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Extra fuel for voyaging

Jan 2, 2020
One of Virago’s on-deck fuel bladders.

One of Virago’s on-deck fuel bladders.

Charlie Humphries

The days of red jerry jugs strapped to the rail are, or can be, a thing of the past. That is, if your vessel is large enough to carry a fuel bladder somewhere on deck.

Many vessels of moderate size — and even some larger-size vessels — often have limited fuel capacity, and when you’re on a journey of any length, you need to carry extra fuel. Here is how we are doing it on the Swan Virago:

We are a 100-footer, so we have two fuel bladders. A smaller vessel could certainly carry just one. Our bladders are 150-gallon Aero Tec Laboratories (ATL) bladders. The bladders come in different shapes and sizes to suit most, if not all, needs. For each of the bladders, a soft case acts as a lifting harness in the event the bladders need to be moved (with a halyard) when full. The case also enables you to properly tie down the fuel bladder. Straps are attached in many places around the case to spread the weight in a balanced manner and to provide several tie-down spots.

A 1-inch (inner diameter) flexible fuel hose is also needed. The length for the hose needs to be the distance between where fuel is stored on deck and where the fuel intake is  — plus a little extra to get it far enough down the fill pipe to create proper gravity feed suction.

When the fuel tank gets low and conditions permit, head downwind and flatten the boat. Needless to say, this process should be done thoughtfully and methodically with good communication in order to empty the bladder with no spills. One end of the hose (with hose clamp) is attached to the ATL bladder; the other end goes into the fuel tank fill pipe. The ATL tank fitting has a proper valve that closes and opens. Open the valve and watch the liquid gold flow …

And then hope the wind comes back and you do not need to use the fuel because you’d much rather be sailing.

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