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Old 05-29-2015, 10:58 AM   #1
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Fuel tank dilemma, help please

Just got bit by the weeping black iron saddle tank snake! Over Memorial weekend went down to check fluid levels and low and behold red liquid in my center bilge.....about 15 gallons worth. This happened over a week's period of time. Thank God my bilge pump didn't kick on.

Moved it to marine repair and hauled it out. I have port and starboard saddle tanks, 150 gallons each. The engines are 3208TA 375hp each. There is about 4 inches of room between outboard side of engine and tank. The mechanics are basically giving me 2 options. One is to partially disassemble motor, pick it up and move it over to center of bilge. The other option is to cut out side of boat from the outside, replace tank, re-fiberglass exterior then paint with awlgrip. Operator of services wants option two, cut out the side of boat.

I do have respect for this marina, been in business for 70 years, have done all my work for the past 2 years with not one invoice over what was quoted. They have done this procedure many, many times with excellent results. I just have a big problem cutting into a good hull along with that nagging feeling that I have compromised the hull strength.

Trying to repair tank with epoxy/welding to me is not going to happen nor do they recommend that avenue. So, if it is your boat, what direction would you might take? Thanks guys/gals
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:16 AM   #2
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Yea not many great options on repair unless on the top, but with 15 gallons I'm guessing its at the bottom, did you just fill up?
I have seen on youtube where they actually cut the bottom out of a Grandbanks and the tank fell out through the bottom, not my idea of the way to go to me, which also includes your option 2, from a yard perspective easier I guess if a good glass guy is on staff, I would just have the engine slid over and tank removed, might even need to remove one exhaust manifold as well.
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:18 AM   #3
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With this one, I'm in the "hoping to learn thru other replies" category. But help me understand one thing in your options. I get that if they cut through the outside they have full access to the tank and the plan is to replace it. Easy access but you have questions regarding the secondary bonding strength on the repair and a cosmetic issue, as unless painted over, I think the repair will be noticeable.
If they move the engine then they get some access, but then what? its not like you're fitting a built tank through that space?

BTW, if you're doing one tank, is it at all advisable to look at he other one closely?

What terrible timing for this to happen towards the beginning of the season!
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:33 AM   #4
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Yea not many great options on repair unless on the top, but with 15 gallons I'm guessing its at the bottom, did you just fill up?
I have seen on youtube where they actually cut the bottom out of a Grandbanks and the tank fell out through the bottom, not my idea of the way to go to me, which also includes your option 2, from a yard perspective easier I guess if a good glass guy is on staff, I would just have the engine slid over and tank removed, might even need to remove one exhaust manifold as well.
Saw that vid...and from the bottom! Couldn't do it! Godd news is they have an exceptional glass guy. Repair would be much quicker doing the cut out but more expensive because of the painting of hull sides after work done. Turbos, riser and manifold need to be moved out.
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:36 AM   #5
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I have seen a 41 Roughwater with 2 125 gallon tanks replaced with 4 60 gallon aluminum in the same space. The mild steel was cut out with a saws all. Worked out nicely with no engine or boat surgery.
Might not work for you but it is a thought.
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:36 AM   #6
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If it was me I would move the engine. I don't see any way the hull strength would not be compromised. I am not saying that it would not have adequate strength, but I would not buy or want a boat that this has been done to. I would also do both tanks at the same time.
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:36 AM   #7
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If they move the engine then they get some access, but then what? its not like you're fitting a built tank through that space?

BTW, if you're doing one tank, is it at all advisable to look at he other one closely?

What terrible timing for this to happen towards the beginning of the season!
Your right in that a full size tank could not be placed in that area. We're thinking a 2 part tank w/ cross over.

And that's my concern...the other tank!!!!!!
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:44 AM   #8
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Gussets, modern epoxy, modern paint, the hull will be stronger than it was.
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Old 05-29-2015, 11:51 AM   #9
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One would assume but I will have to ask anyway....Are you sure it is a bad tank? Could it be a fitting and/or line, return line, overflow, fuel pump issue or other? Have you determined by air pressure where in the tank it is leaking?
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:06 PM   #10
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And that's my concern...the other tank!!!!!!
I would lean towards doing both tanks. I mean they're the same age and have been in the exact same conditions. At minimum I'd have it drained and inspected.

BTW if you go with the thru the hull option. I think I would involve a Naval architect. I've done it in the past. They come up with a plan of what to lay and how, then come back and attest that its been done as spec'd. With those two papers an educated buyer should understand this isn't an issue but in fact an upgrade, as now we have newer tanks and no structural issues.

Personally, I'm leaning towards moving the engine if it were me. Perhaps its an opportune time to rebuild the top end... some season. Sorry.
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:06 PM   #11
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One would assume but I will have to ask anyway....Are you sure it is a bad tank? Could it be a fitting and/or line, return line, overflow, fuel pump issue or other? Have you determined by air pressure where in the tank it is leaking?
No such luck! Leak is from behind tank mid way up.
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:10 PM   #12
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Pressure testing would be (IMHO) the first thing to do. Normally tanks are pressurized to around 3 psi for leak down testing. At that pressure it should be easy to find the leak. You would want to start out by removing as much fuel as you possible. Pressure should be brought up slowly to insure a catastrophic failure does not occur. You could just a easily find the leak at a lower pressure depending on its severity. I also like others have said would be suspect of the other tank as well. Test both.

Strange that the leak would be halfway up. Normally one would think of failure in the bottom due to corrosion.

Next question will be what do you replace it with if found bad. Will you be able to replace with equivalent tankage in a different material? I know the though of replacing both tanks might make you cringe (sure would make me) but this is the time to find out if the other is bad as it won't get any cheaper to do in the future.
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:45 PM   #13
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The first thing I'd investigate is the reason the tank failed.

Then armed w that knowledge one could predict if the other tank was likely to fail not too far from now. Having the second tank fail soon after replacing the one in question could be a bad day at black rock.

If the failed tank failed from age I'd imediately scuttle the notion of cutting the side of the boat out. Lifting out the engine opens doors to a number of options you may not want to pass up. We had one tank fail. We pulled the engine and replaced them both. Furthermore we repowered as well. Sold the 35 year old engine and replaced w new. Dosn't look to be an advantage for you but replacing the other tank could be a very good move .... especially considering resale value.

I'd need to know why that tank failed.
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:55 PM   #14
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Pressure testing would be (IMHO) the first thing to do. Normally tanks are pressurized to around 3 psi for leak down testing. At that pressure it should be easy to find the leak. You would want to start out by removing as much fuel as you possible. Pressure should be brought up slowly to insure a catastrophic failure does not occur. You could just a easily find the leak at a lower pressure depending on its severity. I also like others have said would be suspect of the other tank as well. Test both.

Strange that the leak would be halfway up. Normally one would think of failure in the bottom due to corrosion.

Next question will be what do you replace it with if found bad. Will you be able to replace with equivalent tankage in a different material? I know the though of replacing both tanks might make you cringe (sure would make me) but this is the time to find out if the other is bad as it won't get any cheaper to do in the future.

Aluminum custom tanks and you're right I'll take a close look on port tank.

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The first thing I'd investigate is the reason the tank failed.

Then armed w that knowledge one could predict if the other tank was likely to fail not too far from now. Having the second tank fail soon after replacing the one in question could be a bad day at black rock.

If the failed tank failed from age I'd imediately scuttle the notion of cutting the side of the boat out. Lifting out the engine opens doors to a number of options you may not want to pass up. We had one tank fail. We pulled the engine and replaced them both. Furthermore we repowered as well. Sold the 35 year old engine and replaced w new. Dosn't look to be an advantage for you but replacing the other tank could be a very good move .... especially considering resale value.

I'd need to know why that tank failed.
That will be my first question on Monday when talking to marina. Tanks are 28 years old.
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:56 PM   #15
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Dread the day when when our black iron number shows up. I went all over the boat last week trying to look at the tanks and could see little other than the access panels. I see no rust or corrosion and they look very good. I suspect if we took the boat down to FL, the tanks would break out like they had leprosy.

Since our hull already needs awlgrip, I would opt to have the hull cut.
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Old 05-29-2015, 01:06 PM   #16
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I suggest you find a good marine surveyor to look at the boat, look at both tanks, look at moving the engine(s). At the boat yard where I work the yard management really likes a qualified outside surveyor to advise the owner and then there is never a question of the yard suggesting too much work at a higher cost. Plus the documentation from the surveyor will help when selling the boat sometime in the future, and might help in an increase in value, although the increase will be less than your expense.
Here is a picture of an aluminum yacht getting new engines but aluminum is easier to cut and weld back at full strength.
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Old 05-29-2015, 01:37 PM   #17
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28 year old tanks makes me assume 28 year old engines...

Cutting the side of the boat gives me no pause whatsoever. Modern materials and methods coupled with good craftsmanship should make the repair stronger than the hull is currently.

The idea of pulling down the top end of those engines and turbo's is tempting. It may be more expense but IMO it is far more value to you going this way. Let's face it, your hull is as strong as it needs to be and assume it's cosmetically adequate. Top end rebuilds have never hurt an engine that I'm aware of and can add both real value and current utility to your boat.
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:09 PM   #18
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You don't tell us a couple of things, how many hours on the engines? Can they benefit from some top end work. What are your long term plans with the boat? Are you keeping her for another 5-10 years or selling next year for the new one. If you are, cut both sides repaint,call it a day. If not then you need to think engines as part of this. If you don't and they are getting to the point where they will need attention in the near future odds are you'll be raising a question during the summer season about engine repair.
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:26 PM   #19
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28 year old tanks makes me assume 28 year old engines...

Top end rebuilds have never hurt an engine that I'm aware of and can add both real value and current utility to your boat.
Ummmm....good point!
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:41 PM   #20
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You don't tell us a couple of things, how many hours on the engines? Can they benefit from some top end work. What are your long term plans with the boat? Are you keeping her for another 5-10 years or selling next year for the new one. If you are, cut both sides repaint,call it a day. If not then you need to think engines as part of this. If you don't and they are getting to the point where they will need attention in the near future odds are you'll be raising a question during the summer season about engine repair.
I have 2100 hrs total. In frame rebuild done at 1,150 hrs on both. Valves adjusted last month. I burn very little oil w/ no smoke. I bought this boat from an individual who needed to get out at any price. Knowing that this boat had been neglected for over a year needing cosmetic as well as mechanical work, I allowed for a 100% refurbish allowance to bring the boat up to good cruising specs. I've gone through 1/2 that allowance in a year and 4 months with auto-pilot and repair of trim tabs left on my to-do sheet. So I do still have boat dollars to address the tank issue. I hope to keep the boat for at least the next 5 years. The admiral likes this boat!
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