To minimize the chances of losing your boat to flames or explosion while refueling, follow these simple tips.
Approach the gas dock slowly, making sure not to bump other boats.
As you tie up alongside, point out the fuel filler cap to the attendant. Doing this may seem unnecessary, but fuel has been accidentally pumped into bilges, freshwater tanks, fish holding tanks—you name it.
Get everyone off the boat to stretch their legs.
Stop the engines, shut off the electricity, and extinguish open flames and other sources of heat, such as lit cigarettes, pipes or cigars. Installing a master kill switch to the battery will ensure that automatic equipment won’t suddenly turn on.
Move about the boat, sniffing for fuel vapors. Close any openings that could allow fuel vapors into enclosed spaces; don’t forget the bilges, where spilled fuel can hide. If you smell fuel in the bilge, don’t turn on the bilge exhaust blowers. A spark is all it takes to blow the bottom out of your boat.
While fueling, make sure the nozzle is in constant contact with the filler pipe to help avoid static sparks. To avoid spills or overfilling, pay attention and don’t walk away while refueling.
After you’ve filled the tank, put the cap back on and check for spills. Wipe up spills immediately, and safely dispose of the rag. Fuel spilled into the water must be cleaned up and the spill reported to the dock manager and the National Response Center at 800-424-8802. You can be fined for not reporting a spill.
Sniff around to make sure vapors haven’t collected anywhere. Then turn on your blowers and ventilate the boat until no fumes are detected.
Now you can get your passengers back on board and pull away from the gas dock on your way to a great day on the water. –Charles D. Hayne