Bad/Stale Fuel, Dirty Fuel, Wet Fuel and In-Line, On-Board Polishing

trawlerWe have observed Waterway and Bahama sail cruisers operate their boats in very close parallel to the way trawlers operate, and we spend a lot of time among both. A primary topic of conversation is fuel quality — getting it and maintaining it. We have yet to meet one who did not have switchable filters at a minimum and most have in-line fuel polishing which can be run underway or when power is available. Most of these pumps draw around 2 amps.

Since form follows function and so many of us end up motoring for far more of our trips than we might like and are dependent (want to be or not) on power to get us in and out of places and situations where sails just don’t work, it seems the discussion has to end up on what kind of fuel quality systems, not, can one get by without them?

We have been cruising for 40+ years seasonal and full time. We have had 20, 120 and 200 gallon fuel capacities over those years. We have had no less than a Racor 500 2 micron on the diesel boats. We have dual Racor H-leg bypass fuel polishing on the current boat.

Picture 15Fuel polishing will help with dirty and wet fuel. Polishing won’t help with bad or stale fuel — these are physical vs  chemical issues. We know of  a bad fuel incident in Maryland when gasoline was pumped into a (kinda iffy) marina’s diesel supply tank and it was noticed six wrecked engines later. The watermen involved were NOT happy.

Unless the fuel is unburnable for some chemical contamination reason, e.g., gasoline mixed in (not a rare thing on a boat-by-boat basis either), too much additive (not a rare occurrence), etc, burning the fuel through the engine GENERALLY will not be a problem as much as it will be an performance irritant. Also, local pollution ordinances need to be considered. We know of boats stopped for emitting too much smoke. If you don’t want to or can’t burn it through, you will want the services of someone licensed to dispose of it. If an unlicensed service provider breaks the law in disposal, you may well get to share the fine and/or whatever else goes with the penalty. Some locales offer bounties on illegal disposers (much as with refrigerant). We are aware of a spill from this process that ended up being charged to the owner’s pollution liability coverage because of license issues with the disposer, even though the spill was not near the boat.

Wet fuel comes primarily from bad supply, water inflow and condensation. One boat on our last trip south was alongside for several days as they dealt with the results of a water hose being put in the diesel fill — by the owner. If water has made it into the tank, an easily reachable sump (we’ve seen maybe 10 in 40 years) from which it can be slurped is great. We used an engine oil change pump for this. If a sump is not built in then it’s empty the tank and add a filter-separator. Or a polishing system.

If the fuel is getting wet from sucking in humid air into the tank which first condenses on the fuel surface and tank walls there are a few remedies. A chemical air dryer in the vent line can help, but it adds complexity and if it gets wet from liquid water or fuel the vent will cease to be one. A good strategy here is to reduce the volume available for damp air to occupy — by keeping the fuel level topped off.  However, this is not necessarily a great idea if the fuel is bad/stale. Table on this below.

Dirty fuel can be from bad supply or crud accumulations in the tank. I won’t get sucked into the debate as to the degree this is the result of flora or fauna. Suffice it to say, filter, filter, filter. That same pump for water will handle the crud that ends up in a sump. However, vacuum style pumps that use small tubing will choke almost instantly.* Beyond that would be a separate  post on tank cleaning and off-board fuel polishing. [covered very well here] Even if we did not have on-board fuel polishing, we would have two selectable filters. One of our boats under a later owner ended up adrift in the Delaware Bay ship channel because one filter was completely compromised with crud, and there was no second filter.

So what about in-line, on-board polishing?

Picture 13 (2)We’ve been using it for our main engine and genset for 10 years now. The issue hasn’t been power for polishing —  it runs when either engine runs and is powered by the main alternator or the genset via ac/dc converter or solar. We run it independently of the engines when we have been forced to buy less than desirable fuel or if the boat is left to sit for an extended period. We have 200 gallon fuel capacity between two tanks. In 10 years we have removed* around a pint of water from the separators and removed about a tablespoon of dirt.

Key is fuel turn-over. Turn-over at the dock and turn-over aboard. At the dock, we look for fuel suppliers to sport-fishermen and commercial vessels that have additional smaller nozzles and appropriate flow rates for us. “How often do you refill your main supply tank,” is our first question after, “do you have fuel?” If the supplier is really moving the fuel, it is rare to get wet or dirty fuel, but one such place we bought fuel, we found the nozzle stowed in a bucket half full of rainwater.  If it’s an out of the way source, expect water, dirt and crud to get in your tank [Yes, a Baja funnel can help here, but they slow flow rate and extend the amount of time one ties up the fuel dock. If using deck fuel containers. consider a Baja or filter funnel a must even with polishing.]

Turn-over on the boat is a two-edge sword. Here frequent topping off to keep range at the maximum and water vapor condensation at the minimum works against clean fuel. Lets say you started from empty and filled the tank with, you guessed it, fuel too bad to be good but not bad enough to remove and start over. The table below shows how many  top offs by tank percentage fill it takes to really get rid of that fuel. Ten 10% top-offs will add another 100% of the fuel, but 34% of the bad fuel will still be there. It will take 29 ten% top-offs to get the remaining bad fuel below 5%.

Bottom line. To us, fuel polishing is like good ground tackle. It’s a form of insurance and cheaper than the paper kind.

Top Off Table

Top Offs

Symphonic Music in Vero Beach

trebleclefFrom childhood we have both loved good music. From arriving in the Washington DC area in 1980, we always had good access to symphonic music. Janet was even a member of the NSO Women’s Committee. We rarely missed an Air Force performance. And so on. When we selected Vero Beach as our land base of operations, we wondered how far we would have to drive north or south to find a good symphony. We feared it might be Jacksonville or much, much worse, Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

The answer is we don’t have to drive, and if we choose to, we don’t have to drive far. Yesterday, we attended the Holiday Performance of the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra’s Wind Ensemble at Vero Beach High School just 2.1 miles from us, 6.1 from Loggerhead Marina and 4.4 from the City Marina.


From VBHS PAC Site

First, the Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center. This is not a trivial facility. It seats 1000, and with eyes closed, the acoustics are indistinguishable from the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. It also was clean and fresh, not always the case in venues such as this.

Next, The Space Coast Symphony Orchestra. (Aaron Collins, Artistic Director*) Wow! Big Sound, Crisp Sound, Clear Sound, Large enough instrument sections for real nuance in the orchestration and presentation. Sometimes to say people played with enthusiasm is to say they were not so good. In this case, the enthusiasm empowered world class musicianship and musicality. These musicians are there because they want to be, and you can hear the result. We are critical listeners, and from where we sat, there wasn’t a note off, a beat missed, a chair scraped.

The Symphony’s commitment to making music of this composition and performance quality financially accessible to all, especially young people, is great! We can still remember how much we learned from Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts.

And how nice they began with the National Anthem and a recognition of Veterans. It was Pearl Harbor Day after all.

If you are cruising anywhere between Cocoa and Vero Beach, it is worth the time and very modest expense to take in a concert. They perform, among other locations, at:

Please consider making a donation so that the next generation can develop an appreciation for music of this content and caliber.


*30- year old Aaron T. Collins is garnering recognition for his achievements.  In February 2012,  LEAD Brevard named the ambitious Collins one of their “4 under 40″ Young Professionals, the youngest-ever recipient of the honor.  Space Coast Business magazine listed him as one of Brevard’s “100 Most Admired Businesspeople” in their April 2012 issue.  Through his personal involvement with more than a dozen performing arts groups, pioneering reciprocal ad program and social media cross promotions, Collins has gained a reputation for generosity; championing other arts organizations throughout Central Florida for the cultural enrichment of the community. (From SCSO website)

Good Conch (News)

conchpileFor us, the Bahamas and conch fritters are inseparable. As with virtually all marine food resources, conch are subject to over-fishing, poaching and environmental stress. It is good to see more resources have been contributed to help Bahamians deal with his challenge. The Bahamas Weekly story is at link:

Conchservation funded another $50,000 by The Moore Bahamas Foundation

An earlier posting (1 Feb 2014) with background on this topic is at

Bahamian Conch Fisheries in Danger…

Florida Anchoring: Groundhog Day

klaxonstrongWell, the three public meetings have come and gone. “The 300 Feet is the Starting Point” is now 150 feet, and that change is worse than meaningless since it is just a place to renew the political discussion and some cruisers may mis-read it as an actual improvement and disengage from the discussion.

However, the survey itself has been improved and clarified. The issues have merit, but merit, truth and balance are the first casualties of political discussion, especially when the Pols have already smeared those of us who anchor with villainy approaching barbary.

The new survey is at and must be completed by Dec 7. It still ignores cruisers’ need for a place to anchor awaiting a good weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream — something I mentioned directly to Major Moore and documented in my submission at the Vero Beach meeting. Since marinas and mooring fields stand to gain from those of us cruising to the Bahamas being trapped for several days (weeks last season) by weather and potentially draconian anchoring restrictions, this omission is troublesome. So, I will say it again, the safe harbor language in the survey doesn’t engage with this issue sufficiently.

From the “300 Feet” post

I have run a test on some popular anchorages and what a 300 foot keep-out zone means. Basically, Faber Cove would cease to be usable, and the same for Lake Boca Raton and Lake Sylvia.

On the other hand…


Faber Cove


Lake Sylvia

Having reanalyzed the charts by halving the keep out distance from 300 to 150 feet, the change improves anchoring access in Faber Cove, and Lake Sylvia (green 300 feet, blue 150 feet keep out). Lake Worth and Hobe Sound are largely unaffected.

NoAncHowever the shoreside locals we heard from at the Vero Beach meeting would prefer 1/4 mile or out of their county whichever is greater. One very angry attendee would have gladly substituted country for county. [Before he angrily stomped up the aisle and left, He said, He had no idea people could anchor behind his waterfront property when he bought it.  ?!?!?]

POST SCRIPT From the “300 Feet” post (re: evaluating anchorages)

I looked no farther south [than Lake Sylvia] as we don’t travel any farther south than necessary to get to the Bahamas where cruisers who anchor are more welcome.

Unfortunately, I posted that sentiment before Mr. Carey of the Bahamas National Trust cast considerable doubt on how welcome cruisers (vice their money) are in the Bahamas. Interestingly, within just a few weeks of his grapeshot broadside at everyone who anchors in the Bahamas, The BNT launched its annual $$$ appeal without including a repudiation of his remarks. Thus, they have also informed us.

Aroma Therapy

largoWe are  soup fans. We like to appreciate their development from ingredients, through aromas, to gustatory delight. I suppose we are sopa-istas, or perhaps  caldo-istas. Either way, we’re fans of largo — soups that take a good long while to develop and feed the soul as well as the body. While there are many soups that delight the tongue,  we prefer those that delight the nose first.

Here’s a quick version of what I allowed to develop the other day.

  • Grilled 8 chicken thighs (trimmed of excess fat) to just short of done.
  • Let them rest till room temperature and refrigerated them overnight.
  • Then sliced them across the grain to spoon-sized bites.
  • Saved the congealed drippings.

Pre-cooking the chicken adds grill flavor, eliminates the curd-like white fat that boiling chicken sometimes produces. Chilling it overnight locks in the juices so that long simmering doesn’t toughen the meat.

  • Chopped three yellow onions and nuked them to soft. I could have sauteed them to half golden, but I didn’t want a pervasive onion aroma interfering with the soup’s.
  • Combined chicken, drippings, nuked onions, 2 cans of garbanzos, 1+ cup of picante sauce, 1 4 oz can of green chilies (mild), 3 tsp of fresh chili powder, 1 tsp of cumin, 1/3 cup of dark rum, 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes and water to just cover the ingredients in the slow cooker.

Within an hour the aroma therapy had begun. I let the soup cook on high for 4 hours and low about 2 hours. Served with French bread sippets.

Serves six generously.

Can be enhanced with garlic, shallot, cilantro, Mexican oregano
Hominy can replace the garbanzos and pork the chicken and one gets a Pozole.


T-Shirt Lizard

Who needs hi-tech wireless thermometers to know what’s going on outside? We have a trusty band of geckos and anoles, inter alia that let us know what’s what — biotech if there ever was some.

The smaller the lizard the sooner they hide from the drop in temps. There seems to be a scale.

  • No lizards sunning — it’s cold for here, wear a sweatshirt (or it’s too darn hot even for lizards and stay in the shade with a cold drink)*
  • Only big lizards sunning — it’s cool, wear a long sleeve T
  • Medium lizards sunning (well away from the big ones) — T shirt weather
  • Little lizards sunning (well away from every mouth in sight) — stay in the shade
  • Lizards panting — stay in the shade with a tank top and a cold drink*

Seems tech enough for us.

*This minor ambiguity can be resolved by stepping outside for a moment.