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I heard a pop and saw the fuel in the sight glass fall!

    The focus of this site is boating the San Juan's, but how can we cruise around without experiencing everyday boating issues, and here is another one that caught me by surprise.  Maybe someone will learn from my mistakes.

fuel leak into bilge

     About two years ago my Dickinson Bristol Stove diesel pump quit without warning leaving us cold.  I decided a five gallon day tank was in order so that we would not be at the mercy of electric pumps or need any electricity for a stove that may run nonstop for days.  

    So far so good, my new $150 aluminum tank is about four or five feet above the stove and works perfect. (gravity is pretty dependable)  I also replaced the  demand fuel pump so that I could effortlessly re-fill the day tank from our main fuel tank.  Fyi, I ordered the day tank with a filler cap so that I could hand pour fuel from a jug if needed, but so far have never needed to.

      So, I am watching the vinyl sight tube as my re-purposed VW fuel pump is filling the roof top day tank for the umpteenth time (it turns out it only lasts about 3-4 days per filling, because I don't fill it full nor let it run dry) when I hear a little pop from inside the cabin, and at the same time the fuel level in the sight tube drops out of sight.

    I knew instantly, that a hose had come apart, so I flicked the tank ball valve a quarter turn shut, and dashed for the pump switch at the helm, hoping the 7 psi pump and 3/8 inch hose weren't shooting fuel everywhere. (hope is for dreamers, I guess)

    Under the stove is a medium size cabinet with all our pots and pans, and strapped to the roof of this cabinet is the brass tee I used to splice the day tank into our stoves supply line.

    As you already have surmised, a hose popped off the barbed tee fitting, and in the five seconds or less that it took me to kill the system, diesel sprayed everywhere inside the cabinet, and ran down the hull.

   Rather than bore everyone with little details lets get to the lesson(s) I  learned.

  • I thought I was infallible and could tighten a hose clamp on a barbed fitting, it turns out I had not slid the clamp up over the barbs, and the hose was simply pushed on with nothing holding it.  It took two years to finally come apart, but I thought the system was brilliantly designed and impeccably installed.  I don't know what the answer is, except be careful and pay attention. Apparently I did neither.
  • Always install shut off valve at tanks and fixtures, I am so glad I did.
  • Don't expect your dishes to catch much fuel oil, several quarts made it to the bilge necessitating taking apart lots of cabinets, flooring, etc.
  • Unfinished plywood inside cabinets soak up diesel.  If they had been painted, the fuel oil would have simply wiped off. Now they stink.
  • Plastic dishes are ruined, or at least impart a curious taste to drinks now.
      On another similar thought, I wrote a post a while back about our sailboat "Sunshine." I left the water pump power supply switched on while we were ashore.  During our absence the switch failed, and turned on, pumping all our water down the drain, and then burning out the pump.  On that painful mistake, I learned the importance of throwing the main switch when leaving the boat, even for just an hour or two. (and having a hidden jug of water for making morning coffee)

      Just imagine if "Kraken" my current boat had still been plumbed with the stoves demand pump always on and no day tank, and a hose were to fail. The pump would empty the entire 70 gallon main tank.  Not only would it create a massive mess in the boat, but our automatic bilge pump would have emptied the bilge over the side creating an ecological disaster. (and fine $$)
And as a little bad bonus we would be out of fuel too.

Have a nice day!