More than half of all calls for help involve vessels with motor problems, and many times it is because they have run out of fuel. It is imperative that operators always ensure that their boat has an adequate oil and fuel supply for the trip that they have planned.
A good rule for adequate fuel planning is the fuel rule of thirds. Boaters should plan to use one third of the fuel on the way out, one third on the way back in, and reserve one third for an emergency.
However, if not done properly, fueling can be very hazardous. Gasoline vapors can explode, causing injury or death. Most fires and explosions occur during or shortly after a boat is fueled. The probability of explosion can be reduced by following safe fueling procedures, including:
- Mooring the boat securely to prevent spills
- Grounding the nozzle against the filler pipe
- Knowing how much fuel the tank can hold and not overfilling it — boaters have a duty to prevent fuel leaks and spills into the boat’s hull and the water
- Wiping up spills and dispose of the used fuel absorbents in an approved container
- Closing all hatches and other openings on the boat before refueling
- Turning off engines, electrical equipment and radios
- Remove all passengers from onboard
- Extinguishing any smoking materials
- Re-fueling any portable tanks ashore
After fueling the vessel, all ports, hatches, and doors should be opened for ventilation and the blower should be run for at least four minutes. The operator should check the bilges for any fuel vapors. A “sniff test” should be conducted to ensure that there are no gasoline odors anywhere on the boat.