All it takes is a spark….and BOOM!
By Wayne Spivak
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
Every year, near every major recreational
boating center, a shattering event will make the local and sometimes
regional news. It's not the type of event that the Coast Guard
or Coast Guard Auxiliary find satisfying, rewarding or invited.
In some respects, the only "good"
which will come from this event is the inevitable object lesson.
And as object lessons go, we'd rather not have this type of event
from which to pull the example.
talking about a boat explosion folks. Every year, some mariner
failed to follow proper fueling procedures, and their vessel explodes.
We're talking a big B O O M !! In 2001, the Coast Guard reports
153 explosions, with 73 injuries and 2 fatalities. Property damage
was estimated to be in excess of $3 million.
Some mariner was in too much of
a hurry, or in denial, or failed to supervise his crew and guests,
and lady luck just wasn't on the mariner's side. K A B O O M!!
In fact, during and after the explosion,
every imaginable onomatopoeia can be heard. Enough onomatopoeia's
to make Batman proud (if you remember the 1960's TV series). Unfortunately,
it may have just cost someone's life, and most definitely property.
Fueling your vessel
Whether you're using an outboard
engine with a portable gas tank, or a 65' cabin cruiser, there
are procedures that need to be followed to keep you, your guests,
your vessel and
those who are around your boat. The procedures are simple, definitely
NOT time consuming, and quite frankly there are NO EXCUSES! Your
life hangs in the balance!
Here are the basic procedures prior
to you pumping your fuel:
1. Secure your vessel to the fuel
2. Stop all engines.
3. Turn off your batteries.
4. Close all hatches.
5. Ask all your guests, crew and pets to leave the boat.
6. NO SMOKING!
7. Have a fire extinguisher near-by.
Let's discuss these items, so we
understand why we need to comply with them. Nothing could be worse
than having your boat float away, while your not on it, so make
sure you SECURE IT to the dock. Just like your car, you shouldn't
add fuel when the engine is running. It adds to the likelihood
that you'll ignite the gas fumes, as does having any electrical
item running (why we turn off our batteries) and obviously NO
SMOKING, because that cigarette is a great ignition source!
We close all our hatches so the
fumes (gas fumes are heaver than air) can't seep into the bilge,
and for safety sake, if our friends are not on the vessel and
something happens, they will be safer.
While fueling, here are some more
1. Always keep the fuel nozzle
in contact with the tank opening.
2. Don't spill any fuel.
3. Don't overfill the tanks
4. If you have a portable gas tank, remove it from the vessel
and fill it up on the dock.
You need to keep the fuel nozzle
in contact with the tank opening, since a) the tank opening is
grounded to your vessel and b) you don't want to create a spark!
Spilling fuel can cause innumerable problems, from increasing
the likelihood of a fire or explosion to an adverse environmental
impact (and large fines that go along with fuel spills).
gas expands as hit heats up, so we don't want to overfill our
gas tanks, because the gas would end up in the water from the
overflow valve. This too, would cause an environmental headache
and possible fire/explosion scenario.
The safest place to fill a portable
tank is on land. If you have one, take the safe route, disconnect
it from the boat and bring on land.
And finally, after you're done
fueling, make sure you follow these procedures:
1. Make sure the gas tank cover
2. Wipe up any spilled fuel.
3. Open all hatches and ports.
4. Turn on your bilge blower and ventilate the vessel for at least
5. Use the best gas fume tester money can buy, your NOSE and sniff
your bilge to see if there are any fumes.
6. Return your passengers, crew and pets to the vessel.
7. Leave the dock quickly, after safely casting off your lines.
Ever leave the gas station and
you or the gas attendant forgot to close the gas cover? Gas spills
all over the place… Not a safe condition on land, even more
dangerous on water! It's the same problem with small spills around
the fill opening. Clean them up and properly dispose of the rags
at the fuel dock!
Since gas fumes are heavy than
air, we want to open all our hatches and ports so fresh air can
move around the cabin and through the bilge. This will, with the
bilge blower on for at least 4 minutes, force any gas fumes that
leaked into the bilge, out of the vessel. But, let's not take
any chances - SMELL (SNIFF) THE BILGE AND MAKE SURE THERE ARE
NO FUMES before turning on the battery and starting your engine!
Your nose Knows!!!
This is THE most dangerous time
of the entire fueling process. So, once again, and with gusto:
SMELL (SNIFF) THE BILGE AND MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO FUMES!!!
Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary wants your boating season
to be fun and safe. By following these steps, we can eliminate
once source of concern, and lower the chances that your summer
fun will be interrupted by tragedy.
To learn more about boating safety,
contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla. You can find
us on the web (https://www.cgaux.org)
or contact your local Coast Guard Unit (https://www.uscg.mil).
Members of the United States Coast
Guard Auxiliary, who are all volunteers, spend countless hours
doing safety patrols, search and rescue and homeland security
patrols, on the ground, on the water and in the air. We perform
thousands of Vessel Safety Checks each year, as well as constantly
providing safe boating classes year-round.
Recreational Boating is Fun, and
its more Fun when you do it SAFELY!