How important is fuel capacity? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 51 Old 05-22-2018 Thread Starter
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How important is fuel capacity?

I've been a costal cruiser for a little while. Last year on my C&C 30 (16hp), used less than 20 gallons for a year. However, as a youtube person living my life through other peoples world travels, I noted some people seem to have to fill up often and inconveniently due to small capacities.
A couple years ago looking at catamarans, I decided to make a cut off point to not look at catamarans with fuel tanks under 150 US gallons (550 liters).
Is this excessive? How much does one really need? This would be a catamaran for circumnavigation and living aboard for 10+ years. It will have a generator and cloths washer to keep my wife happy. A/C use is undetermined and will vary based on guess a few times a year.

1988 C&C 30MkII used as a live aboard in MD. Sailing experience: Started 2014; 6-mo on Hobbie Cat Wave 13', 1 year on a Potter P15 sailboat, and ASA 101,103/104 classes. Power boater for 20+ years.
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post #2 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

Answer kind of depends. Based on your plans to run a generator and possibly air conditioning then definitely more is better but...

Will you be cruising remote areas with limited access to refuel?

How long would you expect to spend off the grid away from fuel supplies?

What other sources will you have to charge the house batteries?

Depending on the answers to all the above 150 gallons might be significant overkill or might be sufficient. Unless you plan on spending months in the middle of nowhere don't thing you would need more than 150 gallons.

One thing to consider, on a cat additional weight is a real performance killer. That much fuel will add over 1000 lbs to the boat. If I felt the need to carry that much fuel I would certainly split it between at least two tanks and only fill all when necessary.
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post #3 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

For circumnavigation you should be able to motor at least 25% of the distance. It is better to assume 30%.
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post #4 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by serpa4 View Post
A couple years ago looking at catamarans, I decided to make a cut off point to not look at catamarans with fuel tanks under 150 US gallons (550 liters).
Is this excessive? How much does one really need? .
I doubt you can even buy a Cat with 150 gallons.

My boat... Which has circumnavigated... has 38 gallons in the tank and about the same in gerry cans.

Why in the world is a boat maker going to design a boat without useful tankage.

Go find a boat your wife will want to live on for 10 years and buy that. I am sure you won't even have to enquire as to the tankage.

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post #5 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by celenoglu View Post
For circumnavigation you should be able to motor at least 25% of the distance. It is better to assume 30%.
25% of a circumnavigation?

Lol.

Across the Pacific, 6,500 nms I used 30 gallons.
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post #6 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

Fuel tank capacity is really a matter of Fuel availability where you are sailing and how much you have to motor.

For example in southern NE there are so many fuel docks you don't need much capacity in your tanks

Further you cruise from fuel docks the more you need to sail and the more your need to carry more fuel on board.

Like Mark's boat Shiva has about 38 gal and with a few jerry jugs fuel was never an issue. For passage I carried more jerry jugs.

But I have had to motor over a thousand miles when we found ourselves in a huge dome of high pressure with no wind. Used all the jerry jugs!
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post #7 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

I have a 50 gal tank and Iím not against running the engine for 24+ hours sometimes. The lowest Iíve gotten down has been 10 gals the past 20 months. If Iím not motoring a lot I find I need to fill the 150 gal water tanks before the fuel tanks. But coming down say the ICW that switches. At cruising speed that 50 gals is over 400 miles

I do carry a 1 5-gal jug backup, because it only takes once to learn the lesson.

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post #8 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

If you happen to cruise in the "land below the wind", then capacity is everything....
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post #9 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

When we sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti we had our tank fuel and a 150 gallons deck loaded. We hit the doldrums as expected, and motored through, using the deck loaded fuel. Then we hit 10 days of no wind at all. When we had burned our allotment of fuel considering the Tuomotus were still ahead, there we sat. We could smell the Marquesas as we drifted by, but there was no fuel to be had there, so that was that. But that was the rarity. Mostly the fuel tankage (around 200 gallons) was more than sufficient for a 32 ton gaff rigger.
On our present boat, we run a generator 2 to 3 hours every day and the main engine now and then. Now we average about 500 gallons a year, in 170 gallon tank, but we are a charter boat, with schedules to keep. That 170 gallons allowed me to motor from San Juan to Charleston SC one year, when here wasn't enough wind to even motorsail.
Every boat does OK under power in flat water. When the seas get up, so does fuel consumption, sometimes a lot, especially when punching to windward.
There are places like coming out of Panama going west, where it is possible to have a thousand windless miles. Most would deck load fuel for that trip, or any trip, where they expected to use more than their tanked fuel.

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post #10 of 51 Old 05-22-2018
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Re: How important is fuel capacity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by celenoglu View Post
For circumnavigation you should be able to motor at least 25% of the distance. It is better to assume 30%.
So motoring for about 8,000 miles

Assume 1 gph

That is 1,333 gallons.

Anyone know of a sub 50 ft sailboat with that sort of tankage?

BTW I have a 44 ft sailboat with a typical 70 gallon tank. 1,333 is just ludicrous.
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