By Brent Howard
All it takes for an explosion is fuel fumes and a small spark.
The 1955 Century boat explosion is a heads up to evaluate boats for explosion risk and take needed action to insure our boats are safe to enjoy.
Take a safety tip from Pilots. Before each flight, pilots do a walk around and check essential equipment. If they do not, do not board the aircraft.
Antique and Classic boats were fairly safe when built. 50 to 70 years later, well past intended life of 15 years. it is a different story. It is up to us to maintain and retrofit for safety, or risk significant consequence.
Pre-launch: Make safety inspection mandatory each and every time you launch. Raise the motor box, or hatch, smell for fumes and look for signs of fuel on carburetor, fuel lines, fuel pump, and in the bilge. Check the safety devices you installed and other safety items like flotation vests, etc.
Bilge blower: Run the blower(s) 4 to 5 minutes before starting the boat. Make sure the vent hose is attached from the blower to air exit and lower end is near the engine and keel. Run bilge blower when boat is on idle and air is not forced though vents at speed. Turn bilge blower off when fueling. Cruiser ~ Install separate bilge blower for each engine and one for generator.
Wiring: Marine Grade wire, stranded copper, tinned, and marked marine. Marine grade connectors and or Solder. Romex and wire nuts are pieces of a bomb.
Fuel Lines: Marine ‘inboard’ (not ‘outboard’) fuel lines and copper. Flexible marine fuel line from fuel pump to and attached to stringer, then fuel cutoff, then copper fuel line. Hose clamps all stainless and double clamped in opposite direction.
Fuel filter: Some engines use glass bowels – gaskets get old and leak ~ sometimes a lot. They are actually for sediment collection. Use ‘metal’ in line filter secured in place.
Fuel tank: Two fuel shut off’s. One at tank, and one on the end of the copper fuel line where fuel hose connects to fuel pump. Both shuts off’s secured to frame or stringer. If the fuel tank copper vent tube has been replaced with hose, check hose condition, make sure it is marine ‘inboard’(not ‘outboard’) fuel hose. Hose clamps all stainless and double clamped.
Exhaust: Look for cracks in manifold and blown gasket(s). Hose should be Marine Wet Exhaust. Clamps all stainless and double clamp.
Replacement parts: Absolutely use marine parts if they handle fuel or electricity; Ignition, Switches, Carburetor, Generator, Alternator, Starter, Fuel Pump, and Fuel lines. If marine replacement parts on older engines are not available, rebuild. Marine parts contain fuel in the system and are ignition proof. Automotive counter parts do not, and are not. Automotive parts are pieces of a bomb.
Other Equipment: Fire extinguisher(s), Fume detector with alarm. Small light to show bilge pump is running. Battery switch. Fire suppression system. Cruisers: add Carbon Monoxide Detector, Fire Alarms, and Fire Suppression System.
Best equipment: Clear head focused on safety when approaching a boat to launch.
A SAFE BOAT COST VERY LITTLE ~ A NOT SAFE BOAT CAN COST EVERYTHING.