Posted by: powellpjc | May 2, 2009

A Fuel Tank Saga.


Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story?

A Fairy starts with, ‘Once upon a time…’

A sea story starts with, ‘This is no fucking bullshit.’

                                                                                         Fred Bates.


A couple of weeks ago a crew was working on the power boat berthed next to me. It was a cold and wet weekend and I watched as fuel was pumped out of the boat into 45-gallon drums on the dock. Seems they were cleaning out some old tanks and I thought it a good thing to do to my boat too. I chatted up the chief of operations and decided to have a couple of access holes made in my fuel tank so I could clean it out. It had never been cleaned in its 21 year history. Bacteria can live in diesel fuel, believe it or not, and if one adds biocide to each fuel fill, one kills the bacteria but their tiny dead bodies accumulate over time into a gooey sludge which can plug filters and worse, stop engines. I wanted the sludge out. We set a date for the access hole project.

Early one Sunday morning, Fred Bates showed up with his gear. Fred is a sailor, an engine man and generally knows a hell of a lot about a hell of a lot.  We got to work. Well, Fred did and I mostly looked on. We had to remove some cabinetry to get at the damn tank. Fred had a lot of equipment with him but one of the scariest pieces was the dark green pressure tank full of nitrogen. Couldn’t be good. ‘We use it to displace the oxygen in the fuel tank,’ he told me. Displaces the O2 and reduces the chance of fire/explosion. I was all for the nitro.

 We pumped the fuel out into  the 45-gallon tank sitting in my cockpit.

Before the hand-waving.

Before the hand-waving.

We eventually got a hole in the fuel tank but to reach in and clean Fred needed to grind the razor sharp edges. That was a sight. Metal filings, hot as a cherry-red crack pipe flew everywhere, including straight into the remaining dregs of fuel. I stood there dumbly, waiting for the explosion.

The first peek into the tank was depressing. The sludge was a ½ inch thick in one end of the tank. Fred dug it out and cleaned up the tank’s bottom.

Cutting into the steel

Cutting into the steel

Rusted through it was.




So much for access holes. I needed a new tank. We disconnected all the fittings and the next day a yard worker and I hauled it out. Awkward and heavy, it looked like a coffin going to its own funeral.

Fred designs the new tank.

Fred designs the new tank.

 New tank goes in next week. Nothing lasts for ever.



  1. gotta love the big adventure…i look forward to each new saga….getting machinery ready for seeding in southern manitoba so i have some experience with diesel [and gas]fuel tank problems…my wife tells me that the rank smell of diesel is exciting ha ha phil

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: