Safe Boating Course

CHAPTER 3: Trip Planning and Preparation


Gasoline and gasoline fumes are the major cause of boat fires and explosions, so you need to take care when fueling to avoid spills and the spread of gasoline fumes. Gasoline fumes, in particular, often accumulate in the bilge area.

To make sure that you, your passengers and your boat avoid any potentially dangerous, even explosive, situations, it’s important that you follow these fueling guidelines.

Always take the following precautions before you start to fuel your boat:

  • Secure the boat to the fueling dock and ensure that the engine has been turned off.
  • Unload any portable fuel tanks and have your passengers step off the boat and onto the dock. This will help keep the boat stable and minimize the likelihood of spills.
  • Make sure that no one is smoking in the area or that any flames are present. You should also turn off all electrical equipment that could throw a spark.
  • Close all doors, windows and hatches where gasoline fumes could enter. Once you’re done fueling, you’ll want to open all the doors, windows and hatches to allow for air to circulate through the boat.
  • A final precaution before filling your tank is to hold the nozzle firmly against the fill pipe opening to ground it against static buildup.

Now you can start to fill your tank.

  • It’s important to never fill the tank of your boat beyond 90% full. This leaves room for gas to expand and avoids the potential for overflow.
  • Ensure that all air vents and valves to the gas tank are open.
  • After you’re done fueling, tightly replace the gas cap. This will prevent the escape of fuel vapors. Wipe up any spills or leakage right away.
  • Before starting the engine again, take a good sniff to see if any fumes have escaped. If you smell fumes, increase air circulation to the area and wait until the fumes have fully dissipated before turning on the engine.

If you have an inboard gasoline engine, you need to turn on the blower for four full minutes before starting your boat. This very important step is to remove any fumes that could be lingering in the bilge.

All portable fuel tanks must be filled off of the boat. Once filled, store portable fuel tanks onboard in a well-ventilated area away from the engine and electrical equipment.

Proper fueling procedure