacuum side and suck air out of the vent. This is messy because you will also suck fuel when the hose is clear. You will need fuel catch towels and probably a bucket. Try to keep the fuel from draining into the water.
12. Now clean out the vacuum and go back to step 3.

Now that you have cleared you vent you should be able refuel your sailboat.
A couple of other tips for new owners. If you have the whistle in the vent I have noticed that the pitch of the whistle rises as the tank fills. When I fill mine I slow the flow as the pitch rises. When it is close to full I will stop and watch for foam rising in the fuel line. When I can see foam rising near the top of the fuel line I am done.

I also keep a couple of 5 gal. fuel cans full on the boat so I always have emergency fuel. When I fill up I dump these into the tank first and then refill them with fresh fuel. This ensures that my spare fuel is as good as the fuel in the tank.

Hope this helps,

Capt Ed
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Old 18-04-2016, 10:17   #17
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

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Originally Posted by dmksails View Post
My sailing history has been almost entirely on boats with outboard engines. Refueling was easy -take the fuel tank to a gas station and fill it.

I was recently on a sailboat with an inboard engine and for the first time was able to witness a refueling. Boat pulled up to the fuel dock and made everything ready. Fuel inlet was a standard surface mounted screw cap on the port side. Cap was unscrewed and the fuel nozzle was inserted all the way down into the opening. Captain then proceeded to fill the tank. Within minutes a fountain of fuel shot out about 2 feet! Not good. Several attempts at fueling it all resulted in some fuel spitting out. Tank was definitely not full - checked that. Just could not add fuel unless you were dribbling it in.

So what happened? I'm in the market for a boat myself and this has gotten me very apprehensive about fueling.

How do you refuel without getting fuel all over your boat and in the water? (which is very bad)
You've been given a lot of possibilities, but I think the most common problem is that most marina fuel pumps are capable of very high volume fuelling. Consider that many boats hold hundreds of gallons of fuel and you'll understand why.

Most smaller boats aren't designed to take on hundreds of gallons of fuel in just a few minutes so the fuel backs up in the filler pipe and out the fuel fill.

The solution is to look for a "slow speed" pump. Some marinas have them, some have pumps that can be adjusted and some have neither.

Don't open the nozzle all the way and don't count on an automatic shutoff (most don't have this feature anyway).

Ever wonder why the marina person hands you the nozzle instead of filling it for you? That's so you are liable for any spill, not the marina.
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Old 18-04-2016, 10:20   #18
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

the vent is the first to check. the rate of flow as mentioned will need to be checked at the handle...restrict the flow... some fill hoses have a long rout from the deck to the tank and some times a good bit of it is horizontal, causing foam to build up, more so as the tank gets fuller. some times the nozzle fits too tight in the deck fitting... pull it back a little and some air can get past and assist the venting process and will also let you hear whats going on below. I've been on many boats and they all have they're own fueling quarks, some are correctible with changing routing and others by changing the fueling rate. Not many fuel nozzles at marine fuel docks have cutoff, at the nozzle. But the ones that do..? by the time it gets that far up it's too late....so pay attention and be patient.
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Old 18-04-2016, 10:26   #19
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

I track my fuel usage closely and can usually estimate within about 3-5 gallons, what it will take to fill my tank. I normally have to slow down the flow rate just to fill and then slow down the flow to a crawl and top off the tank, listening for the sound to change, while holding an absorbent cloth over the vent.

My opinion is that this mostly a flow rate issue, higher flow rates overwhelm sailboat setups. Fueling at the same pumps used by mega yachts can be quite a challenge with the high flow rates. That's the downside, upside you know your usually getting fresh and cleaner fuel, than other marinas that don't pump as much fuel.




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Old 18-04-2016, 10:28   #20
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

11. If after several tries you still do not have air coming out of the vent there is one more thing you can try but it will be messy. switch the hose to the vacuum side and suck air out of the vent. This is messy because you will also suck fuel when the hose is clear. You will need fuel catch towels and probably a bucket. Try to keep the fuel from draining into the water.
12. Now clean out the vacuum and go back to step 3.

that is fuel you are sucking into an electrical device. fuel vapors are explosive. blowing from one side or the other can help troubleshoot a vent problem. no air flow in the vent? replace or unclog. if it dips and has liquid in it straighten it
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Old 18-04-2016, 10:32   #21
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Most places I fuel all have big hoses, and high speed pumps, but they all have a ball valve right at the outlet of their pump, you can close this valve mostly off so you now have a low speed fuel pump.
My boat has a welded 90 deg angle right at the tank, that restricts fuel flow into the tank, only way around it is to fill slowly.
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Old 18-04-2016, 10:46   #22
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmksails View Post
My sailing history has been almost entirely on boats with outboard engines. Refueling was easy -take the fuel tank to a gas station and fill it.

I was recently on a sailboat with an inboard engine and for the first time was able to witness a refueling. Boat pulled up to the fuel dock and made everything ready. Fuel inlet was a standard surface mounted screw cap on the port side. Cap was unscrewed and the fuel nozzle was inserted all the way down into the opening. Captain then proceeded to fill the tank. Within minutes a fountain of fuel shot out about 2 feet! Not good. Several attempts at fueling it all resulted in some fuel spitting out. Tank was definitely not full - checked that. Just could not add fuel unless you were dribbling it in.

So what happened? I'm in the market for a boat myself and this has gotten me very apprehensive about fueling.

How do you refuel without getting fuel all over your boat and in the water? (which is very bad)
Hi DMK,

This can be an issue on any boat, necessitating proper maintenance and precautions.

As others mentioned, if fuel is coming out the fill, the air vent is inadequate or blocked. [I just replaced a fuel tank vent last fall for this reason...]

The precautions we take include:
  • Ask the pump attendant to reduce the flow rate while you are using the pump. Ask again if still too fast...
  • Put an absorbent donut on the fill nozzle, or poke the nozzle through an absorbent oil pad [this will collect light spray, but not a gusher...]
  • Ask if they have a smaller diameter long nozzle adapter. Many docks we use have a ~2ft long x ~3/4in pipe adapter they can quickly fit to the pump nozzle, allowing us to insert that deeply into the fill line, and making the handle auto-shut-off much earlier than when the fill pipe is near the deck.

The above precautions have so far [knocking on wood...] prevented geysers and minor overflows during fueling for us.

We also bought [but haven't used yet...] a Scandvik - Clean Way Fuel Fill Kit - 40000P which acts like a sealed fuel fill funnel with a baffled overflow container that is supposed to contain those accidental geysers we are discussing... This may be handy for those times when a fuel dock doesn't have an extended nozzle adapter or a higher than desired flow rate.

Now for the other side of the issue: when the fuel tank vent is working properly, you need to watch for fuel coming out the vent. Since we put H2Out air driers on our vent lines, we don't want to foul them with fuel, so before the dryers, we installed a LIFE GUARD 100 Fuel/Air Separator.

I have also thought about putting a fuel Y valve on the vent line, and running the 2nd air vent line from the Y valve to a T in the fill line. The idea being to switch the vent line to the fuel fill line connection when filling, so any overflow from the vent goes into the fill line. When finished, throw the Y valve back to venting overboard as normal.

An alternate version would be to run the vent line to a T in the fuel fill line, then T the vent line to the overboard vent fitting [with an inline valve] to temporarily shut-off overboard venting during fueling.

For perspective, when boating full time, we fuel-up [top-up really...] an average of twice a year, and one 130 gallon tank is for the Espar heater. [We have 2 tanks for a total 216 gallon capacity, the 2nd tank is dedicated to the engine and generator, and fuel can be transferred between tanks as needed...]

In hopes this helps ameliorate your fears... don't let preventable mishaps like this stop you from pursuing your dreams...

Cheers!

Bill

PS: The above is an excerpt from a much more detailed post describing our fuel systems on our blog, in case anyone is interested... or bored....
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Old 18-04-2016, 11:20   #23
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Scandvik Clean Way Fuel Fill Kit

I couldn't stand the hassle of filling a 22 gal. tank so I broke down and bought this expensive gizmo when it was on sale.
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Old 18-04-2016, 11:42   #24
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Many boats have to be fueled very slowly or that happens. It's the pits for sure. it's often due to the horizontal run of the vent hose, which is often necessary as the tanks are low in the boat.
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Old 18-04-2016, 13:12   #25
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

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Originally Posted by dgarces View Post
The National Research Council estimates that upward of 588 million gallons of petroleum products are accidentally spilled annually at fuel docks and gas stations. That's nearly three times the amount of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Please send/post any links to substantiate this NRC position. I'm interested in this study/research.
Thanks

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Old 18-04-2016, 13:19   #26
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

http://www.tgmmarine.com/nospills/download/brochure.pdf

Anyone have any experience with this product? Good, bad?
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Old 18-04-2016, 13:34   #27
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

A) A properly installed vent whistle is a very handy device. Put a rag around the fill nozzle so all the air must go through the whistle. As soon as the whistle stops, stop filling!

B) As long as the vent and fill are not blocked / kinked, you should have no trouble filling up.
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Old 18-04-2016, 14:36   #28
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SqPeg View Post
Scandvik Clean Way Fuel Fill Kit

I couldn't stand the hassle of filling a 22 gal. tank so I broke down and bought this expensive gizmo when it was on sale.
How do you like it. I just bought one but have not tried it out yet. Seems well built. Just curious about your results. Thanks
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Old 18-04-2016, 14:44   #29
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dgarces View Post
The National Research Council estimates that upward of 588 million gallons of petroleum products are accidentally spilled annually at fuel docks and gas stations. That's nearly three times the amount of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
I refueled at Saint Petersburgs fuel dock with ( my luck ) the Coast Guard boat refueling right next to me. The dock crew handed me an absorbent towel, and said good luck and walked away. crew handled the fill nozzle and I hovered with my towel at the vent with my eye on the filler. Not a drop was spilled. Coasty' s noticed and walked over to give us a smile and hand shake. Me, extra rum that night.
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Old 18-04-2016, 15:13   #30
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

My vents are clear, but when the tanks get close to full, wakes and waves will roll the boat and then it's a mess
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