Fuel Filter Folly

by | Feb 7, 2020

For last week’s delivery, we made our way from Fort Lauderdale north towards Charleston.  We made it as far as Port St Lucie, winds 6-9 on the bow banging us as we make our way north with the help of the Gulfstream current.

Sunsetting over Stuart Florida

Epic sunset with views of Venus as bright as the moon which was following the suns path setting just shortly after 10pm.

With our sights set upon Port St Lucie for the night, we planned to anchor, rest and refuel.  The 1am anchoring was no issue on the north side of the inlet in 10′ of clear incoming tide.

After morning coffee and chats with the crew, we began our basic systems checks, knowing this boat hadn’t moved much in a long bit, fuel was the main issue for me.  It appeared that the tank gauges where not operating properly, they had moved a bit, but not in an expected fashion. In the days before, our PremiumCaptains diesel mechanic Desmond had performed a 100hr service including belts, impellers, fluids and filters.

We fired up the genset for some power to make a morning meal, then …. draaaaaa….. there she quit after 5 minutes or so…man that filter was full of algae in just a few hours: holy cow! No wonder why the genset wouldn’t run…


The decision was made to have a company scrub the fuel and clean the tanks before continuing the journey as the filter was totally clogged with algae in just a few hours of being underway.

The local fuel scrubbing outfit came the next morning, did their deed, and while all repect for their equipment and company, they didn’t properly replace the fuel sending unit they had removed to access the tanks on the port side fuel tank properly. The alignment was off – the screws where improperly embedded.

Fuel Tank Monitor sending unit

Whilst we had the fuel nozzle filling the tank ended up overflowing, with an estimated 15 gallons of red diesel all into the bilge….. #EpicFacepalm @captjeremy and I, for the next few hours, mopped up the fuel using just shy of 40 fuel diapers – what a mess!

After two painstakingly hours of draping our bodies in the most uncomfortable positions, we had managed to secure the tank fitting properly and remove 95% of the red diesel in the bilge.

The Takeaway:

Quite a number of times, we have embarked upon journeys with boats which have sat for an undisclosed amount of time; you know that time between which an owner looses interest in the boat, and the new owner buys it allowing a good amount of algae growth in the fuel.

So…when you buy a new boat, or come back to your boat after a long time, be mindful of what condition the fuel is in.  Just having a look at the gauge and seeing ‘Full’ isn’t the good news you think it may be.  The quality of the fuel is important, and if you don’t check that out, you could be facing more issues in a short period of time.