Thanks To A Fuel Vapor Detector, The 4th Of July Was Fireworks Free!

Gene Porters Lyman just sitting there all innocent like

Gene Porters Lyman just sitting there all innocent like

Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Gene Porter, we are now aware of a major safety device that could save your life one day. The following story will appear in the upcoming Rudder, normally we would not publish a story that will appear in another publication, but this is all about awareness and getting the word out.

“Save a boat, maybe save a life”  By Gene Porter

Early in the 2013 boating season at least one vintage boat was lost due to a fuel leak and the resulting explosion and fire. The dominant reaction online and elsewhere was “Lift and Sniff” – clearly good advice, but not always sufficient. What if the fuel only leaks after the engine has been started?

A simple yet life saving device

A simple yet life saving device

Five years after installation of a fuel vapor detector in the bilge of my vintage 23’ Lyman Sleeper, and never having sounded before except when testing, the alarm sounded right after I had sniffed the engine compartment and then started the engine at the start of a Lyman cruise on “Golden Pond”/Squam Lake NH .

Lifting and sniffing. Wasn't enough

Lifting and sniffing. Wasn’t enough

A fuel leak had developed from a filter fitting, no doubt due to the extensive vibrations recently imposed by Interstate 95. Sniffing prior to starting wasn’t enough because the filter fitting was downstream of the fuel pump and therefore not pressurized until after the engine started.

Leaky fuel filter

Leaky fuel filter

This alarm probably saved my boat and maybe my life and those of friends on the adjacent dock. Although now priced just above $100 – about twice what I paid years ago – such detectors seem to me to be an extremely worthwhile investment in safety. I’m surprised they aren’t mandatory but recommend that all owners of gasoline fueled boats –particularly old inboards – and all restoration shops, immediately install such a detector in each boat under their purview.
Gene Porter
Past President ACBS

Thankfully now all Gene has to worry about is the water levels on his lake.

Gene's Lyman sitting at the dock. Or whats left of it.

Gene’s Lyman sitting at the dock. Or whats left of it.

11 replies
  1. Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

    Good information! Considering I had my 61 Cruisers inc burn because of a fuel issue, thats a cheap date! And yes there is a lot of water in Lake Winni right now!

  2. Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

    I guess that picture was just to scarry for the computer to post. Try this one

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    A had a simmilar situation this year. Everything looked and smelled OK on our ’76 Penn Yan durring the de-winterizing. Started her up and took another look and we found fuel dripping in two different locations downstream from the fuel pump.

    Lift and sniff might not have caught that until too late. Only way we saw it was 1) we had the entire dog house out for clear visibility, and 2) we were actively looking since it was the first start of the season. I would not have found a mid-season leak the same way.

    Maybe Santa will put a couple of fuel vapor detectors in my stocking this winter.

  4. Mike Dovichi
    Mike Dovichi says:

    I am that guy with the gas tank problem a couple weeks ago. I was able to purchase a brand new stainless steel tank within a week. I installed it and went boating last Sunday. Once burned (so to speak), twice learned. I vented the bilge, check all the fittings…twice, and started her up. No problem until I was underway and smelled GAS!!! WTF!!! I stopped, opened the hatch and there was gas in the bilge. A quick check found a loose brass nut on the carburetor (bowl vent?) spilling gas. A simple crank with a wrench and the flow stopped. The spilled gas rapidly evaporated and the problem was solved.

    No one touched the brass nut, it decided to loosen while underway. If my nose did not smell the gas I could have spent hours boating with gas accumulating in the bilge.

    No question now, I will get a fume detector installed ASAP. No sense in tempting fate anymore.

  5. charley quimby
    charley quimby says:

    Gene is indeed fortunate to have caught the problem, but that filter is for automotive use, not marine. If something had happened, the insurance may not apply due to non-marine equipment being used. CQ

  6. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    Thank goodness the fate of that beautiful Lyman is protected, lapstrake ‘True North’ rules.

  7. Ted Chisholm
    Ted Chisholm says:

    Salem Mass Antique and Classic Boat Festival “Most Original” winner Ted Chisholm’s Medford MA Wagemaker Wolverine”

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