Yes, yes I know it’s a sailboat but they still have fuel tanks. Not huge fuel tanks like a powerboat would have, but when there is no wind or during docking we need the engine. We knew that we would have to replace the fuel tank not long after we bought our boat because, after some research, we realized that Endeavour boats are notorious for leaky tanks. This past year the smell of diesel was getting to the point where we couldn’t ignore it anymore. John had ordered a new fuel tank from Florida Marine Tank and it has been sitting under our carport for quite some time. It was time to finally install it.
First John had to drain the diesel from old tank into fuel jugs using a hand pump, which took several hours. He underestimated the amount of fuel in the tank because the old gauge wasn’t very accurate and he had to go out and buy more fuel cans. Then he removed the bracing, moved the numerous wires and pulled the old tank out with the boom and main sheet traveler. (for non boat people, that is the rope and pulley system attached to the thing the sail is attached to on the bottom)
As you can see, he wrapped it up because it was so disgusting. The bilge was equally nasty and would take forever to clean. Oh, and it SMELLED HORRIBLE. He first cleaned up the old tank to see where the diesel was leaking from. After seeing the holes in the bottom of the tank, I’m convinced that the gunk in the bottom of the tank is the only reason that all the fuel didn’t leak into the bilge.
Now onto the bilge cleaning. This took several days, several nasty, dirty days. This is what it looked like before.
Yea, its really gross. I’m fairly sure it had never been cleaned before. Here is some of the gunk being scraped up.
I’m honestly not sure how John did it, it was so disgusting. While he was cleaning the bilge, he found a soft spot under the engine, only visible when the fuel tank was removed. After poking around, he realized there was an area under the engine full of foam that had been soaking up sea water and percolating for years. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t there when he found this because he told me later that the smell from that old foam was the most disgusting thing he had ever smelled. After it was finally cleaned out, a small compartment was revealed and we toyed with the idea of putting a fresh water bladder in there but we figured it was just to difficult to access. John decided to covering it up with fiberglass instead. Before that though, he painted the entire bilge with two coats of white bilge paint. Which took forever to dry. You can see the small compartment under the engine here after he finished painting.
He constructed a platform out of plastic decking material to keep the new tank out of liquid that might settle in the bottom of the bilge. He also put a rubber mat on top of the decking. Here he is working on the piece of fiberglass that he was epoxied on the compartment under the engine. I took several pictures of him working in the bilge during this project.
Here is the end result, ready for the new tank.
We had already moved the new fuel tank onto the boat in the middle of cleaning, it had been sitting in the cockpit for a couple of weeks. We hooked it up to the boom the same way the old tank was connected.
The beginning of the install went well. (which always makes me nervous)
It settled into it’s new home with no problems except it was about 1″ too high. We pulled it out, cut some of the mat and put it back in. Still too high. Pulled it back out, cut more and put it back. Nope.
Rinse and repeat several more times, with banging and swearing. Then there was lots of banging and swearing. Finally John tweaks things enough and it fits just right. I felt like cheering! Now to hook everything up and refill the tank while praying none of the connections leak.
Surprisingly, they didn’t leak and he filled the tank with clean, filtered diesel. We did find a small hiccup in that one of the new hoses was crushed by the floor piece that covered the tank but the jigsaw fixed the problem quickly. Next was the test to see if the engine would start. We crossed our fingers and cranked her up. Well, we tried to crank her up, she wanted to, but just couldn’t seem to catch. John messed around with this hose and that hose, this wire and that wire. At one point he swore really loudly and jerked his hands away from the engine. There was a bare cut wire that had sparked right next to his hand!
He fixed that and kept on working. We tried cranking her twice more with fiddling in between before she caught. And what a beautiful sound that is! She ran great, no coughs or stutters. I was really impressed, she is really a great engine.
With all that nastiness gone, it’s amazing how much better the boat smells when you open her up. So much better! And John put the stairs back in, no more streeetching to get in and out.
And now we are just waiting for a good day to go sailing!