Running on E? Protect the Sea

Fuel Absorbent rag
America's Cup Race CommitteeAmerica's Cup Chase Boats
This week, Brian, our San Francisco intern, takes a look at fueling America's Cup race committee boats - and the steps their team is taking to ensure it is spill free!

Fueling, it may seem routine, most of us fill our cars so often that we could do it in our sleep. On the water a spill of even a few drops is difficult to clean up. The America's Cup race committee boats have teamed up with San Francisco’s Gashouse cove, to ensure the fleet fills up in a safe, environmentally friendly manner. This week I head down to the cove to get the low down on refilling the tank without spilling any fuel in the drink. 

The crew on the dock is serious about keeping fuel out of the bay and the dock is outfitted with absorbent booms and equipment to mitigate any spillage. The staff is a great group and instructed me on the ABCs of marine fueling. It is a good checklist for first time boat owners and salty sea captains alike.

As a boater fueling is your responsibility, it can be tricky and mistakes happen. To avoid them know your boat and it's pitfalls. A spill is embarrassing, fines are expensive and most important, our environment is precious.  It is your job as a boater to be aware of all safety measures and be active in preventing water pollution. Here are the steps learned from the fueling team at the America's Cup:

  • There is No Harm in Asking! If you are not 100% confident on how to fuel your boat ask the attendant. They do it for a living. Let them help you!
  •  A Boat is Not a Car. Be prepared to find your fuel filler in the most inconvenient location. It is common to find the filler hidden, sneakily behind a cockpit bench, tucked between stanchions, or even worse, right next to the water tank and you've forgotten which is which?  More importantly where is the fuel vent? Every fuel tank has a vent through which air escapes as the tank fills. When your tank reaches full this vent will happily pass fuel as easily as it did the escaping air.  Commonly it vents directly OVER the WATER!  You can use the sound of escaping air to tell when the tank is full, No whistling air Stop pumping!
  • The Fuel Dock is Not a Street Gas Station. The hoses and equipment are different. Self Service is frowned upon and the staff is trained in clean fueling procedures. They will provide you with the correct nozzle, gasoline or diesel, as well as absorbent pads to catch drips at the filler and vent. Please ask for absorbent pads prior to fueling and use them every time.
  • Water is Always Moving. Even tied up at the dock for fueling you are subject to Mother Nature and her shifty ways. Keep in mind you are on a surface in constant motion. Waves, wakes, people moving aboard, and shifting of the dock, all can rock your world. Because of these external forces it’s imperative to always stay with the fuel hose. Never leave the hose unattended while fueling. If you are alone and need to check your gauges or poke your head down the companionway, take a break, release the lever, do your chore. 
  • F or E?  Believe it or not, your fuel gauge can lie to you. It may be reading 1/4 full and as hard as your try you cannot add another drop of fuel, its okay, it can happen to anyone. But it’s important to know when to STOP. Know the signs that tell you when your tank is almost full, does it sound full, can you see down the filler neck? Don’t expect automatic shut off technology to get it right. A little room at the top is good to allow for fuel expansion on that warm sunny day. 
  • Captain Obvious. It’s gas! Don't smoke!  

For more information on how to prevent fuel spills and what to do if the worst happens, check out our Clean Boating Resources.