Safe fueling

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Mike Baron of the Coast Guard Boating Safety Division offers the following tips on proper fueling.

  • If you are filling jerry cans or portable fuel tanks, take them out of the boat and refuel them on shore. This is safer as it will stop dangerous fumes from building up on your deck and around your boat.
  • Before fueling inboard tanks, close all hatches and other openings to prevent fumes from getting into interior spaces of the boat.
  • To avoid air locks and sudden spills, be sure your boat is level when refueling. Put passengers ashore or level your trailer if refueling at a service station.
  • Be sure you have a fire extinguisher within reach when filling up. Extinguish cigarettes and any other smoking materials or flame and turn off cell phones. Turn off engines, all electrical equipment, including radios, stoves and other appliances.
  • Do not rely on hands-free or automatic shut-off features. Attend the nozzle at all times, and never fill your fuel tank to the top. Fuel will expand as it warms up, especially in warm weather, so be sure to allow room in your tanks for this expansion to avoid leaking fuel into the water.
  • If you have a metal fuel tank, maintain nozzle contact with the fill pipe to prevent static spark and spills. Hold an absorbent sheet under the nozzle to catch any drips, and be sure to wipe up any spillage that should occur. After fueling, be sure to secure the filler cap to prevent fuel from leaking or water from entering the tank.
  • Before starting the engine, run the blower for at least four minutes and check the bilge for any fuel vapors. Open all ports, hatches and doors to ventilate. Do the "sniff" test to make sure there is no gasoline odor anywhere on the boat. Do not start the engine if you detect an odor - continue ventilating and checking for possible leaks.

For more on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.