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Old 08-11-2013, 10:33 PM   #1
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Fuel Contamination (and Racor Filter Help)

Last week, I cruised 5 hrs to Vallejo to meet up with Giggitoni and Markpierce on our way to Angel Island State Park. On the way to Vallejo Marina, I stopped in Antioch and purchased 80 gals of diesel ($4.05 per US gallon).

The next day we departed Vallejo on our 3 hr cruise so we could arrive at AI at slack tide to make grabbing the moorings easier. We had a smooth ride through San Pablo Bay, but as we turned the corner into San Francisco Bay, the wind and waves combined to give us a pretty wet ride. I angled upwind, closer to the Tiburon peninsula for some wind and wave protection as the ride was getting wetter and more rolling by the mile. As I reached the lee side of Tiburon, the ride began to smooth and then....the stbd engine stumbled and quit. With just a mile to go to our destination, I continued on the port engine and radioed to Ray and Mark with our situation.

Ray was just arriving and by the time we arrived, had his dinghy in the water to assist the rest of us in grabbing our moorings. I was grateful that he was there to assist since this site requires a fore and aft mooring and I'd have no control backing down on an aft ball.

Once secured, I immediately went to the ER and found the stbd Racor bowl filled with water. Must have been a bad load of fuel at Antioch the day before, I reasoned. After relaxing a day, us guys (Ray, Mark and my buddy Gene) tackled the job of removing the water and bleeding the system.

We started at the tank outlet and found LOTS of water...sometimes 30-35% of each gallon drained contained water. In the end, after a couple hours of draining and separating fuel from water, we found we had about 4+ gallons of water drained from the stbd tank. None was present in the port Racors.

We struggled with the cause, surmising that we got bad fuel at the refueling, it had remained in suspension during the first day of travel and finally settled out and got shifted in the tank during the rough ride. It still didn't make sense that the problem only existed on the stbd side which was the first side refueled, and none on the port side. We broke off the work party as it was getting late and we needed dinner. The rest of the system bleeding would have to wait until tomorrow.

The next day, I returned to the ER to bleed the system up to the high pressure pump, but couldn't seem to bleed the pump sufficiently. Later, Gene came by and showed me a second bleed screw that did the trick, then a quick bleed at the injectors as Ray arrived just in time for the engine start. All was well again and I ran the engine for an hour to monitor the Racor and purge as needed.

It still was bugging me that we had explained the contamination, but had not solved the mystery of it being a stbd issue only. But, what the hell...we had the engine running and all seemed right again.

As I was cleaning up the cockpit from our maintenance, I made a discovery that explained it all. I have flush mounted fuel fills in the cockpit. Each tank is capped with a black plastic cap. The stbd cap had cracked and had a hole in its top about the diameter of my pinky finger. Water spraying aboard from our ride through SF Bay had been washing down the stbd side deck, over the broken fuel cap and into the tank.

Sometimes its the simple cause that was never considered that is the culprit instead of the seemingly obvious ones.

Here's a picture of the fuel cap.



Here are a couple serene shots of our boats in their moorings.





My plan for this week is to have a tank cleaning company come to the boat to polish the fuel and remove all remnants of the contamination. I'll have them look at the port side while they're at it for peace of mind.
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Old 08-11-2013, 11:20 PM   #2
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Plastic Cap ?? On a Classic Californian ?
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Old 08-11-2013, 11:22 PM   #3
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Someone please photoshop that sailboat out of the second photo above. It ruins the scene!

Cost of assistance for draining/separating fuel: two beers for Mark and three beers each for Ray and Gene.

My bought-today camera has a 20X zoom compared to my Thursday-drowned 3X-zoom camera, promising better photos in the future. Less-well composed compared to Al's:

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Old 08-11-2013, 11:53 PM   #4
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I miss Angel Island with my CA 34 but enjoyed reading your story.

Recently I had one of the O rings on my metal fuel fill caps fall apart. I went to the shop at the local marina in MS and they wanted $8.00 for the Perko O ring.
My Scottish side came out and I said no thanks, took the cap to the local city and found a motor bike shop that had the exact O rings for 25c each. I splurged and bought three !!!
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Old 08-12-2013, 12:02 AM   #5
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excellent detective work, well done.
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Old 08-12-2013, 12:20 AM   #6
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+1 to expat's comment. Nice job on tracking down the source of the water.

Any idea what caused the hole in the cap?
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Old 08-12-2013, 12:41 AM   #7
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+1 to expat's comment. Nice job on tracking down the source of the water.

Any idea what caused the hole in the cap?
I have no idea how old these caps are but the plastic was very thin on this one that failed. The top part of the cap on the other side of the slot is also cracked and paper thin.

I suppose it's possible that they are 36 years old...that's 36 years of walking, sliding, scrubbing, UV, water spray and deck chairs.

Two new SS replacement caps are on order.

Mark, how's this? It's not photoshopped, but I used the limb to block the offensive vessel.

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Old 08-12-2013, 12:54 AM   #8
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Al, I'm glad you guys got things resolved. I did read your post a few times and something is still not seeming right. You mentioned a hole about the diameter of your pinky finger having formed on the fuel fill cap. I'm guessing you didn't really hit any big swells on your way from Antioch to Vallejo (correct me if I'm wrong). Being a two and a half hour trek from Vallejo to Angel Island, you were noting the ride became pretty wet between Vallejo and Tiburon and then smoothed out. That is a fairly short amount of time to be taking on 4+ gallons of water through an opening of the diameter of a pinky finger. While it is possible, I would also consider the possibility of water intrusion through the fuel tank vent.

I didn't take that idea too seriously until my boat was repowered. When disassembling the old fuel fill and vent apparatus and getting ready to install the new fuel fill port and venting system, I discovered the series of plastic mesh screens in the fuel vent had degraded over the years and had disappeared. These screens are designed to allow air to flow but to restrict water from entering the vent line. Since the screens were not there, any wave breaking on the vent would have placed a considerable amount of water in the vent hose and eventually into my tank.

Since the new system was being designed from scratch, we decided to place the fuel vent in the locker on my aft deck where my stern anchor is stored. My aft deck would literally need to be swamped in order for my fuel vent to have access to enough water to cause concern. At that point, water intrusion through the fuel vent would be the least of my problems.

Just something to consider.
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Old 08-12-2013, 01:01 AM   #9
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Mark, how's this? It's not photoshopped, but I used the limb to block the offensive vessel.
That's bettah.

Astral, I believe Al washed down his boat in Vallejo, and if so, may have added water to the tank.
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Old 08-12-2013, 01:30 AM   #10
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Yes I did, Mark. After a wet ride through Suisun Bay on my way to Vallejo, I washed the boat upon arrival. Not really sure when the cap broke, but there may have been water accumulating over a couple of days.

Thanks for the vent idea, Ed. I replaced the SS vent on my stbd side in June 2008. Six months later, I installed fuel vent whistles on both tanks. I'm not positive, but I suspect the vent whistles might impede the flow of water through the vent to the tank. Also, my vent line is laid out with about a 2 foot rise from the transom vent, which is well above the water line, to the top of the engine room, before dropping into the top of the fuel tank.

Sounds like you have an unorthodox vent location. I hope your deck locker is well vented.
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Old 08-12-2013, 04:08 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyWright View Post
Yes I did, Mark. After a wet ride through Suisun Bay on my way to Vallejo, I washed the boat upon arrival. Not really sure when the cap broke, but there may have been water accumulating over a couple of days.

Thanks for the vent idea, Ed. I replaced the SS vent on my stbd side in June 2008. Six months later, I installed fuel vent whistles on both tanks. I'm not positive, but I suspect the vent whistles might impede the flow of water through the vent to the tank. Also, my vent line is laid out with about a 2 foot rise from the transom vent, which is well above the water line, to the top of the engine room, before dropping into the top of the fuel tank.

Sounds like you have an unorthodox vent location. I hope your deck locker is well vented.
The whistle I am told is a sign the mesh in the vent is doing its job in allowing air to pass yet limiting water intrusion.

Although my vent is not where you would find most fuel vents, it is well ventilated. Here is the best photo of the locker I am able to find. It is made of wood and has loosely placed slats of teak across with a hole.


September 2010 128 by alagozian, on Flickr

I hope all works out well with the fuel polishing. Soon, this will be behind you; and you'll walk out of it with a pair of brand new stainless steel fill caps.
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Old 08-12-2013, 06:25 AM   #12
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I discovered the series of plastic mesh screens in the fuel vent had degraded over the years and had disappeared. These screens are designed to allow air to flow but to restrict water from entering the vent line.

Water goes thru screening reasonably well,

my assumption is the screen is to stop insects from nesting and plugging the vent .
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:16 AM   #13
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"Water goes thru screening reasonably well" (FF)

My assumption is the screen is to stop insects from nesting and plugging the vent .
I agree with Fred's post. It's hard for me to believe that all that water came through the hole in the fuel cap as the result of a wet ride.

I'm with Mark on the wash down statement

I do have a couple of questions, though . 1) Where are the fuel vents located on your boat? (2) Did you find any water in the other tank and did you take on fuel in both tanks?

I'm glad you corrected the fuel problem but the cause just might be still up in the air.

Wearing those golf shoes on deck just may be the cause of your problem.

Thanks for the post! Some of the rest of us can come out of the closet now!
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Old 08-12-2013, 11:34 AM   #14
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Al
Nice pic!! Curious about the stern tie buoys. Is that common down there?? We have tie buoys, but haven't seen them associated with a "stern tie" buoy here in the PNW. In some of the small bays of Desolation Sound, BC everybody stern ties to the beach, but no buoys. Not a bad idea though.
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Mark, how's this? It's not photoshopped, but I used the limb to block the offensive vessel.

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Old 08-12-2013, 01:33 PM   #15
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Here's the fuel whistle I installed.



Walt,

1. The fuel vents are at the transom. They can be seen here above the swimstep at the outboard edge. The stbd side has the fuel vent outboard and the FW vent inboard. The swimstep is well above the water at rest and even higher underway.



2. There was no water in the port fuel tank.

3. I don't think it was the golf shoes that did it, but I'll tell you this. I'm not wearing my spiked high heals on the boat anymore.

Larry, We have a discussion of the Angel Island moorings here on our Bay and Delta Cruisers social group. This is the only place I've encountered bow and stern moorings. Due to the swirling currents, shifting winds and wave action, it keeps everyone in line and separated.
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:28 PM   #16
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Al, surprised that you (as I know you are a pilot who do preflight checks) missed this hole in the fuel filler cap - good stuff getting her safe in "port" on one engine and its good to see you are enjoying life.

Regarding the rough weather, did you take green over the bow or just splashing?
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:55 PM   #17
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Hey there, Per!! I refueled the boat on Monday and wiped down the cap and the area around the cap with a towel before fueling to avoid getting water in the tank. It might have been cracked and I didn't see it, but there was no hole then. After I washed the boat in Vallejo, I squeegeed the water toward the drains and never noticed it then, either. The old eyes must be going!

The water we took over the bow on Mon and Tues was spray, not green water. But it all came from stbd and all that water drained right down the stbd side deck and into the cockpit. There was very little water on the port side. There I have 3 drains per side (not counting the fuel cap ); 2 flush drains in the deck and 1 transom scupper.

I'm convinced the wash down added to the contamination.

Glad to see you're still coming by once in a while. I hope you're well and boating frequently!
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:03 PM   #18
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Glad FlyWright`s problem is resolving. Were they plastic caps on metal fillers, seems odd, perhaps replacements?
Some years back our Maritime authority tried to introduce "fore and aft" moorings. We have many boats on moorings here, they saw a way to fit in more boats,for more mooring license fees. There was a huge outcry and tech reports about dangerous uneven loads and strains on boats and moorings in conditions where the boat could not align itself in the usual way because of dual tethering, the proposal was eventually dropped. Another issue was single handed pick ups.
Only time I visited Angel Isl. our hosts used a marina berth, I`ve no experience how yours work but it seems boats welcome outside help.
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:15 PM   #19
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Hey there, Per!! I refueled the boat on Monday and wiped down the cap and the area around the cap with a towel before fueling to avoid getting water in the tank. It might have been cracked and I didn't see it, but there was no hole then. After I washed the boat in Vallejo, I squeegeed the water toward the drains and never noticed it then, either. The old eyes must be going!

The water we took over the bow on Mon and Tues was spray, not green water. But it all came from stbd and all that water drained right down the stbd side deck and into the cockpit. There was very little water on the port side. There I have 3 drains per side (not counting the fuel cap ); 2 flush drains in the deck and 1 transom scupper.

I'm convinced the wash down added to the contamination.

Glad to see you're still coming by once in a while. I hope you're well and boating frequently!
ok good to hear, was kinda wondering how a Californian would do taking green over the bow..

mine is going strong, last year new 5kw NL and this year total heat exchangers overhaul, now just minor stuff like changing the oil.
oh i almost forgot, i was on the hook in some strong wind chop combined with some decent swells combined with a rocky bottom and the anchor chain rode damn nearly ate the boat Now have a new heavy duty pulpit and SS rollers etc.
she is running well though - getting ready to take her out for a week or longer.
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:24 PM   #20
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They could have been replacement caps, Bruce. The filler neck flange is bronze. SS caps are on their way.

Angel Island has dock space for day visitors, but the moorings are required for an overnight stay.

Per, send pics of the new bow pulpit and rollers. No snubber, huh? Were you at Catalina when it happened?
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