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Old 10-05-2016, 15:52   #1
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Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

Hi!

Going from Las Palmas to S:t Lucia, what size of diesel tank is recommended, please?

We got a 70 litres (18.5 gallons) diesel tank original in our Norlin 37.

Having many refits to do until we leave, we'd like to bail out of rebuilding the diesel tank system.

Leaves us with two options, basically:

1. Leave it as it is, bring no more extra diesel.
It is a sailboat after all. If we're unlucky, the passage could take us a long time, not being able to run the engine in possible doldrums.

2. Bring 20 l jerry cans. Or poly-ethene. Specter has a 91 l PE tank.

Getting the diesel to the main tank can be a pain in the XXX in the Atlantic swell. There seems to exist solutions where you pump it over though. Plausible? I worry about jerry cans flying around where they are stowed if the weather get nasty. Better stowe them tight I suppose...

Isn't high-quality PE tanks a better choice than iron jerry cans actually?

Cheers
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Old 10-05-2016, 16:10   #2
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

I think you have covered the options pretty well.

Yes it's a sailboat but 18.5 gallons isn't much. How do you keep your batteries charged? If you have problems with other charging sources then 18.5 gallons is barely enough to do some battery charging.

Plastic, 5 gallon fuel jugs are the fastest, easiest, cheapest option and are perfectly fine for this. I wouldn't go for steel fuel cans unless someone was handing them out for free. I have traveled with several on deck before and hit some fairly rough weather (30-40 kt winds, 4-6 meter waves) and had no problems.

To fill at sea don't try to pour from the jugs to the tank. Use a siphon or small pump.
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Old 10-05-2016, 16:10   #3
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

PE cans would be a better choice in my opinion... The modern PE fuel jugs are really good at sealing up air tight.

Pre-planning location (in the bilge most likely, to keep the weight low in the boat) and pre-fitting the cans with suction lines, and valves on the caps could avoid a lot of issues in pumping from the cans to a fitting to your main fuel tank.

Minimal man-handling while at sea is advisable.

4 cans could easily double your fuel capacity.

Yes, you'd want them SECURELY strapped down.

You'd have to ensure proper ventilation of the fuel storage area...

Similar idea to what is done for aircraft on long ferry flights... essentially turning the aircraft into a flying gas can.
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Old 10-05-2016, 17:09   #4
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

Four or five cans lashed to rail in stern . If its rough , don't pour !
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Old 10-05-2016, 17:33   #5
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

Looks to me like the Norlin would be an excellant sailing boat, so I would be happy enough with a couple of extra plastic 20l jerry cans strapped down below or in the cockpit.

Refuel with something like a jiggle syphon, or just set up a way to drop a suction line directly into the Jerry can mounted securly near the engine.

It all depends on your style of sailing. If you are the sort that hates to drift and just wants to get there put in a 300 litre tank. If you are more of a sailer the small tank will do.

2x40w solar panels will take care of the basic electrical needs but probably not fridges and lots of computer use.

Ive used a big diesel bladder tank. It worked well until it got a hole. What a mess!


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Old 10-05-2016, 17:47   #6
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

You do not need diesel on this side. You can sail out of the anchorage or get towed out by a marina rib.

I do not know St Lucia facilities, I would believe you can anchor there too?

So to say just one tank, whatever size, is enough.

HOWEVER, should you resolve to motor rather than sail, the distance of say 3000 miles motored say at 3 knots will ask for say ... ;-)

So, I think just one tank (unless you rely on your engine alternator for electricity!).

Cheers,
b.
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Old 11-05-2016, 00:57   #7
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

Hi guys!

A few PE tanks + a pump it is. Thanks for helping me decide! I guess you won't have any problems finding gasoline in the Carribbean marinas? For the dinghy.

As for solar panels. We've got approx 80 Watts today. Will replace this. We are going to remove the pushpit and fit a robust arch in marine aluminium. Just have to fit the Windpilot Pacific first, so we know how much space there is left for the arch, as it has to be far aft as the boom protudes far back.

I did some power calculations last night. Taking into account all iPads, computers, inverters, AIS transponder, 12 V TV and junk that we have...

...If June in Sweden I need 600 W of solar panels! Then again, we run our engine almost daily here, moving around. Whereas in the Carribbean we hope to hang out for weeks in a nice bay. And for the Atlantic crossing, don't want to run the engine if wind all the time + limited amount of diesel.

But, I would get much more solar panel input close to the equator. Here we're at 58 degrees north, so pretty bad angle towards the sun.

On the arch the solar panels will be horisontal, which makes sense close to the equator.

We haven't designed the arch yet. At first I was having wild thoughts of having 400 W of solar panels on top of it, but to begin with, our boat is quite narrow in the aft, and how much can they protrude without risking being blown away in rough weather? 400 W is a big area.

We have 300 Ah housebank, consisting of four gel batteries. There is a fifth battery in the bow, it is constantly being charged but never used, so essentially a backup battery if the house bank fails, so we can crank the engine. The power calculation ended up with 247 Ah being ok so we should be able to keep existing battery configuration.

I am fitting a NASA BM1 in neartime + replacing remaining incandescent light bulbs with corresponding LEDs.

Got plenty of spare batteries for our laptops.

I am replacing the current 50 A alternator to a 100 A, will vacuum seal the 50 A and bring along.

Cheers

Bob
Norlin 37
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Old 11-05-2016, 04:44   #8
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

I dont like solar panels any wider than the stern. They just start getting very vulnerable in port. I have seen them with some hinge up panels on the side of the arch. That way the panels can be lowered in port, plus angled for better performance if need be. Also hinging a few panels off the rails near the cockpit works well on smaller boats. A soft panel can go on your dodger. A few portable soft panels can be put where the sun shines and the shadows aren't.

Yours is the kind of scenario where a towed generator might make sense. Cheaper than new diesel tanks, and the cost of making custom mounts for huge arrays of solar panels will add up.

It might be worth looking at some of the posts by polux on here regarding the ARC. He tracked and analyzed the passage times of a lot of the boats. Might be some good info of motoring hours and passage speeds for your vessel.
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Old 11-05-2016, 08:16   #9
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob666 View Post

I did some power calculations last night. Taking into account all iPads, computers, inverters, AIS transponder, 12 V TV and junk that we have...

...

But, I would get much more solar panel input close to the equator. Here we're at 58 degrees north, so pretty bad angle towards the sun.

On the arch the solar panels will be horisontal, which makes sense close to the equator.

We haven't designed the arch yet. At first I was having wild thoughts of having 400 W of solar panels on top of it, but to begin with, our boat is quite narrow in the aft, and how much can they protrude without risking being blown away in rough weather? 400 W is a big area.

...

Got plenty of spare batteries for our laptops.

...

I am replacing the current 50 A alternator to a 100 A, will vacuum seal the 50 A and bring along.
You may want to review your power mindset, or else wait and have it reviewed by the ocean.

My wild (but not ignorant) view is that you may have no clue of how much energy you will actually use.

One good option is a small genset. Another good option is huge solar area and maybe a windmill too. And do not over worry your alternator setup unless you have a high spec marine regulator for it.

Your battery bank size is pretty irrelevant - you can only use what you make. Making the power is the challenge, not storing it.

I will give you only my humble example and then I shut up - do your own calculations and lay out your power plan accordingly. My only tip: vasty oversize your generating capacity. Too much power is not a problem (similar to too much fresh water).

Our boat is a small typical K-25 koster with extremely narrow end. We carry 150W of tilted solar (plus the alternator). We only use the following consumers onboard: - VHF with AIS (passive), - gps, - LED nav light at night, - ssb receiver (for radiofax), two LED interior lamps (about 1 hr a day. Our consumption is 10 to 15 Ah per day. Our battery is 110 Ah plain banana.

You may have noticed no fridges nor autopilots nor TVs. Crew of most frugal two.

Our boat, crew and lifestye are puny and marginal compared to yours.

If you think of all the things you have onboard and the number of crew, you will easily need in excess of 100 Ah per day. Make sure you can produce this much.

Or cut down you consumption. A boat does not have to be like a house. Not out at sea.

Have fun, make sparks ;-)
b.
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Old 11-05-2016, 08:48   #10
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

Do a few shorter excursions to see what you are really getting yourself into.

Go out for a week simulating where you can expect your supplies to be at appx halfway across.
Short on water (because nobody learned to conserve until you were running low vs plan)
No fresh foods.
You'll pull in from the first try in under 3 days.
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Old 11-05-2016, 08:51   #11
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

I have 500W solar on the bimini arch of my Catalina 375. All lighting is LED. My boat is fully charged every summer morning by 900am. 45 deg N on Lake Ontario. In a big blow I worry about the frame. Actually had a wave from the bow land on them once and we survived though. I am looking at more modern, flexible solar panels 400W that will be less weight and could actually be removed during a blow. Just a thought. Never too much power!
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Old 11-05-2016, 10:05   #12
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

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Originally Posted by TurninTurtle View Post
Do a few shorter excursions to see what you are really getting yourself into.

Go out for a week simulating where you can expect your supplies to be at appx halfway across.
Short on water (because nobody learned to conserve until you were running low vs plan)
No fresh foods.
You'll pull in from the first try in under 3 days.
lmao! So true. That's a good way to do it,you would last longer & longer & learn what's really needed & what's just nice to have..I will make a long crossing one day & that will definitely be on my mind!
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Old 11-05-2016, 10:10   #13
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

At sea, never pour, use a siphon hose instead.

Top up the main fuel tank whenever weather permits; don't wait till its empty. This has the added benefit of shifting weight down lower.

Don't overfill the fuel cans. As you get south, the temperature goes up. We had several poly fuel cans split and dump their loads due to pressure...not worth it...stay below the MAX FILL line.

You don't cross an ocean very often. Find space for the fuel cans. You'll burn diesel till you find the trade winds, then you'll be flying, only using the engine to charge the batteries. The time to conserve fuel is right from the start...run the engine at a fuel efficient low rpm. Forget about max speed, it's a long haul, not a sprint.

Good luck...you'll be fine.
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Old 11-05-2016, 10:18   #14
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

We did the crossing from the Canary Islands via the Cape Verdes in 2007 on our Tayana 47 and used less than 5 gallons on the whole trip. We carried 50 gallons in plastic cans and 140 gallons in the main tanks and simply did not need it.

The only fuel used was in the lee of the islands and motoring into Trinidad. Boat speed remained over 5 knots for the entire trip and we averaged 6.5 knots. We reefed the main by 50% and had the genoa poled out one side and poled the cutter stay sail out the other.

We got almost all of our power from a towed water generator that delivered a constant 5+ amps the whole trip. Wind generator was useless with a tail wind and our 460 watts of solar also performed poorly due to near constant cloud.

Hope this is useful.

Ross
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Old 11-05-2016, 10:26   #15
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Re: Proper sized diesel tankage, Atlantic crossing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob666 View Post
Hi!

Going from Las Palmas to S:t Lucia, what size of diesel tank is recommended, please?

We got a 70 litres (18.5 gallons) diesel tank original in our Norlin 37.


1. Leave it as it is, bring no more extra diesel.
It is a sailboat after all. If we're unlucky, the passage could take us a long time, not being able to run the engine in possible doldrums.



Cheers

First off, you do not cross the doldrums going from Las Palmas to St. Lucia. You are in the trade wind belt.

If you leave after the herd, say early January, you will have much better winds. I have made that trip a half a dozen times and it is THE nicest, easiest crossing of any ocean. Little or no traffic, navigation is simple, no bad weather, and winds abaft the beam nearly 100% of the time. There is no “nasty” weather. Might have some getting from Gib to Las Palmas but once south of Las Palmas you are in the tradewind belt.

Unless you have a huge gen set, or have an appointment and plan to motorsail I do not see a need to clutter your decks with Jerry jugs. I do not think I have ever used over 30 USG on that crossing and that was on much larger boats.

If you are worried, a couple of plastic jerry jugs on the stern would add a 50% reserve. There is a very simple siphon called a “jiggle or shaker” that works very well, is cheap and stows easily. After a few days you get to where you don't really notice the swell.

Your autopilot and refrigeration will be your biggest consumers of amps.
My humble opinion, a vane and a lot of ice and you are good to go.

Just one added piece of unasked for advice; Don't be afraid to carry sail, many folks I have spoken to during that crossing complain about the roll and motion, and after speaking to them I find they have a small jib and a double reefed main and it is blowing 20 to 24 on the stern or quarter. They were under-canvased. Speed is stability. I have carried a chute all the way across on three trips, but a 130 on a pole and possibly a single reef in the main is also a great set up.

Michael
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