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How to Safely Refuel Your Boat: Essential Tips for Boat Refueling

10 tips to ensure an uneventful refueling

Gas pump at a boating dock. Caution should be used when refueling your boat to ensure no fire-related accidents occur
Gas station at the boat pier. (Adobe Stock)

More so than automobiles, recreational boats have special safety needs that need to be considered when it comes to boat refueling. For example, sterndrive and inboard boats have closed engine compartments where volatile gasoline vapors from boat fuel don’t easily dissipate while older gasoline-powered boats are the riskiest to refuel as their brittle fuel hoses can crack, leaving gas in the bilge after a fill-up. Using safe refueling techniques like the ones listed below can save money and lives.

Know the boat fuel needed for your vessel

Before refueling your boat, it’s essential to understand the type of boat fuel your vessel requires. Most boats run on either gasoline or diesel, each with its own set of safety precautions. Gasoline is highly flammable and requires careful handling to prevent accidents, while diesel is less volatile but still poses risks if mishandled. Always consult your boat’s manual to determine the correct fuel type and follow manufacturer recommendations for safe refueling.

10 tips on how to ensure a safe boat refueling.

Disembark: As soon as you’re safely tied up to the fuel dock, everyone should hop off the boat.

Turn everything off: Shut down all engines, electric motors and galley stoves then turn off the battery at the main switch.

Button her up: Close all compartments, cabin doors, ports, windows and hatches.

Don’t smoke: Ensure all smoking materials are fully extinguished — including any stogies smoldering up on the bridge.

No static: Keep the fuel nozzle in contact with the fuel deck fill to prevent static sparks (and don’t confuse the fuel fill with a rod holder, water tank or holding tank fill, which happens more often than you think). Stay with your boat and don’t use the “hands-free” clip. Portable tanks should be removed and placed on the fuel dock before filling.

Don’t overfill: To prevent fuel from spewing from the fuel tank vent, don’t fill the tank to the very top — be aware of how much fuel you need and keep an absorbent pad handy. A tank that is overfilled can allow fuel to blowback during the refueling process or expand and be forced out of the tank vent as temperatures rise or seas kick up.

Person refueling their boat at a dock gas station while holding the boat fuel pump for safe refueling
Always keep in contact with the fuel pump while refueling your vessel (Adobe Stock)

Clean up: If fuel does spill, replace the tank cap, open all hatches and doors, wipe up any spills and dispose of any fuel soaked absorbents properly — hanging them on a rail to allow the gasoline to evaporate may seem like a good idea until a guest decides to smoke.

Use the blower: If equipped, operate the bilge blower for at least four minutes following the clean-up to dispel any lingering flammable fumes.

Sniff test: Smell the bilge and engine compartment before starting the engine. Note that a bilge blower won’t remove vapors from spilled gasoline, so use your nose first before you turn the key.

Investigate any issues: If the engine won’t start up immediately after refueling, stop cranking and investigate. In most cases of refueling-related accidents, the operator tried multiple times to start the engine before an explosion occurred.

Keep up with boat maintenance

To maintain safe boat refueling practices, regular maintenance and inspections of your boat’s fuel system are essential. Check fuel lines, fittings, and connections for signs of wear or damage, and replace any faulty components promptly. Keep fuel tanks clean and free of debris to prevent contamination and ensure optimal performance. By staying proactive with maintenance, you can enjoy worry-free boating experiences for years to come.

Read More: Boating at Night? Here’s What You Need to Consider to Avoid an Accident

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