Gasoline engines bring thee closer to God than
Most people would rather have a powerboat than a blow
boat (affectionate term for a sailboat). Powerboats are fast, relatively
easy, and unlike a sailboat you can go when you want where you want.
All of this convenience does not come without a price.
Vigilance is the key with gasoline engines. Gasoline is extremely
volatile. Because it is highly explosive, gasoline is an inherently
dangerous marine fuel. If gas drips from an automobile engine onto
the ground, except for environmental concerns there is no big deal.
If it leaks from a marine engine inside the hull of your boat, it
is a very big deal. Horror stories abound of explosions scattering
bits and pieces of boat and crew all over an otherwise serene harbor.
A cup full of gasoline in the bilge has a lethal explosive power.
Hit the starter button, and ka-BOOM.
Now that I have your attention let me explain.
All gasoline inboard and stern drive engines look like automobile
engines. Most use automobile engine blocks. Beyond this point there
are important differences between automobile and marine engines.
Most marine engines use special devices for discharging exhaust
fumes and cooling water. All marine fuel pumps, alternators, starters,
distributors, and other electrical parts are ignition protected,
which means they are designed specifically to prevent sparks; even
your boatís carburetor has a spark arrestor just in case of a back
fire. Much of this special marine equipment is necessary since,
unlike automobile engines, inboards and stern drives operate in
enclosed spaces, which are ventilated. Gasoline fumes can collect
in these spaces and equipment that can produce sparks may produce
disastrous results such as a fire or explosion. It is very important
to remember NEVER repair a marine engine with automobile parts.
This may result in a fire or explosion.
With a few simple precautions, fueling a boatís gas tank can be
a safe task. When taking on gasoline it pays to know what you are
doing. For example, people have pumped gasoline into water tanks
and fish rod holders. Both of these errors, on occasion, have resulted
in explosions and serious injuries. Be certain that you are pumping
the gas into your gas tank and not into your bilge.
Gasoline vapors are much heavier than air. They flow to the lowest
spot on your boat. Make every attempt to avoid trapping them. Close
all cabin doors, hatches, and ports before fueling. This will help
keep gasoline vapors from entering your boat. Also, turn off all
electrical devices before fueling. These include ventilating fans,
radios, bilge pumps, navigation devices, generators, and lights.
Extinguish all open flames. Turn off the galley stove and donít
To be on the safe side, operate your blower for at least four or
five minutes after fueling. Then, before starting your engine, check
all compartments and engine spaces for gas fumes by sniffing. If
you have a problem smelling odors, get an electronic fume detector.
Just remember an electronic device is not as sensitive as your nose.
The need to thoroughly air out your bilge and other compartments
after fueling can not be over emphasized. It is possible for trapped
gasoline vapors to be so rich that a spark will not cause an explosion.
When you open a hatch, port, or door, or when your vessel begins
to move, you may introduce enough air to make vapors explosive.
Many boats have exploded and caught fire after leaving the fueling
If you should find raw gasoline in your bilge, donít operate anything
electrical and donít disconnect your battery. Turn off all power
by using your enclosed ignition protected marine type battery switch.
If a spill should occur at a gas dock and it is sizeable, call
the fire department. You can clean up small amounts of spilled gasoline
with a sponge and a PLASTIC bucket. Send the bucket and sponge ashore.
After that leave the boat open until you can no longer smell fumes.
Then use your blower for at least four minutes.
When you donít know where raw gasoline in your bilge came from,
look for its source. But do it after you cleaned up the mess and
before you start your engine. A leaking fuel line, for example,
could be an invitation to disaster.
Hey! It is never my intention to scare you. I just thought you
would want to know about your boatís gas engine.