That saying may have saved Woody Boater Mike Dovichi’s life this past week. With the explosion this weekend of another classic boater on Lake Lanier this story could not be more timely. Thanks Mike for sharing.
Matt, Texx I am happy to announce that I am still here to write this story. As I will explain, it could very well have been someone else writing to you about my issue.
Last year I purchased a 1947 Deluxe CC Runabout from an agent. The boat had been refurbished in 2005, used (I think) until 2007 and then shipped to Ohio where it sat in a brokers shed until I purchased it. When I brought it home I had a local marine shop go over it to make sure it was usable. He called me over one day to look at the gas tank he removed from the boat. It had about 3-4 inches of what looked like tapioca pudding, lots of ¼ diameter balls of gunk. The mechanic flushed the tank and installed a gas/water separator and I was able to use the boat without a problem. Except there was always a little smell of gasoline in the bilge, which appears to come from a loose fitting on the gas line. Once that was tightened the problem seemed to go away. I drained the tank last fall for the long Wisconsin winter.
Fast forward to this year. I put 5 gallons of gas in the tank last week and made plans to go boating for the first time this Fathers Day. The weather promised to be fine and I looked forward to finally go boating. But, Friday night I smelled gas fumes in the bilge again. Looking closely I saw a puddle under the gas tank and sure enough the tank was leaking. I quickly turned on a fan, drained the tank, and siphoned a quart of gas from the bilge. I took the tank out yesterday and found two spots that were rotted. The label on the tank read Rayco, manufactured in 2005 of 0.125” aluminum, pressure tested, Coast Guard approved, etc.
Without any more information I can only assume that the moisture in the gas ate through the aluminum while it sat in the showroom. I have a blower that I always use, but without expecting a leaking tank I doubt I would have stuck my nose back into the bilge before firing it up. Crises averted this time but it makes me wonder if it is possible to be absolutely safe in a boat not built to current standards. Does anyone ever pressure test the tank in their boat to make sure it is sound?
Do you know of anyone else having this problem. I understand that methanol is creating issues but what conditions would it take to eat through 5052 aluminum 0.125? If you guys might have some info on this please comment.
Story Update June 22, 2013
Here is a YouTube video of the fire which was captured by fellow Woody Boater Tom Brockmeyer and also a still photo of the boats remains. Scary stuff…
Tom notes: Here is a still picture of the boat remnants from my third pass thru the debris field after the small Chris-Craft exploded on Lake Lanier (N. Georgia) on Father’s Day. The parents are doing well, the 14yr old daughter is still being treated for burns and injuries. How violent must have been that explosion to render the boat deck into tiny shards of wood as pictured!!??? – Tom Brockmeyer
Thanks for sharing this with us Tom, a good reminder of why fuel tank safety and the “Lift & Sniff” routine is so important. – Texx