On Saturday, July 20, during a Wine Country ACBS Chapter event on Keuka Lake (Hammondsport, NY), a 1955 Century Coronado exploded on the water.  One passenger was treated and released, while the other remains in the hospital with substantial burns on her legs and feet.  According to a friend, the accident occurred with the bilge blower on, after several attempts to re-start a stalled engine. You can visit www.woodyboater.com for detailed reports and updates.

While local authorities’ final determination of the cause of this explosion is still pending, the accident on Keuka Lake is a good reminder that there are several sources for boat safety information:

ACBS https://acbs.org/safety/

BoatUS https://www.boatus.com/expert-advice/safety-and-prevention

US Coast Guard https://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/index.php?m=rb

We join the entire classic boating community in wishing these boaters speedy recovery and are deeply grateful that their injuries were not more severe.


  1. I join everyone in wishing this couple well and a speedy and full recovery.

    However, when these events occur we need to look at how we as a community can make our hobby safer.

    Is the ACBS entertaining the idea of not deducting points for non-original safety equipment being added in judged show events?

    • The ACBS Judging System does not deduct for safety equipment already.

      These two paragraphs are in Section F of the rules:

      “Where new equipment or features are added to an entry solely for purposes of safety, navigation and/or complying with legal requirements, no deduction from the point score should occur, unless the new item seriously detracts from the “physical appearance” or mechanical condition. When such new items are added, they should not, unless it is necessary, displace original features and equipment.”

      Further down, it states:

      “Point deductions should be made for abnormal gas and oil leaks, as well as incorrect finishes or colors. The use of safety devices such as filters, extinguishers and gauges will not require a deduction, provided they are installed in manner that does not substantially alter the appearance of the boat.”

      Looks to me that what Niel suggests is already covered in the ACBS Judging System.

  2. Fortunately, my “sniffer” has always alerted me and the blower automatically kicks on with fumes. In the event of flames the Halon discharges. It has been twenty years now and we (me and the boat) remain unspotted!
    It helps to have a V8 with the carburetor sitting atop the engine.

  3. Everybody frets about gasoline tank fumes, but what could be riskier than 60+year old fuel plumbing (filters, lines, hoses) and ignition wires (including starter motors) that haven’t been touched in 15+ seasons?

    • And of course, ethanol-polluted fuel/carburators. Has anyone in the marine community ever raised ethanol degradation of fuel systems as a SAFETY issue?

  4. I’m pretty sure the boat operator was attempting to start the boat after multiple attempts by working the throttle. If so, that would have flooded the engine. Another possibility is the float stuck while sitting and flooded the engine. Unfortunately, with carbureted engines, flooding is always a risk. The bilge blower can’t exhaust the volume of fumes leading to explosion. The remedy is to open the engine cover or hatches if any doubt or trouble starting an engine.

  5. Two thoughts to consider. First be on guard for fuel leaks and spills. A pool of liquid gasoline in the bilge may produce more fumes than a bilge blower can handle. Most pre-WWII boats have up-draft carburetors. When flooded, often occurring when making multiple attempts to restart an over-choked stalled engine, the carburetors will drip excess fuel into the bilge. Accumulating under the engine it usually difficult (near impossible?) to see the pool of gasoline from a flooded carburetor. Second, is that retrofit bilge blower properly installed. Gasoline vapors are heavier than air and tend to accumulate in the bottom of the bilge. The bilge blower needs to suck out these deep bilge gases to clear the fumes. When retrofitting a ventilation system to a boat that never had a bilge blower It is all to easy to install the bilge blower in a location that only circulates the air at the top of the engine compartment and never clears the bilge.

  6. In this type of explosion, our analysis often shows that as the engine was being started there was a build-up of fumes in the bilge. Because gasoline vapors won’t ignite past the Upper Explosive Limit (UEL) of fume concentration and the engine cannot start with such a concentration through the carburetor, it’s not until more air is introduced (often by the bilge blower and/or the engine sucking in more air) that the concentration becomes less than the UEL and an explosion is triggered by the smallest spark. We have found this sometimes happens immediately after refueling when gas is somehow spilled into the bilge. If your engine won’t start and there is even a remote possibility of gas in the bilge, discontinue trying.

    Two points: Bilge blowers cannot evacuate liquid fuel from the bilge; and all gasoline powered boats should be equipped with gasoline vapor detectors/alarms.

    Here is some good information from BoatU.S. https://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/magazine/2016/april/preventing-explosions-aboard.asp

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