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Old 17-04-2016, 11:35   #1
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How to fuel a sailboat?

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)

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Old 17-04-2016, 11:46   #2
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Cleaning the air vent usually will stop that. The problem is that you don't know it's plugged up until you start filling the tank.

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Old 17-04-2016, 11:47   #3
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

There should be a vent for the tank. My guess is it is blocked.
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Old 17-04-2016, 11:53   #4
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Assuming the vent isn't blocked - is the pump suppose to automatically stop when the tank is full, like it does for a car?

And do you trust that?
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Old 17-04-2016, 12:05   #5
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

If you are filling the tank at a fast flow-rate, even with a working vent the foam will often back up and spill out when you get near full. By the time the pump nozzle automatically shuts off, it's way too late -- the foam is coming and it can't be stopped. You need to slow down as the tank approaches the limit. You can sometimes hear the sound change as the tank fill-hose starts to fill up, which is a good clue to slow down.

I've had my vent hose get blocked just because there was a low spot in it. Condensation or fuel can collect in that low spot and that's all it takes to cause trouble. I re-routed the vent hose so there are no low spots between the tank and the vent, and that made a huge improvement.

Always keep a big piece of diesel absorbing pad on hand when fueling. Most fuel docks will give you a piece if you ask.
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Old 17-04-2016, 12:14   #6
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

In the early days fueling Cbreeze was a slow process to avoid kickback spillage. Cleaned the vent to no improvement. Eventually found a kink in the fuel vent line, when straightened out improved the situation immensely.

Remember some of these diesel pumps are set to feed several hundred gallons and go at a pretty good rate and can overwhelm the typical sailboat set up. Usually a flow control/ shutoff valve is at the pump which can help.

I installed a fuel whistle in the vent line. If you get a good nozzle fit and go at a reasonable rate you will hear the whistle sound out the vent. When the sound changes to a warble time to stop the flow.
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Old 17-04-2016, 18:18   #7
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

My current boat is really bad in that regard (spitting). Usually fill jerry jugs with the dink and fill the tank with the jugs.
Saves pulling up the anchor lol.
Sail Fast Live Slow
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Old 17-04-2016, 19:58   #8
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Go to the hardware store and get yourself a 1/2" dowel, and a 1/4" one, too. Most likely it is not that deep, but you're going to make a dip stick. Drill a tiny bit larger than 1/4" hole for the small diameter end. Drill a 1/16 hole for a pin through the two of them. Do not varnish it or paint it, you want to see the level of the diesel in the tank. You now have a collapsible tank sounder, as yet unmarked. Jim worked this out for our keel tank, which is accessed from the top of the cabin.

Run the fuel out, or pump it out, and refill from 5 gal. jugs. Each time, mark the tank sounder. You will find out how much the tank will hold, and you will be able to dip the tank, so you can figure out how much fuel you will need to fill it.

As mentioned above, the tank must be properly vented, and you have to fill slowly with some fast pumps, but I think it will go easily for you when you know in advance how much you need to put in. We always slow down the feed rate for the last 5-10 liters or so.

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Old 17-04-2016, 20:31   #9
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Obviously the fuel vent. Have that problem with one of my four tanks. My amatuerish attempts to correct have failed. That's another item on the maintenance list for the boatyard.
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Old 17-04-2016, 20:34   #10
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Ditto all the above about a clogged/obstructed air vent.

But if that isn't the problem then consider that the INLET fuel hose might be somewhat obstructed. A kink in the line/hose, "junk" trapped in a looped part of the line/hose, or maybe somebodies "clever idea" led to the installation of an "adapter" of some sort......conveniently located out of sight.

What we here at CF refer to as "Previous Owners" do weird things to their boat for unfathomable reasons.

{Not that any member of CF would EVER do something of that ilk. }
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Old 18-04-2016, 07:28   #11
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

Had some experience with a clogged fuel tank vent.

Over the years the vent became clogged with wax. Then the Palmer P-60 would mysteriously stop. ..Wait a few minutes and it would start again. Happened mostly when the tank was full.

Cleared the blockage on the vent....problem solved...simple solution. The full tank did not have much air before the fuel supply shut off.

These symptoms could lead to major repair costs...check your tank vent first!
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Old 18-04-2016, 07:42   #12
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

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.
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Old 18-04-2016, 08:13   #13
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

One thing to remember as things warm up, is that diesel gets real foamy when warm and the marina fuel hose can be extremely long and will take quite a long time to flow 40 feet of hot diesel through that sun heated black hose till you get the cooler stuff from the onshore tank.
I bought a special funnel from definder. I havent used it this yet but it looks like it should work. Suposed to keep that foam blast contained. We will see.
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Old 18-04-2016, 08:51   #14
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

All good feedback, but I would second what was offered by Frankly. Most marine fuel docks are set up to efficiently fill tanks which are significantly larger than tanks found in cars and trucks (and some smaller sailboats). Consequently, the pump rates are set commensurately higher. Even with a clear vent line many sailboats are not able to keep up with the air displacement if the fill valve is open to its maximum rate.
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Old 18-04-2016, 09:01   #15
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Re: How to fuel a sailboat?

SLOW DOWN when fueling. Don't depend on the auto shutoff. It ain't a car!

Stu Jackson
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Cowichan Bay, BC, (Maple Bay Marina) SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)
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