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Old 05-01-2019, 10:24 PM   #1
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Iron fuel tanks - when did they go away?

I've been looking at older trawlers, and of the ones I could tell, all the boats up through the mid 80's had the black iron fuel tanks.

When did they stop using black iron tanks?
Are fiberglass tanks common?
How do you find out what type of tank is in the boat you're looking at without digging into it? (or is that just part of the fun?)
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Old 05-01-2019, 11:08 PM   #2
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Fuel tanks

Kadey-Krogen 42's up to hull # 60 or so have two Heavy duty 350 gallon fiberglass fuel tanks - one port & one stb. -- made of fiberglass so can never rust out.

On Average KK built about 10 boats a year. 42's were built from around 1977 through 1997 or so. - so maybe 207 built total of the 42's in that approximate 20 year time period. Unfortunately, Later models after hull # 60 or 65 or so went back to the black iron fuel tanks. Probably cheaper.

There may be some other boat manufacturers out there with the same type of fiberglass fuel tanks out there.

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Old 05-01-2019, 11:35 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by oak_box View Post
I've been looking at older trawlers, and of the ones I could tell, all the boats up through the mid 80's had the black iron fuel tanks.

When did they stop using black iron tanks?
Are fiberglass tanks common?
How do you find out what type of tank is in the boat you're looking at without digging into it? (or is that just part of the fun?)

Bring a magnet to test if it is a black iron tank.

Other types of tanks can have problems as well if they are not well designed.
I replaced my 35 year old stainless steel tanks due to corrosion. They were mounted on a flat surface without any drainage or ventilation below. Trapped moisture underneath the tanks eventually corroded them from the bottom up.
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Old 05-01-2019, 11:57 PM   #4
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Australian built Rivieras which sell in USA have f/g tanks.
If both so called "black iron"(which I think, subject to correction, is really mild steel) is likely to rust readily,and stainless steel can corrode(? rust, maybe depending on grade), what about aluminum as a preferable material? I know it`s bad for holding tanks as it literally cannot "take the piss" (Australian expression for humorous mockery) due to uric acid.
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Old 05-02-2019, 01:26 AM   #5
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Black iron tanks started to go away with cheaper steel and finally with welding instead of riveting. If the tanks are welded they're steel. If they're riveted they could be iron, but not likely unless they're a hundred years old. Well built steel tanks last a long time. Cared for steel tanks usually last the life of the vessel. Ships and large boats are built with the tanks as part of the hull.
My 1942 steel tanks are doing fine.
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Old 05-02-2019, 01:34 AM   #6
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Australian built Rivieras which sell in USA have f/g tanks.
If both so called "black iron"(which I think, subject to correction, is really mild steel) is likely to rust readily,and stainless steel can corrode(? rust, maybe depending on grade), what about aluminum as a preferable material? I know it`s bad for holding tanks as it literally cannot "take the piss" (Australian expression for humorous mockery) due to uric acid.
Aluminium tanks can be ok, provided they are well designed and installed correctly. The killer for them is poultice corrosion.
Marginal Maritime Advice: Poultice Corrosion

Mild steel (aka black iron) can still be used for tanks. Care required is not that different to other metals: avoid designs or installations that can pool water. Avoid contact with materials that will keep the tank moist in places for long periods.

My new tanks in 2013 were made of pre-primed mild steel. Obviously the welds were then cleaned and primed before using an epoxy paint system over the whole tank. They are bedded on nitrile rubber.

If feasible I would choose fibreglass tanks. Probably easiest for a new build. But, if not well made they can develop leaks too.

Pic of tanks after welds primed, and then after full painting. Also old tank, with flakes of rust at bottom. Water entry was rain via vertical slates on ER vents. Water pooled on top of tank to a degree, and then ran down sides. Tank was resting against hull, and developed pin-hole leak after a bit over 30 years.

For inspections pre-survey, just use a camera on a stalk connected to your phone. They are pretty cheap now. Look beneath the tanks. They almost invariably rust/corrode from the outside in.
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Old 05-02-2019, 06:17 AM   #7
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For a new build Monel tanks are still available , not cheap, but "forever" seldom is.

One advantage of a custom tank is the ability to have a proper fill tube and sump built in.

This means no "fuel polishing" forever and the ability to handle a bad fuel load that contains 1/2 water.

A monel tank with sump will probably not add 1% to the boats cost , but may cut down fuel problems by 99%.
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Old 05-02-2019, 07:04 AM   #8
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Steel is a good material for diesel tanks. They typically fail because of improper installation or owners not re-bedding deck fills.
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Old 05-02-2019, 08:24 AM   #9
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Steel is a good material for diesel tanks. They typically fail because of improper installation or owners not re-bedding deck fills.
Add to the list leaks that allow water to migrate to tank exterior such as - old teak decks, salon windows, port lights, air intakes and bilge water sloshing around.
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Old 05-02-2019, 08:40 AM   #10
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One advantage of a custom tank is the ability to have a proper fill tube and sump built in.

This means no "fuel polishing" forever and the ability to handle a bad fuel load that contains 1/2 water.
I know that a sump is the accepted means of building a tank, able to trap a cup of water or so. But I've always thought that a better way to build a tank would be with the fuel pickup reaching all the way to the bottom. Constantly drawing any dirt or water, which gets filtered out in the Racor. Basically constantly polishing the fuel, like what my old Jimmies did.
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Old 05-02-2019, 10:05 AM   #11
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I had a 1989 Lien Hwa 47 with four steel tanks. The two in the lazarette began to leak in 2008. I had them thoroughly cleaned and coated with POR15 which I believe is an epoxy coating. There was a process involved according to POR. There were pin holes rusting through the welded seams from the inside out. Reading about POR made it sound like this was a long term solution. I had to sell the boat shortly after that and a year later the purchaser called me and asked about leaking fuel tanks. He sold the boat.

Now I have a 1991 Californian with 1/4" aluminum fuel tanks just purchased last July. There are two tanks. 400 gallons in the lazarette and 265 under the master bed. The 265 tank began to leak so I planned on replacing both figuring they would both need it. During the removal process of the 265 I could see that the insides of the tank looked beautiful except in a couple places and when we inspected the outside you could see that corrosion was going outside in. This tank is in a section of the bilges completely enclosed so that no water can get into it or out of it. The manufacturer figured that little rubber pads under the V at the bottom of the tank would prevent any vibration noise. Well there is a water tank on top of the fuel tank and then the bed on top of that. I see the water tank is not original so the old one must have leaked and the water never removed which caused the corrosion at the rubber point of contacts. Good news was the aft 400 gallon tank did not need to be removed because it was elevated above the bottom of the bilges.

So the point of this story is, keep your aluminum tank out of the water and they will last a long long time.
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Old 05-02-2019, 10:11 AM   #12
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Hatteras always built their boats with all tanks being made of fiberglass. Unless you had a gas engine and the ethanol got to them, tank degradation is practically unknown. Just one thing NOT to worry about leaving room for all the frustration caused by having 240v, 110v 32v 24v and 12v equipment onboard......
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Old 05-02-2019, 11:23 AM   #13
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The original Willard 36s have fiberglass tanks. I have had two different W36s, both over 50 years old with not a hint of problems.
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Old 05-02-2019, 12:32 PM   #14
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Just one thing NOT to worry about leaving room for all the frustration caused by having 240v, 110v 32v 24v and 12v equipment onboard......
I had the same electrical on my Burger and always thought it was such a stupid way to do things. That being said, I don't like American electricity anymore and the next boat will be 230/50Hz - even the appliances are much more efficient
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Old 05-02-2019, 02:31 PM   #15
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[QUOTE=makobuilders;762295...ll be 230/50Hz - even the appliances are much more efficient [/QUOTE]

probably, but it will come with a weight penalty. The same power rated genset will turn 1500 vs 1800 rpm, requiring more torque. 50Hz transformers are marginally heaver than 60Hz only. BUT, knowing what I know about your next boat, weight of the electrics will be negligible
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Old 05-02-2019, 06:24 PM   #16
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probably, but it will come with a weight penalty. The same power rated genset will turn 1500 vs 1800 rpm, requiring more torque. 50Hz transformers are marginally heaver than 60Hz only. BUT, knowing what I know about your next boat, weight of the electrics will be negligible

I can't speak for all MFG. But cats do not need to be bigger unit to run 50hz. We have rental unit that can be set for 50 or 60 Hz operation. Only changes are to the rating number in the ecm and setting's in the avr and genset control. Some of the biggers unit you have to change the turbo hot housing and fuel setting's. But I haven't seen anyone derate the kw when changing the Hz from 50 to 60 or the other way.
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Old 05-02-2019, 06:26 PM   #17
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Add North Pacific to the list of builders making fiberglass tanks for fuel, water and holding.

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Old 05-02-2019, 06:33 PM   #18
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Anyone ever priced tanks in monel vs mild steel?
Isn`t f/g good for original build but less practical as a replacement.
For a replacement, properly built and installed and protected mild steel could outlive the boat.
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Old 05-02-2019, 06:54 PM   #19
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I can't speak for all MFG. But cats do not need to be bigger unit to run 50hz. We have rental unit that can be set for 50 or 60 Hz operation. Only changes are to the rating number in the ecm and setting's in the avr and genset control. Some of the biggers unit you have to change the turbo hot housing and fuel setting's. But I haven't seen anyone derate the kw when changing the Hz from 50 to 60 or the other way.


Look at the cat C16. For both 50 and 60. Appears almost a 10% hit on kW.
On a field changeable unit, cat may just default to the 50 hz rating. Maybe?
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Old 05-02-2019, 07:09 PM   #20
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Have been doing some hot metal spraying lately. A mild steel tank, abrasive blasted on the outside, metal sprayed with zinc and then epoxied should never corrode from the outside.
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