So I was watching some coverage of the America’s Cup the other day, huge catamarans crashing around San Francisco Bay at almost 40kts, gliding on high tech airfoils, driven by high tech “sails” which are little more than airplane wings set vertically.
The high technology doesn’t end there.
All those powerboats supporting the sailing races all need fueled up on a daily basis, and they are utilizing technology and good old fashioned know how in keeping the environment safe while doling out all that fuel, keeping the race committee boats running.
According to an article from Sailors for the Sea entitled “Running on E, Protecting the Sea,” there are some tried and true ways of fueling up all those boats without contaminating the San Francisco Bay.
“On the water a spill of even a few drops is difficult to clean up. The America’s Cup race committee boats have teamed up with San Francisco’s Gashouse cove, to ensure the fleet fills up in a safe, environmentally friendly manner.
The crew on the dock is serious about keeping fuel out of the bay and the dock is outfitted with absorbent booms and equipment to mitigate any spillage. The staff is a great group and instructed me on the ABCs of marine fueling. It is a good checklist for first time boat owners and salty sea captains alike.
Here are the steps learned from the fueling team at the America’s Cup:
There is No Harm in Asking! If you are not 100% confident on how to fuel your boat ask the attendant. They do it for a living. Let them help you!
A Boat is Not a Car. Be prepared to find your fuel filler in the most inconvenient location. It is common to find the filler hidden, sneakily behind a cockpit bench, tucked between stanchions, or even worse, right next to the water tank and you’ve forgotten which is which? More importantly where is the fuel vent? Every fuel tank has a vent through which air escapes as the tank fills. When your tank reaches full this vent will happily pass fuel as easily as it did the escaping air. Commonly it vents directly OVER the WATER! You can use the sound of escaping air to tell when the tank is full, No whistling air Stop pumping!
The Fuel Dock is Not a Street Gas Station. The hoses and equipment are different. Self Service is frowned upon and the staff is trained in clean fueling procedures. They will provide you with the correct nozzle, gasoline or diesel, as well as absorbent pads to catch drips at the filler and vent. Please ask for absorbent pads prior to fueling and use them every time.
Water is Always Moving. Even tied up at the dock for fueling you are subject to Mother Nature and her shifty ways. Keep in mind you are on a surface in constant motion. Waves, wakes, people moving aboard, and shifting of the dock, all can rock your world. Because of these external forces it’s imperative to always stay with the fuel hose. Never leave the hose unattended while fueling. If you are alone and need to check your gauges or poke your head down the companionway, take a break, release the lever, do your chore.
F or E? Believe it or not, your fuel gauge can lie to you. It may be reading 1/4 full and as hard as your try you cannot add another drop of fuel, its okay, it can happen to anyone. But it’s important to know when to STOP. Know the signs that tell you when your tank is almost full, does it sound full, can you see down the filler neck? Don’t expect automatic shut off technology to get it right. A little room at the top is good to allow for fuel expansion on that warm sunny day.
Captain Obvious. It’s gas! Don’t smoke!
For more information on how to prevent fuel spills and what to do if the worst happens, check out our Clean Boating Resources.”
For more information on safe fueling on the water and keeping our environment clean and safe, check out the BoatUS foundations recommendations.