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Old 05-13-2008
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Exploding Powerboats

Okay, this is old news (a week old) and it's not strictly sailing-related (yet, anyway!) but it happened close to home in my part of the world.

Star News Group - Police talk to vendors of death boat - By Hamish Heard

Basic story is that a guy not short of cash bought a beautiful old classic wooden Halvorsen motor-cruiser (a reallly, really, nice boat!) and took his wife and parents out for a cruise to celebrate. He filled up the tanks at Pier 35 (on the Yarra River in Melbourne - not far from the city at all).

A few minutes after fuelling, after putting everything away and paying for the fuel, he went to crank the engine and the boat literally exploded and sank at the jetty killing his parents outright, badly injuring his wife and blowing out the windows of a popular resturant overlooking the fuel area scaring the stuffing out of all and sundry. Obviously a fuel vapour/ignition spark issue.. and possibly no bilge blower in operation (my thoughts).

The problem is that now there are calls for every blooming boat sold in Victoria to be surveyed before sale - like it or not - and somehow that's supposed to solve the problem of people not knowing how to operate the boat they've just bought?? Go figure...
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Last edited by Classic30; 05-13-2008 at 04:21 AM.
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Old 05-13-2008
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I guess the answer is to regulate it, pass a law that makes it illegal for a boat to blow up. That will fix the problem of course.
If not, because folks still forget to operate the blower, sue the manufacturer/builder (or the heirs of the builders etc) for having built boats that might blow up.
For those of you saying 'damn right' that's what we need -Sarcasm was intended folks . I can't think of one single law that fixed a single problem.

Let's not ever put a vapor detector in the bilge with a ignition cut out, because doing that would create a false sense of security much like the gas (for propane) detector I have in my bilges gives me a sense of security, knowing if I had a leak it would shut down the system.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Having owned powerboats with inboard engines, it is not a normal situation to have vapours in the bilge. I would suggest that something was wrong with fuel lines or he pumped gas into something other than the fuel tank. Hopefully the investigation will reveal the true cause afterwhich the authorities will take appropriate action to ensure it does not happen again. That action may require inspections. Regardless it is a wake-up call to anyone who has gas inboard engine and/or inboard gas tanks that extra care is required when operating the engine, especialy when starting after refueling.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Pulled into a marina on Lake Champlain, NY in my 35 ft. powerboat years ago to get fuel. Gave dock attendant the key to open the gas fill and then proceeded to re-secure my dock lines.

A few minutes later I happened to glance over at the attendant and noticed that the gas nozzle seemed to forward of where the gas fill was located. I walked over and realized that he was pumping gas into my water tank! Fortunately, I stopped him after only a couple gallons had been pumped.

It took quite awhile to clean out the freshwater tank.
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Old 05-13-2008
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In my sea going career I've seen three boat blow-up. All were gasoline powered and my best guess is that they failed to ventilate, ventilate and ventilate. Gasoline (petro) vapors are heavier than air and gather in the low spaces of the boat. You should ventulate for at least five minutes before starting anything else on the boat.
Also if you have Propane, or LNG you should also ventulate, ventulate and ventulate. Having a gas detector would be helpful also. If it is mounted low in the engine room and the cabin of the boat. Still the for SAFETY; ventulate, ventulate and ventulate.
Those three boats I saw exploding? The only survivors where the ones that were topside and clear of anything that they would have bounced off of.
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Last edited by Boasun; 05-13-2008 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Such a sad and unfortunate incident, my sympathies go to the elderly couple's survivors.

This wooden boat was over 50 years old - increasing the probability of fuel line failure, but as was mentioned, this could have been prevented very easily, if the captain simply sniffed the engine compartment prior to ignition - even after running the bilge blowers. It was a fuel dock ritual on a couple of inboard engined boats we owned years ago.

Here are a few photos from another website reporting that same event - a grizzly reminder of what could happen, if you have a gas engine on your boat.





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Old 05-13-2008
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Just to add: One cup of gasoline in the bilges, is equal to sixteen sticks of dynamite.
No Smoking during re-fueling or while ventulating the boat.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Blow ups

You have to also wonder if this new ethanol crap we are now being forced to use is also to blame. Some of these older boats might not be able to use it without damaging the fuel lines, tanks, etc.

I've seen some issues on the older ones here in my marina.
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Good thought 440. A commonly reported problem with ethanol in older boats, especially those with fiberglass tanks, is how the formula dissolves the fiberglass over time. Aside from seriously gumming up the engine, this could cause seam fissues in the tanks.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boasun View Post
Just to add: One cup of gasoline in the bilges, is equal to sixteen sticks of dynamite.
No Smoking during re-fueling or while ventulating the boat.
My understanding is that's one gallon = 20 sticks.
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