s/y Nine of Cups
Projects Aboard - New Fuel Tanks
(August - September 2008)
We've needed new fuel tanks for quite some time. David replaced one when we were in Ecuador last time. He constructed an epoxy tank which
fit inside the old steel tank and it has worked quite well, but it's a major project to undertake. We had gone across the Atlantic twice with only
one fuel tank and some jerry jugs on deck, but we thought it was time to take the plunge and get the tanks handled. We got quotes in the USA
for replacement tanks...way too expensive. We got quotes in Panama...better, but still too expensive. We got a new quote in Manta and lo and
behold, the price was reasonable and the company came with good references, so we decided to go ahead. The process was a long, arduous,
frustrating one.
First, David had to remove the table and get
access to the tanks which are under the salon sole
(of course)... not an easy project. It involved
cutting up sections of the teak and holly sole. He
used a Fein tool which he borrowed from our
friends on Hello World and it made all the
difference in the world.
Now, big squares of floor were removed
to expose the old tanks. We draped the
whole area in old sheets to keep metal
filings and dust to a confined space.
David in his respirator looked like an alien
as he began the arduous process of
grinding the tops off the old tanks.
In addition to the existing fuel tank, we
ended up converting one water tank to
fuel as well as adding another smaller
tank giving us a planned capacity of 110
gallons starboard and a total of 180
gallons aboard. We ended up with a
rather large hole in the saloon sole
which made navigation within the boat
quite a challenge.
We hauled the models in the dinghy to the
boat for fittings. Once David was sure that all
tanks fit properly and that we could access
the fittings, we hauled the models ashore for
one last round of measurements and checks.
Then we hired a "flete" (a pick up truck for
hire) to haul them to Manta. Something
unusual happened...the tanks were completed
on time. We went to the factory to inspect
them and they looked great!
Next, David made wooden models of the
three tanks to be fabricated with all fitings in
place. Thanks to Puerto Amistad, construction
took place in the workyard as opposed to on
board the boat making things a bit easier.
The new tanks were made of steel and
very heavy. We lugged them one at a time
from the dock to the boat in the dinghy.
David guided and maneuvered while
Marcie hauled via a winch and halyard.
David had verified that the tanks would fit
through the saloon hatch to make getting
them below and in place easier.
It was easier, but not necessarily easy!
As of  21September, we were still struggling and the tanks were  fighting us every inch of the
way. It was a continuing saga. After getting all the tanks aboard, we found that the hose fittings
were not to specification...something we hadn't noticed when we looked at them at the
fabricators...and thus wouldn't fit. Out they came, hauled them back one by one  to shore in the
dinghy, hired a flete and took them back to the fabricators. Oh, man! By the end of the week,
they had fixed the problem and they were re-delivered to us.
We got the first tank in with no
problems, but tanks 2 & 3 did not fit
and needed to go back to the fabricator
for modifications. Their error, but it lost
us a precious week.
Final pressure checking exposed more than
30 leaks in the welds of the tanks.
Back out to the boat, they fit this time!  
Hoorah! Got them all in, plumbed and
ready for the final pressure testing.
They had been tested at the
fabricators, but this was the final check
before filling them with fuel.
Leaks...leaks...leaks! More than 30 in
all! We were sick about it.

We removed all the tanks and repaired
them ourselves (that's the royal "we",
read that David...Marcie was opting to
use them for anchors). Lots of extra
work, but after two weeks of hard
work, the tanks were completed,
leak-free and re-installed and are now
holding diesel (thank Neptune!).
After repairing all the leaks, David pressure
checked the tanks himself once again.
Final installation was difficult. Access
to all the hoses and fittings was tight
and tightening up hose clamps at odd
angles in close quarters made the job
all the more difficult. However, a job
well done! Diesel was delivered two
days later and no leaks were noted.
An upcoming 4,000 mile passage
from Ecuador to Chile would be the
proof of the pudding.
Post Notes...

*Despite all the problems, David indicates he
would do this project again. (Marcie isn't
commenting!)

*After the 4,000 mile passage from Ecuador
to Chile, the first order of business in Puerto
Montt was to check the integrity of the tanks.
No leaks were noted and everything looked
good.  Thank you, Neptune!
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Murphy's Law applies to boats, too!
  • Nothing is ever easy on a boat.
  • If it's for a boat, it costs 10x as much.
  • Any boat project multiplies
    exponentially in size, scope and cost
    the longer it goes on.