I recently took delivery of a new power boat, picking it up on a Friday. I did not have time to check it out completely, but the dealer had used the boat for a couple of demos with my permission up the river.
When I took delivery of it, I filled it to the top at a petrol station and, because I was standing on tip toes, I overfilled it slightly. When I put the boat in the water I noticed some petrol in the bilge and, assuming it was from the earlier spill, cleaned it out. I could still smell petrol and also discovered that one of the trim legs was not working and reported this to the dealer.
In the morning the boat stank of fuel I evacuated my family and I checked where the smell was coming from and it seemed to be the heads, it was so strong it was hard to breath, I opened all the windows to let air in, I then checked the bilge and found gallons of fuel in it and the surrounding area I realised the vapour had been going down the waste pipe channel into the heads, I cleaned out the whole bilge. Later in the day the bilge looked great and clean, the dealer called me to try and assist with the problem with the leg, I explained about the fuel leak and it confused us both.
I was guided on my mobile phone through the cables from the throttle to the engine and then to the servo tank where there were solenoids, I was asked to remove a screw on a plastic plate to get to them, it was getting dark, this was at the rear of the bilge and I had to use a torch. I read out a warning above the screw about the screw being attached to the positive feed and asked whether I should turn off the blowers and ignition to which I was told yes, I did this and then put the screwdriver on the screw, as I did so it touched the metal pipework to the fluid container and went BANG!! I was thrown across the bilge with the big spark/explosion, the screwdriver had weld marks where it had touched the pipework I was in bare feet standing in the remains of the water in the bilge after cleaning it I then told the dealer I WAS NOT touching another thing and left the boat. The next day I checked it and found that loads of more fuel had filled the bilge, it was a FLOATING BOMB, and it was removed from the marina by crane.
Subsequent investigation discovered the fuel was coming out of the top of the tank leaking from a faulty part of the sender unit. I and my family slept the night on that boat not knowing we were surrounded by pure petrol. I had made cup of tea the night before on the stove, it is dual fuel and the electric part was not working for some reason, I used the meths option to boil the water!
The leak was not detected before because during the demos the dealer only had a small amount of fuel in. I must be the luckiest person alive, why I was not blown to SMITHERINES I do not know, all I do know is that this has scared the crap out of my family, what if we had not fully filled the tank and it had gradually leaked for months until one day we are moored up having a cup of tea and BANG!! We are dead, who would ever have found the fault? Am I lucky or what?
What lessons can we learn here to share with others? I am still in shock really, the more I think about it the more I don’t understand why I am not DEAD.
There are a number of important safety points in this report which the Maritime Advisory Board wish to emphasise:
- Purchasers should check what pre-delivery testing has been undertaken by vendor.
- On taking delivery of a new or second-hand craft owners should ensure it is thoroughly checked out.
- Any identified problems should be traced until the source has been identified.
- Maintenance/repair should only be undertaken by competent persons in all but exceptional circumstances.
The reporter was indeed lucky and CHIRP is grateful for this report which we hope will encourage others to check thoroughly and not take the risk of being less fortunate.