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Diesel This is a forum dedicated to diesel engines and their applicable accessories.


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Old 04-22-2010
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Filling a fuel tank from inside the cabin

My saga continues on replacing the fuel tank on my 30 Irwin Citation. Due mostly to size constraints my shipwright has sourced a production Moeller 20 gallon topside fuel tank. It's a polyethylene tank that is listed for external use: we're wanting to put it in the port settee locker to replace the fiberglass tank that was there.

It is going to be a significant challenge to bring the hose from the deck fill fitting, to this new tank. The shipwright is suggesting I use the tank's existing filler cap, and fill it from inside the cabin.

I live in Vancouver where fuelling facilities have all but disappeared--a lot of sailboats are fed by jerry cans around here, but marinas don't let you do it in the slip--you have to go off-shore and fill. So from this perspective I think it would be great to take a can below and fill, with no repercussions of spilling into the ocean (just the sole of the boat!)

My question is: are there any issues or laws I may encounter with fuel docks when I go to drag their fuel pump nozzle down into my boat to the settee? Anybody know if this is a no-no? And how would you feel if you were buying my boat and realized you would have to fuel it this way--deal killer?

Thanks for any thoughts on this.
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Old 04-22-2010
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Every once in a while a really bad idea comes along on this board. If it were a competition you would win.
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Old 04-22-2010
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Fire your shipwright and install a fill hose.
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Old 04-22-2010
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Originally Posted by Gene T View Post
Every once in a while a really bad idea comes along on this board. If it were a competition you would win.
We're all learning, Gene. People on this forum have different levels of expertise in boating, and come here because they want to be better boaters and they don't have to be afraid to ask the dumb questions once in a while. In my case, this is a well-established shipwright who is giving me this direction, and because I don't have a trusted relationship, I'm doing a gut-check before telling him he's got a bad plan.

So despite being insulting and unfounded, I take your remark as this is a bad plan. Thanks, I guess.
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Sorry to insult you. Your shipwright is an idiot. You were wise to double check. Fuel fills are on the outside for a reason. Fumes. And Fumes are highly explosive. Actually I am very glad you asked and didn't just follow their advice.

Also make sure you vent this tank properly too.
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Sorry to insult you. Your shipwright is an idiot. You were wise to double check. Deck fills are on the outside for a reason. Fumes. And Fumes are highly explosive. Actually I am very glad you asked and didn't just follow their advice.
Thanks Amigo. I just phoned the Shipwright and gave him his walking papers on this one.
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Old 04-22-2010
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I can't imagine why it's a saga for such a basic job. Looking at your boat's specs and orig brochure, I can see lots of flexibility for tank placement. original brochure (30irwin)
To have a less then proper fuel tank install will not only give you a smelly boat when you spill fuel (and it will happen) it will greatly reduce the value of your boat. Your tank also needs a 5/8" ID vent line. Moller makes all kinds of tanks in all kinds of sizes. You could also use 2 small tanks with a switch over valve.
Good luck
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I assume that we are talking diesel here. Diesel fuel is not volatile like gasoline is so you don't have to worry about explosive vapors. Filling down below would not be dangerous but it would be a bad idea. For one, most fuel docks will not let you do it. When filling up, sooner or later you are going to spill. Diesel fuel does not evaporate like gas and make a nasty slimy layer on everything and gets everywhere which would turn the interior into an almost unliveable condition sooner or later. Not to mention, it is not good to have fuel floating around in your bilge.

I have plumbed up a few fills that have been a complete pain but it usually just takes an hour of determination and you are all set. If it really won't work for whatever reason, consider making a new fill in the deck.
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It is not so bad, likely a deal killer but you can work around that by using a small external tank mounted on the deck for purpose of the sale.

A big problem is ventilation, explosion/fire and how to handle a fuel spill.

Ventilation is an easy one, fans, large fans pushing air in hatches open to let air out. It should be very breezy. There are standards for working in a confined space with explosive vapours. If I was doing this I would use them to determine air exchange rate and fan size.

Preventing a fire/explosion is going to the issue, the big issue. Grounding is going to be important, semicondutive hoses and tools will have to be considered. Ideally you might want the tank to be metal with a sealed fill connection and an explosion vent but I'm guessing that option is out due to expense.

You will want the ability to overfill the tank without leakage into the boat.

You will have a vent line going to the outside of the boat and it is normally used as an overflow. In this case I wonder about that as you will be filling at a point below a normal vent location. Could it be relocated? Maybe an overflow line installed for refueling? Vent into a secondary tank? Of course all that has to be at a level below the top of the fill hose connected to the tank.

Then you have to consider what is going to occur when an "oops" occurs and fuel is poured about the cabin. Likely because of a powerboater waking you to see the mast wag back and forth.

I think it can be done and done safely but I'm not sure that I see how it can be done cheaply. I have certainly written procedures for more hazardous work but at this level of risk to people and equipment I would not have much budget constraint.

If I was at the fuel dock and you pulled the hose into the cockpit I would start looking, if I saw you pull it into the cabin I would likely shut the pump off and investigate. It would take a very professional install to convince me this was something I would accept at my fuel dock.

Better to just use jerry cans, that also limits your fuel spill risk.

Maybe a system that uses small portable tanks, maybe 5 gal max? Where you carry the whole tank into the cabin and use fuel rated quick connect fittings?

They could sit in a tub or tank to contain spills, sealed lid, vented, and so on.

You would still be hauling fuel through the cabin but no need for a spill if you drop it (tanks built with that in mind) and no need for fuel to be open to cabin air at any point.

But that isn't cheap either.

I would suspect that spending the money and time to install a deck fill would be the safest/cheapest route in the long run.
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Old 04-22-2010
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Moeller makes a TON of below deck tanks 14 gallons and UP in all manner of sizes

FWIW a NEW 19 gallon custom any way you want it 5052 Alu tank cost 349 dollars and can be done in a week
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