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Old 05-31-2016, 11:07 PM   #1
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Replaced fuel tanks

The topic of fuel tank replacement comes up on the forum from time to time. Now it's my turn.

Last October, I detected a small amount of fuel in the bilge of my GB42. I use red-dyed diesel so it's easy to see! I looked at every possible angle, nook and cranny where the fuel might be leaking. I tried to talk myself into the notion that it could be a bad fitting, leaking sight tube, leaking fuel filter, fuel pump, etc. I tried to ignore the fact the tanks were 29 year old black iron! The journey took my troubleshooting full circle. It had to be the port fuel tank.

My GB was built with two 300-gallon fuel tanks; one port and one starboard. It was time for the tanks to be replaced.

I'm the fifth owner of this boat. The previous four owners escaped the inevitable! I was the one holding the bag. I was the one left standing when all the others were sitting!

I called a local company in the San Francisco Bay Area to meet me at the boat and give me a cost estimate. Long story short, that company was reluctant to do the work for the price that a company in La Mesa, California was quoting. So I called "Vince" at American Tanks in La Mesa, Califonia for advice.

I've read about the reputation of American Tanks through the years on the GB Owners Forum (Grand Banks Owner's Resources). I had no idea that he would be willing to come to Vallejo (about 425 miles from my boat) to replace my tanks. In fact, he said that he would reduce the price by $2,000 if I would bring the boat to him! Side note: It would cost me at least that much in fuel to get the boat down there and back. Besides, the Coast Guard could easily find me with the diesel slick I'd be pumping out in the Pacific Ocean all the way the California coast.

Vince drove up to Vallejo and pumped the fuel from the leaking tank into 55-gallon drums placed on my cockpit. This was a big relief to me because I wouldn't have to visit the boat every two to three days to change the absorbent pads in the bilge (the last thing I needed was to pump fuel into the marina with the bilge pump). He also took copious measurements of the tanks, opening through my sole to the engine room, width of the saloon doors, etc.

He returned recently with six aluminum tanks; three on each side. I lost about 50 gallons of fuel capacity total (25 gallons on each side). So now I have about 275 gallons on each side for a total fuel volume of about 550 gallons. Fine with me. And since the fuel tanks are placed about midships, I don't have a forward-to-aft trim problem.

The old tanks were cut out quickly by a 22-year-old dude with a reciprocating saw and a bunch of blades! Join me when I sing the praises of the younger generation that's willing to put in an honest day's work! It's no problem cutting out old diesel tanks with an electric saw. No fires or explosions! No need to fill with inert gas, etc. Gasoline tanks would be a different story!

The new tanks were installed and joined together with connections which make them work as "one tank" on each side. Sight tubes, cross over line, fuel intake and return lines, and generator lines were installed. I also had American Tanks install a separate valve and connection for my diesel heater.

The install went well. I know you're wondering....how much? The total bill was just shy of $19,000. But worth every penny!



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Port side tanks installed

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Cutting out starboard tank

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Connecting starboard tank lines

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Removed tank pieces in back of pickup truck

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Thickness of original tanks

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Bottom section of port tank that was leaking. The rectangular rust shape is a result of water being trapped under a neoprene pad under that corner of the tank. Notice the three holes (about 1-1.5mm in diameter). I poked those holes through the rust with my truck ignition key! The steel was "paper" thin. I'm fortunate that the slow leak didn't let go all at once!
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Old 05-31-2016, 11:23 PM   #2
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Ray

Thanks for sharing. Based upon your first hand look, what original install techniques could have been used to prolong tank life?
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Old 05-31-2016, 11:58 PM   #3
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Job well done, congrats. I am guessing that the new tanks are bedded on nitrile rubber?
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:25 AM   #4
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Hey, Tom!

A couple of design and install changes come to mind.

My old tanks rusted through from the "outside in". I always assumed that I would get water inside the tanks, thus causing the tanks to rust from the inside. However, I was diligent with watching for water in the filters and checking the drain fittings on the tank bottoms. The times I had the fuel polished we never found any water.

My tanks were designed and built with rounded bottom edges which allows the water on the outside of the tanks to run to the bottom rather than dripping into the bilge. I would eliminate the rounded edges and bring the steel plate down past the bottom to from a "drip" edge.

The old tanks were placed on neoprene pads on the stringers in the engine room. Any water present would collect between the neoprene and the steel tank bottom. I would eliminate the neoprene, and instead, weld a steel foot where the tanks sit on the stringers, thus reducing the amount of moisture against the tanks.

And, as always, we need to keep our engine rooms as dry as possible. Install fans and passive oil heaters to guard against condensation. Keep our decks sealed so water can't run down fill lines to the tanks and neighboring equipment.
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:27 AM   #5
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Job well done, congrats. I am guessing that the new tanks are bedded on nitrile rubber?
The new tanks have aluminum feet welded to the tank bottoms where they make contact with the stringers. Wood cribbing frames the tanks in place and is attached to the stringers and cabin sole.
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:31 AM   #6
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Wow-big job, Ray. But looks like a truly first class job was done. Now the next 4 owners of "Mahalo Moi" are set up!
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Old 06-11-2016, 03:44 PM   #7
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one question... three tanks each side installed on top of each other... did you ever consider three taller tanks installed beside each other?
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Old 06-11-2016, 04:24 PM   #8
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First class job Ray, matches the rest of that well kept GB.
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Old 06-11-2016, 04:46 PM   #9
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one question... three tanks each side installed on top of each other... did you ever consider three taller tanks installed beside each other?
Good question. The local bid (San Francisco area company) called for two side-by-side vertical tanks. It could have worked. However, the bottom of each tank would have a funky angle to match the bottom of the hull. You'll notice in the first photograph that only the bottom tank has the weird angle to match the hull. The middle and top tank are rectangular in construction. Cheaper!

Also, the new tanks are baffled vertically. The baffles are welded from top to bottom. It would be difficult to weld the bottom of the baffle and still have communication with the adjacent tank. The three horizontal tanks communicate with each other well.

Another reason I chose not to have taller tanks is because I want to see the top of the top tank for water intrusion which was difficult to impossible on the original black tanks installed by GB. I can see the top of the tank, now.

The dimensions of the sole opening and saloon entry door is limited in size. So to get close to original gallonage, I chose to have three tanks constructed.
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Old 06-11-2016, 04:50 PM   #10
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First class job Ray, matches the rest of that well kept GB.
Thanks, Craig!
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Old 06-11-2016, 04:52 PM   #11
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Makes sense... We have isolated our leaking port tank and emptied it. For now we are using only the starboard tank and balancing the list by only filling the port side water tank. We will plan to cut up the leaking fuel tank in the fall and then decide about fabricating new tanks. Your thread is very helpful!
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Old 06-11-2016, 09:33 PM   #12
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First class job Ray, matches the rest of that well kept GB.
Yes, excellent work and thanks for sharing with all the anxious steel tank owners.

Can you please describe how they are interconnected, top to bottom and how they fill on refueling.
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Old 06-11-2016, 11:00 PM   #13
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'... The total bill was just shy of $19,000. But worth every penny! ..!
And the US economy and workers thank you. Leastwise, that's how I view my boat maintenance expenses.
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Old 06-11-2016, 11:55 PM   #14
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Yes, excellent work and thanks for sharing with all the anxious steel tank owners.

Can you please describe how they are interconnected, top to bottom and how they fill on refueling.
The tanks are interconnected with welded aluminum pipe and hose (about 1.25", I think) as shown in the photo. All tanks act as one tank and fill from a deck fitting on each side of the boat. No different than the original tanks.

The smaller interconnected hose to the right is for tank venting.
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Old 06-12-2016, 12:10 AM   #15
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The good ship Mahalo Moi:



With the new fuel tanks, what's her range?
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Old 06-12-2016, 12:19 AM   #16
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Mark,

I think my range should be about 700 nm with a 10% reserve. That's based on about 500 gallons at about 6 gph (83 hours) with an average speed of approximately 8.5 kts. (1,650 rpm). I'd feel better about looking for fuel after 650 nm...! Let's see, I could make it about 1/3 of the way to Hawaii.
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Old 06-12-2016, 12:30 AM   #17
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Ray, I can beat you on the range with 300 gallons at six knots using less than two gallons per hour, but can't make it to Hawaii either. Could make it to Seattle, but I don't believe I'd enjoy the voyage. Half tankage works for me in local waters.
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Old 06-12-2016, 03:55 PM   #18
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I love that new tank smell.
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Old 06-12-2016, 07:04 PM   #19
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I love that new tank smell.
Lol! Believe me, it's much better than the old (leaky) tank smell!
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Old 06-12-2016, 08:00 PM   #20
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I love that new tank smell.

Al if I recall you changed tanks 20+ years ago and mentioned a couple years back the possibility of doing it again. Or do I have you confused with someone else?
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