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Old 24-09-2020, 13:26   #1
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Location: Currently cruising PNW
Boat: Nauticat 43 ketch
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Avoiding embarrassing fuel spills

Having owned keel boats for over 35 years I'm not a newbie, but despite being as careful as I can be, I've had too many spills at fuel docks- gushers coming out of the deck fill before the tank is full, fuel spilling out the vent when I over-estimated how much fuel I needed (I have two 100 gallon tanks), etc.

This has been embarrassing as heck and I hate, hate, hate damaging the environment by spilling fuel.

I hope you can relate and don't think I'm alone in this.

I was determined to figure out how to prevent another spill. After a lot of research on different products and methods, and experimentation with some of them, I'd like to share my latest three-pronged strategy that I now use to prevent embarrassing and damaging fuel spills at fuel docks-

1. Spill Prevention at deck fill

I've been using a Scandvik Cleanway and it's a great design that works well to prevent the "gusher" from spilling fuel all over the deck that's happened to me a few times (photo below).

In truth, since we got it I haven't had a "gusher" because we now take our time and use a start/stop procedure to prevent foam from building up in the tank that I believe is the cause. But it's great peace of mind to know that if we had a gusher it would be contained.

2. Fuel Whistle

We installed a Fuel Whistle in the vent line that lets us know when the tank is near full. Works well but requires enough air flow to work, so again, we take our time and use the start/stop method when we know the tank is 3/4 or more full to ensure we're not creating foam that will prevent the whistle from working.

3. Vent Spill Catcher

This is a game changer for us. Instead of fancy gadgets that either are no longer available or that we don't like how they work, this device goes over the vent and catches any fuel that spills from overfilling.

Apparently, this used to be commercially available but no longer. But after seeing one at a fuel dock it looked easy to make, so I did! See attached photos. The hardest part is figuring out the rubber ring to cover the area around the vent and direct spilled fuel into the container, but this extra nozzle that came with the Scandvik Cleanway was perfect!

How to Build Your Own Vent Spill Catcher

Parts needed-
- plastic flat sided container, about 1 quart size, preferably clear for visibility
- two suction cups
- plastic rectangle to mount suction cups and nozzle (I removed the handle and pad from a scrubbing pad I had on hand). Be sure to measure so that it's wide enough for the suction cups to clear the nozzle.
- Rubber nozzle that will fit over vent. As mentioned above we used this
- carabiner on a string as a safety line to prevent container from falling into the water

Assembly instructions-

1. Cut a hole near the top of the container the size of the nozzle.
2. Position the plastic rectangle horizontally and cut a hole in the middle to insert the nozzle and drill two holes for the suction cups on either side.
3. Insert/install the suction cups
4. Insert the nozzle with the flat side on the same side as the suction cups
5. Attach the assembled plastic rectangle to the container by inserting the nozzle into the hole in the container. If you used this nozzle the tab goes on top and the tapered side goes on the bottom. The tab keeps the nozzle in place without needing additional fasteners and the tapered lip directs spilled fuel into the container.
6. Tie string to carabiner (long enough to clip on to the location nearest the fuel vent) and secure to the body of your new vent spill catcher.

And that's it! Just place the rubber nozzle over the fuel vent and push to secure the suction cups (clean the surface as needed) and you're good to go.

I hope you find this helpful and welcome your comments!
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Old 25-09-2020, 12:48   #2
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Location: Long Beach, CA
Boat: Tayana Vancouver 42
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Re: Avoiding embarrassing fuel spills

Cleverly done. Of course many of us have experienced the same spouting or over filling issues. I find that slowing the fill rate and being careful as I near capacity has eliminated most of those problems for me. But I like your creativity and I thank you for sharing your solutions.
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Old 25-09-2020, 12:59   #3
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Location: Deale, MD
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Re: Avoiding embarrassing fuel spills

They are still available. Some fuel docks sell them.

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Old 25-09-2020, 13:15   #4
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Location: Skagit City, WA
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Re: Avoiding embarrassing fuel spills

I've tried all those things, with some success but not total success. One boat I had was terrible. The 100% solution? I discovered I could fill the tank under the floor board in the cabin. It was within a couple feet of the base of the entry ladder. I could see the height of diesel in the tank as I filled, no flow through hoses! "No drips, no runs no errors"

Seems to me designing boats with the fuel fill in the cockpit would be a great safety setup. short hoses and if it does overflow you can clean it up without getting on deck or overboard.
"I spent most of my money on Booze, Broads and Boats. The rest I wasted" - Elmore Leonard

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Old 25-09-2020, 14:22   #5
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Boat: Coast 34
Posts: 199
Re: Avoiding embarrassing fuel spills

A game changer for me was watching the diesel as I filled a jerry jug with diesel. It foams up like ginger ale poured into a glass, big head of foam but not long lasting. So you are spot on about slowing down being a big part of the solution. On Tappan Zed we are full time cruising Pacific Mexico these days and usually jerry jug our fuel from the gas station rather than fuel dock. No foam when we siphon to the tank with 1/2" hose.
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