For boaters, a trip to the fuel docks is a necessary evil.  It takes a chunk out of your wallet and many degraded fuel docks with their jagged edges may  take a chunk out of your boat as well. Whatever the reason you may be dreading a refueling trip, we’ll go over some tips, tricks and what not to do so that your next round at the pumps goes off without a hitch.

Pulling Up to The Dock

When you can look like a pro, do it. This means if you can pull up to the dock at a slight crab angle facing up stream you’ll simply glide right into position.

Things to think about ahead of time are:

  • Which side is your fueling port?
  • Are the hoses long enough to come across the deck of your boat? Most are.
  • Traffic at the pumps. Sometimes it’s better to wait than to try and squeeze between two other boats. Here is where you can use your VHF. Tell the dockhands you’re in line and give them your boat name. They can wave you in and give you a hand tying up. This also establishes order and may prevent others from jumping the line if busy.

Fueling Your Boat ProperlyAfter you tie up, it’s all about SAFETY

The hard part is over. Now it’s time to put your thinking cap on and keep your refueling operation safe. This check list will help:

  1. Kill the engine(s)
  2. Shut down all electrical items.
  3. Shut down any open flames (propane refrigerators, galley oven, etc.)
  4. Make sure you and your passengers are not smoking
  5. Secure any ports or nearby windows that may allow vapors to travel downward – this is important with gasoline.

Fueling Up

  1. With gas powered boats, maintain nozzle contact with the fill pipe for grounding purposes. You will be creating static electricity as you fill.
  2. Stay with the boat. Now’s not the time to go into the store for your Gatorade.
  3. If you use the hands-free feature (not recommended on smaller boats) use it till you get about 90% full, then do the rest by hand. Too many spills occur by leaving it on.
  4. Don’t overfill it. Listen to the noise the fuel makes as it enters the tank. As you get close to full, it will change sounds as fuel starts to come up the fill pipe. Know that sound for next time and slow it down until you’re full.
  5. Have a diaper (oil absorbent) pad ready at the fill pipe to catch anything that may leak before it gets into the water.

After the fill up

So far you are looking like a pro and you got this. Only a few more steps and precautions to take as you get ready to leave the docks.

  1. If your boat is not powered by outboards, inspect your bilge physically. SNIFF out any lingering vapors that may be trapped below. LOOK for any fuel leaks that may have arisen. 
  2. Now, turn on the blowers for 4 minutes.
  3. Open ports and windows.
  4. Depart from the docks when clear to do so.

Other Tips Worth Noting

  • Ethanol
    • Know if your pumps use ethanol. If they do, add an ethanol treatment prior to filling. This will prevent damage to your engine. This is especially important if this could be the last time you run your boat for months or the season.
  • Portable Fuel Containers
    • Know the rules at your marina or dock. Some will not allow gasoline containers but are okay with diesel containers.
    • Some marinas have a no “gas can” policy and nothing is allowed to be brought to the docks.
    • When filling gas cans at the station, do take them out of your truck/vehicle and set them on the ground. It sounds funny, but we’ve seen them being filled in the passenger seats of a two-person car.
  • Soap: don’t use it
    • Many of us grew up learning this trick: Squirting dish soap into the water breaks up a spill. Looks great and in fact makes you feel like you did something good. What we know now is that it simply takes the oils and fuel down to the bottom of the ocean where it stays.
    • The trick here is to catch any spills prior to them hitting the water. That’s where the diapers come in, and no not the Depends or Huggies type. Have an oil absorption cloth with you when you fuel up.

The Takeaway Here

With the precautions mentioned above you can avoid being a fuel dock statistic.  Feel free to turn this post into a workable checklist and print it for you to use at the fuel dock. This will ensure you cover all of the bases all of the time. Remember, safety is everything at a fuel dock when you want to fuel your boat like a pro.