The Boat Exploded and Then I Died

Mar 15, 2021
51
Macgregor Venture 22 Brooklyn
Or that could have been the title of this had things gone worse than they did yesterday on "Bottoms Up".

On my previous trip to the boat I got the keel to raise and lower several times and plumbed the fuel tank to the Outboard and got the engine running. It ran rather well for my entire 20 min of testing.

My Venture 22 has a hatch in the middle of the aft "seat" in the cockpit. There is a hole leading from this area with a bushing installed which it appears is for the fuel line to pass out of to the outboard.
Unlike later models that have fuel tank compartments open to the cockpit under either the port or starboard seating it appeared to me the intention was for the tank to go down below the little hatch aft and the fuel line to run out. I assembled my fuel line running through the bushing dropped the tank into place and things were great for my test.

On leaving the boat I left the tank in place and did not give it another thought.

Yesterday I opened the hatch to try and crawl over the rotted V berth to re-back and re-bed the bow cleat. I was met with overpowering gasoline fumes. For certain any spark or source of ignition would have produced an explosion. It was like a just pumped gasoline tank on a tanker that had not yet been washed or vented.

First of course I opened the main hatch wide, then I opened the tank hatch and removed the fuel tank. Sadly the forward hatch is bolted closed and I have yet to attack that problem.

With no fans it took most of the afternoon for the fumes to disperse enough for me to work below decks. Needless to say the gas tank is now sitting in the cockpit.

Other than my inflatable this is my first outboard powered boat. It seems pretty clear the area where I put the tank was the designed tank location. Do I have a malfunctioning tank? I did not see any leaks? Could the gasoline vapors have escaped around the non-vented tank cap somehow? My tank is a "new old stock" steel 6 gallon tank that I got from a chandler that was going out of business due to retirement.

I have not fitted the rudder yet, but depending on clearances and comfort I am considering building a slated box at the aft end of the cockpit to put the gas tank in. This would of course allow fumes to escape without filling the boat and being covered on the top would keep the sun off the tank.

Another thought is to remove the foam around the tank area so I can work there easily, lay in some bulkheads around the tank and put a vent in the side if the tank area that leads to the motor area or out the stern. If I lead it out the stern I will of course need to assure no water ingress during following seas. I might also put a brushless motor in the area to clear fumes.

My third thought is to get a 6-10 gallon non-portable tank that will fit through the hatch, anchor it in place and run a vent hose out the stern just like my big boat with the inboard.

I am looking for feedback please. If that feedback is that I did something wrong PLEASE do not be shy about educating me.

I hope to have Bottoms Up in seaworthy condition in the next two weeks. I suspect the previous owner is anxious for her to leave his dock.
 
Jan 7, 2011
2,931
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
Yikes, scary situation. Glad you figured it out before creating an ignition source.

I cannot help with the intended design, but I think the standard is to have a bilge blower to evacuate spaces where gasoline vapors could gather. If you can, I would store a portable tank in the cockpit or other well-ventilated space.

good luck getting her ready to sail

Greg
 
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Apr 5, 2009
1,622
Catalina '88 C30 tr/bs Oak Harbor, WA
My previous boat was a 1980 C30 and it also had the "designated fuel tank location" inside the port cockpit locker. I did not like the idea so I got a couple of 1"x1" teak strips and bolded them to the cockpit sole just in front of the transom. On a tiller boat, that spot is not useful for much with the tiller swinging back and forth overhead so it did not take up any useful room. The scuppers were above the water line so any fumes just went down the drain.
 
Jun 14, 2010
1,728
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
I can't picture the space you described (a photo would help) but in my experiece any gasoline or propane locker is vented overboard - and the vent outlet must be at the bottom of the compartment. Gasoline and propane vapors are heavier than air.
 
Mar 15, 2021
51
Macgregor Venture 22 Brooklyn
My previous boat was a 1980 C30 and it also had the "designated fuel tank location" inside the port cockpit locker. I did not like the idea so I got a couple of 1"x1" teak strips and bolded them to the cockpit sole just in front of the transom. On a tiller boat, that spot is not useful for much with the tiller swinging back and forth overhead so it did not take up any useful room. The scuppers were above the water line so any fumes just went down the drain.
I have to wonder why the hole for passing a fuel line into the area, but clearly it is not a good idea to have the tank there even though it is really the only place.

I saw a thread on another board where a V22 owner sectioned the area off. The easy solution is of course anchor down a couple of strips of wood, I think I have some spare black locust from another project, and strap the tank in the cockpit right in front of the locker.
 
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Jan 19, 2010
10,029
Hunter 26 Charleston
No! That was an after market mod by the PO. A fuel storage area must be sealed off from the rest of the cabin AND have a vent hole at the bottom level that spills over board . Gas vapors are more dense than air. You are very lucky.

Store the tank under the rudder on the cockpit sole while sailing. I installed two pad eyes across the cockpit well just in front of the fuel tank and then ran a line between the pad eyes to hold the tank in place while I sailed.
Put a milk crate in the hatch you described and stow dock lines and anchor rode in there.
 
Jan 19, 2010
10,029
Hunter 26 Charleston
No! That was an after market mod by the PO.
Actually the entire hatch may have been an after market mod. Here are three shots of me installing a hatch on my V22 and then two shots showing the finished hatch. The hatch cover actually came from a V21 that was being parted out.
 

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Mar 29, 2017
574
Hunter 30t 9805 littlecreek
A marine blower to clear fumes and if your portable tank has vent in cap I'd get another cap and drill out install a hose from there to standard vent outside on hull
 
Apr 5, 2009
1,622
Catalina '88 C30 tr/bs Oak Harbor, WA
The easy solution is of course anchor down a couple of strips of wood, I think I have some spare black locust from another project, and strap the tank in the cockpit right in front of the locker.
Yep, the factory mount in the locker was a bad idea on my C25 but I guess that back in 1980 they had not yet blown up enough boats for the builders to realize that. Mounting it in the cockpit was so easy and fixed the problem.
 
Mar 15, 2021
51
Macgregor Venture 22 Brooklyn
@rgranger that is exactly where the locker is located, with a nice handy hole in the side for the fuel line.

I think a couple of boards to keep the steel tank slightly off the deck and a strap through the handle will serve for now.

When I dropped the tank down there I thought this is odd, but I figured the designer must have known something I did not.
 
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Aug 5, 2019
91
Macgregor 26 S NJ
I have a 1971 Ven 222 that a previous owner obviously did the same and kept their tank down the same hatch, there is a small tank vent on the starboard side of the hull, some old gas line and a hole into the motor well for the gas line. That whole area under the cockpit storage is open to the cabin. I would never chance keeping gas down there even if "properly vented" due to that I actually cook in my cabins. It doesn't take much in the way of gas fumes to go boom with the slightest of sparks. I keep my small tank for my Tohatsu 6 Sailpro on the cockpit floor under the tiller where I can keep an eye on it. That one tankful lasted me all summer so the small tank size was just fine.
 

JRT

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Feb 14, 2017
1,970
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
most old boats with outboards seem to have done this but as others have said it is not a good idea to just continue the practice. To me the issue is old tanks, fittings, lines and no venting. you can certainly spend a tremendous amout of time and money setting it up but why bother when keeping the tank in the cockpit is far safer and easier to monitor. I'd spend the boat bucks on stuff to make my sailing better, lines, new sails, etc. and just get out on the water.
 
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Mar 15, 2021
51
Macgregor Venture 22 Brooklyn
Was at the boat a few times this week trying to get her to where I am comfortable moving her. Tuesday I discovered a pinhole leak in the fuel tank, which explains the prior issue. The tank has been repaired with JB Tank Weld, but I think at this point I agree the stern locker even though set up for a tank is not the place for the tank. It is now on some 1x6 pressure treated boards in the cockpit sole. I am thinking on ways to secure it. I dislike drilling holes in the sole as I do not want future leaks.

I am leaning to cleaning the deck real well, including stripping the really poor paint job off then gluing some 1x1 or 1x2 black locust strips in place that the tank can set on and which I can install eyes into to keep the tank in place.
Original gorilla glue works wonders for making long lasting bonds between wood and fiberglass in my experience, especially when the glass is roughed up a bit.

I have a 6 gallon tank, so it does take some space, but like others said no one can really sit in the swing of the tiller while underway in any case.
 
Jan 19, 2010
10,029
Hunter 26 Charleston
I think you will like that set up. The only way to safely use the well for gas storage would be to build an isolated box inside the well with NO exposure to the cabin.... and also make a low lying vent in the box that goes overboard.
 
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Apr 5, 2009
1,622
Catalina '88 C30 tr/bs Oak Harbor, WA
Holes are easy to seal with some simple steps like potting the core with thickened epoxy but if you do not want to go that route, you can just epoxy a suitable rot resistant boards to the sole. If it needs to be replaced in the future, break out the wood with a chisel and sand the rest back to the gelcoat.
 
Mar 15, 2021
51
Macgregor Venture 22 Brooklyn
I am fighting deck leaks galore on my Ericson 27. It seems every fitting on deck decided in the last 2 years to start leaking. If I can avoid a hole in the deck I am going to do so.

Epoxy is great, but I have found original gorilla glue to be both simpler to use and as strong as needed for bonding wooden supports for shelves and equipment on my Ericson.

Until I make my Black Locust order in a few weeks the tank will sit lose on some pressure treated 1x6 pieces I dropped into place. It is not like I plan to sail her any time soon. She is still in the TRIAGE phase of her rescue.
 
Mar 15, 2021
51
Macgregor Venture 22 Brooklyn
BTW since I keep mentioning black locust in my posts here are two places that sell it.



I have not done business with either of them. The place I got my last batch from is now out of business. He was in the process of closing his saw mill 2 years ago because he was tired of NY State business regulations.

Black Locust is HARD and HEAVY.