Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fuel your Boat Safely

Accidents can occur when fueling. Never fuel at night unless it is an emergency. If you must refuel after dark, use only electric lights. To protect the water environment, try to refuel away from the water or on a commercial fueling ramp. Follow these procedures in order to fuel safely and responsibly.

Before Beginning to Fuel:
Tie the boat securely to the fuel dock. Ask all passengers to leave the boat and go onto the dock. Do not allow anyone in your group or others at the fuel dock to smoke or strike a match.
Check to see that fuel lines, connections, and fuel vents are in good condition. Turn off anything that might cause a spark, engines, fans, or electrical equipment. Shut off all fuel valves and extinguish all open flames, such as galley stoves and pilot lights. Close all windows, ports, doors, and other openings to prevent fumes from entering the boat. Remove portable fuel tanks from the boat and fill them on the dock. Make sure that your fire extinguisher is within reach.

While Filling the Fuel Tank:
Keep the nozzle of the fuel-pump hose in solid contact with the tank opening to prevent producing a static spark. Use caution and fill the tank slowly to avoid spilling fuel into the boat's bilge or into the water. Use an oil-absorbent pad to catch drips or spills. Never fill a tank to the brim, leave room for fuel to expand.

After Fueling:
Put the fill cap on tightly to prevent vapors from escaping. Wipe up any spilled fuel and properly dispose of the used paper towels or rags on shore. Open all windows, ports, doors, and other openings. If your boat is equipped with a power ventilation system (exhaust blower), turn it on for at least four minutes before starting your engine. This will help eliminate fuel vapors in the bilge. Before starting the engine, sniff the bilge and engine compartment for fuel vapors. Continue ventilating until you cannot smell any fuel vapors. Consider installing a gas vapor detection and alarm device. Start the engine and then reload your passengers. Make sure you have enough fuel before casting off. Operating at two-thirds throttle instead of full throttle will conserve fuel. The following rule will help prevent running out of fuel:

One-third to get out
One-third to get back
One-third in reserve for emergencies

Remember, evaporating gasoline creates vapors or fumes that are heavier than air. These fumes settle to the bottom of the vessel where they could explode if enclosed areas, such as the bilge, are not ventilated properly to remove fumes.