Monday, December 28, 2009

Unsafe In Any State

Stuart FL

Below is a copy of a letter I sent to BoatUS today:

I try my best to boat safely and to be friendly to the environment. I find those ambitions to be significantly thwarted by federal regulations regarding the design and sale of gasoline storage cans.

My boat uses diesel fuel, but I also have an outboard motor and a portable generator that use gasoline. I have no safe compartment for storing gas, so I keep it in a jug that I leave up on deck. That way, if the jug leaks it should not cause an explosion hazard. For many years that system worked fine for me with a standard 5 gallon plastic jug with a pouring spout and a vent. Metal cans are unsuitable because of salt water corrosion.

Suddenly the vented cans disappeared from the stores. Instead, I could buy only the so-called self-venting type or the so-called no-spill type.

I tried first with a 5 gallon no-spill type jug (below). It turned out that the spring loaded pouring nozzle had a diameter larger than the fill pipe on my generator. I had to use a funnel. But the can was too heavy to lift and pour with one hand, so I had to hold the can with two hands while trying to hold the funnel in place with my knees while pushing down on the spout to trigger pouring. The result was spilled gasoline all over me and over my deck.

I switched to a 5 gallon self-venting tank (below). I stored it on deck with the pouring spout stored pointing in. The problem with that is expansion of the gas in the hot sun. Alerted by the smell of gas, I looked on deck and saw gasoline streaming out of the pressurized can as it warmed in the hot sun. The pressure was pumping the gas up the spout and through the cap. I estimate that two out of every five gallons of gas I stored in that can wound up in the atmosphere rather than in the engines, resulting in a thousand times more evaporation than an old-fashioned vented can would produce.

I tried storing the can with the spout removed. That way, gas would not be forced out when it expands. Sorry. Without the spout, the screw on top would not fit properly and when the boat heeled over gas spilled out through the gap.

I tried storing the can with the spout pointing out. That should solve the pumping problem. I capped the end of the spout with the little yellow stopper that comes with the can. Sorry. As the sun warmed the gas and pressurized the can I heard a noise like a champagne cork popping. It was the sound of the yellow stopper being ejected overboard.

My final solution was to store the can with the spout on the inside, but I had to drill my own vent hole to prevent pumping.

I bought a one gallon no-spill type jug to use for the outboard when in the dinghy. But after less than 6 months use, the spring loaded mechanism on no-spill spout failed. It wouldn't spill but nor would it pour. It was a choppy day and very bumpy in the dinghy. I was forced to try to refill the outboard from the jug with no spout at all. Of course, 90% of the gas spilled into the water.

Yesterday I checked West Marine, Wal Mart and Home Depot to buy yet another replacement jug. But now all three stores carry only a brand with a stupid kind of pistol grip spout (below). When stored on deck the upward pouring spout will collect rain water which I'm sure will get into my gasoline. Additionally the clumsy looking pistol grip spout is almost certain to be stepped on and broken off some day while I'm moving around my deck in rough weather. I refuse to buy it.

BoatUS seems to know its way around Washington. Please try to find a way to explain to the regulators that the needs of boaters are different from those of land based consumers who have places out of the sun and out of the rain to store their cans. Boaters need to be able to purchase the old-fashioned vented jugs with simple pour spouts in order to be both safe and environmentally friendly.

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