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Old 08-25-2013, 08:18 PM   #1
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Question Fuel Tank Access

Hello all,

I just realized that out of all the boats that I have viewed, that I haven't seen one fuel tank. It didn't occur to me to ask. Out of sight, out of mind.

I was doing some research today trying to figure out where fuel tanks are located. I was shocked to see a bunch of youtube videos with boats ripped apart as the yard cut the tank out.

Is this typical? Are the tanks generally buried and inaccessible? How can they be monitored if so? Why are boats built like this, so the tanks aren't serviceable?
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Old 08-25-2013, 08:27 PM   #2
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Space is at a premium. We replaced two 350 gallon tanks that were hidden in the sides of the engine room with 4 tanks totaling 440 gallons. The reduction in volume of the tanks allows some visibility of the tanks as there is now fore and aft room to look at the sides of the tanks.

We covered the sidewalls of the tanks with plywood because we needed the wall space to hang all of the engine room equipment.

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Old 08-25-2013, 09:11 PM   #3
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The deck filler can be a clue to locating fuel tanks.
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Old 08-25-2013, 11:27 PM   #4
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I had to remove the engines to replace the fuel tanks. This is likely the norm. Tanks are tucked against the sides or bukheads, then engines and systems are fitted. The old tanks had lasted 30 years, and would have lasted much longer if the engine room vents had not let rain in down the sides of the tanks. I now have drainage on enlarged vents to prevent a repeat.

I decided to repower whilst the engines were out, and also replace a lot of other systems. In the engine room we basically went to bare hull, painted it and then rebuilt. Expensive. But all new systems in a good hull gave me a great outcome. Ive just completed a 1500 nm shakedown cruise in the PNW. No issues of any consequence, a tribute to the Shipwright's CoOp in Port Townsend. Would a new boat have cost less? Maybe. But I dont like the styles of the new ones in the price range.......
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Old 08-26-2013, 12:09 AM   #5
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Quote:
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Is this typical? Are the tanks generally buried and inaccessible? How can they be monitored if so? Why are boats built like this, so the tanks aren't serviceable?
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Can be ugly getting them out on many boats!!

But not on a 38' or 42' Californian aft cabin trawler. The box for the twin double beds in the aft cabin each contains two 125 gal tanks. Lift up the matress and the 3/4" plywood plate and out they come.

The ex-wife never could get used to sleeping on top of 500 gallons on fuel.

Maybe I shouldn't have told her??
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Old 08-26-2013, 03:51 AM   #6
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When looking at purchasing a boat, seek the ones that are built with proper fiberglass tanks. They will never need to be moved. Only an occasional cleaning though proper access ports.

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Old 08-26-2013, 05:27 AM   #7
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The big hassle is moat boats have a box of fuel , not a proper servicible fuel tank.

This is because new owners do not ask for a fuel tank, and the boat assembler will never spend a buck unless forced to.
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Old 08-26-2013, 08:27 AM   #8
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You can cut aaccess holes in the tank to clear and repair. I cut a hole big enough to climb into the tank to clean and weld the tank. If the boat is 30+ years old the fuel and tanks are a concern. You can cut the old tanks out but I plan on leaving them and using using them as the frame support for smaller multi tanks.
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Old 08-26-2013, 11:00 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GalaxyGirl View Post
Hello all,

I just realized that out of all the boats that I have viewed, that I haven't seen one fuel tank. It didn't occur to me to ask. Out of sight, out of mind.

I was doing some research today trying to figure out where fuel tanks are located. I was shocked to see a bunch of youtube videos with boats ripped apart as the yard cut the tank out.

Is this typical? Are the tanks generally buried and inaccessible? How can they be monitored if so? Why are boats built like this, so the tanks aren't serviceable?
A boat as big as you are looking at must have accesible service hatches. Make note of the material the tank is made of and have it well inspected before purchase.
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Old 08-26-2013, 11:05 AM   #10
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If you are buying a trawler more than 10 years old determine the material of the fuel tanks. Mild steel, very popular in the 80s and 90s has a 20+ year life span. At some point the mild steel tanks will rust out and have to be replaced. This requires removing everything in the engine room and cutting the tanks out.

Generally 20 year old boats with mild steel tanks that have not been replaced will be discounted by the cost of the replacement.

Just did Bay Pelicans in 2012 and the cost was $20,000 plus,

Marty
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Old 08-26-2013, 11:45 AM   #11
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My plan does not require have to take the engine room or engine apart.The boat with be in running ability and nobody will know see the tanks are being replaced. With three tank replacing one at a time. After plastic comes mild steel the aluminium. If the tanks were taken care of the could last 50+ years. We have tanks in the plant 70+ years and still in good shape. I hoping the tanks last another 10+ years and I would give very little discount as the survey should have that included. If you have a plan its should be no big deal.

May believe is tank last long in colder non humid climates. Also a tank that is used is a happy tank. Use and maintain them and they will last a long time.
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Old 08-26-2013, 01:33 PM   #12
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Mild steel, very popular in the 80s and 90s has a 20+ year life span. At some point the mild steel tanks will rust out and have to be replaced.
As FF said above that's not always so, depends upon how it's designed and installed. My boats 45 year old mild steel tank was removed, cleaned, painted and reinstalled 2 years ago. It will probably still be good when the boat is scrapped.
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Old 08-26-2013, 02:00 PM   #13
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Interesting you would ask such a question. I am told some of the earlier Taiwanese boats had iron tanks. The boat we are buying has 4 stainless steel tanks. 2-250gal and 2-50gal in the rear. They are covered with insulation and access panels are not visible. So I have contacted these guys ( http://www.cssifuelfiltration.com/ ) to take a look. They install access covers, but my main concern is the condition of the two smaller tanks as the owner (2nd owner of the boat) states he has never used the rear tanks and says the original owner may not have either. Daunting task to take out tanks.
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Old 08-26-2013, 02:00 PM   #14
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As FF said above that's not always so, depends upon how it's designed and installed. My boats 45 year old mild steel tank was removed, cleaned, painted and reinstalled 2 years ago. It will probably still be good when the boat is scrapped.
Agreed...my 26 year old steel tanks were nearly perfect except in a couple spots...some surface rust/bubbling

Just hard to repair when crammed in like they were. But I bet after me fixing the leaks ans some PM they would have lasted another 10-20 years without leaking a drop. Seemed a shame I cut them out...but the room is super!
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Old 08-26-2013, 04:58 PM   #15
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The box for the twin double beds in the aft cabin each contains two 125 gal tanks.
That was clever...
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Old 08-26-2013, 05:06 PM   #16
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So, what's the best material, stainless steel or fiberglass?

The tanks should be able to be viewed. Is that correct. If they are completely hidden, that's not typical?
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Old 08-26-2013, 06:01 PM   #17
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Fiberglass by far for diesel use, as long as it is made correctly by a reliable builder. I have heard some issues with certain resins for gasoline use.

I have a 17 year old Hatteras LRC that was made with fiberglass tanks, they are as good as the day they were built.

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Old 08-26-2013, 06:48 PM   #18
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Fiberglass is used by some builders but not many...they do have some good features. For bigger tanks, well done steel is hard to beat for ruggedness, ease of modification and cost. Aluminum is probably the next most common. Small boats can get by with poly tanks but no reason large custom ones couldn't be made or even aleady installed by the PO. Stainless isn't all that common in larger tanks due to costs...but some are out there.
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Old 08-26-2013, 08:06 PM   #19
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The problem I have with SS tanks is there are a dozen mistakes that can be made welding them up that won't manifest themselves until later on. In non marine applications I've seen plenty of shoddy weld practices (that look fine visually) work for a while then prematurely fail. For that reason I'd rather see anything else used except stainless.

Properly designed and installed it would be tough to beat mild steel in the larger sizes IMO.
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Old 08-26-2013, 10:28 PM   #20
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Is aluminum a good material for the tanks?
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