When we smelled diesel in our cabin, we knew we had a problem. We just hoped it would turn out to be an easy fix… but how often does THAT happen?
Finding the source of our fuel leak leads us into another big boat project, forcing us to postpone our launch date, and requiring — as all new boat projects do — a handful of four-letter words as we fumble our way through it.
Hope you enjoy!
Lauren & Kirk
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– [Lauren] Hi, Cleat!
[Kirk] What’s happening?
We need to pump out our fuel because our tank is probably leaking.
If we remove the tank, we’ll be able to see if it’s corroded.
Ugh, we’ve already pushed back our launch date by a week.
I feel like an old man.
[Lauren] I think sanding does that to you. Or is it two weeks now? Previously on Sailing Soulianis.
[Kirk] It’s very diesel smelling.
Yeah, smells a lot like diesel. We’d discovered a small amount of diesel on our cabin sole, which we had yet to figure out where it was coming from. After stripping off all of our bottom paint, we applied Copper Coat anti-fouling, which actually needs to be sanded after application to expose the copper to the water.
Yeah, we’re just about done sanding the entire hull, but we ran out of sanding discs, so we need to get some more of those. So now we’re just on the– Starting over again, where the jack stands are. Hopefully that’s only three more days of work.
[Lauren] You would’ve thought a hundred sanding discs would’ve been enough.
Yeah, it would’ve been awesome. It would’ve meant less sanding. I’ve taken most of the blue off the entire hull. I have one jack stand left, and then I have to sand to get homogenous white gel coat. But, that’s not gonna happen tonight, ’cause I am absolutely exhausted. I’ve been sanding all day, in the sun. I haven’t really–
[Lauren] Oh in that full, jeans and…
No I only put this on when I started the blue stuff.
[Lauren] Oh, okay.
Because it keeps me from being a Smurf. All right, I’m gonna set up for the last one. I was gonna use the paint stripper.
[Lauren] Hi, Cleat! Come here, buddy, come on. Oh, he’s so camera shy, look at him. Hey. Hey, hey! Are you okay?
Just tired. I tripped over the jack stand. Feel like an old man.
[Lauren] I think sanding does that to you. Last blue square.
Anyhow, long story short, I did all these without putting paint stripper on it, and it wasn’t too bad.
With the super dull scraper too. It’s because we started with a hard edge.
[Lauren] Oh, yeah.
And so if you can get underneath the hard edge, it just falls off.
All right, well, I’m gonna go put all the groceries away. What do you want for dinner?
As long as I’m making it, right?
Okay, it’s coming up.
[Kirk] What’s happening?
Our freaking refrigerator is so large, I gotta get my entire torso in it to clean the bottom.
Sorry. It was due for a little bit of cleaning, ’cause a lot of our vegetables just kind of… They’ll break off and fall to bottom. So much room! Gotta fill all of that space with something. Good thing I bought all those kombuchas.
[Kirk] Bunch of buchas!
So when we got back to the boat in November, after we left her for the summer, we came down below, into the companionway, and smelled diesel.
[Kirk] Very diesel smelling.
Yeah, smells a lot like diesel. We noticed that underneath the chart table, kitty-corner to the fuel tank, we could see diesel on the cabin sole.
[Kirk] Diesel, bird.
What I was hoping, the small Coca-Cola bottle that we had filled with diesel in the locker had leaked. Um, because when I found it, there was only like this much left in it. We had so many other things that we needed to do, like stepping the mast, painting the hull. Needless to say, it wasn’t on the priority list. After doing a bunch of research about it, just in the last couple days, and finding out it actually was underneath the drawers that are in the chart table, we knew there was a bigger issue. And so after looking on the Tartan forums, we found out that a lot of people have problems with their diesel tanks leaking. Specifically the bottom corner of the fuel tank, which is the lowest point of the tank, where water can accumulate. Which can cause erosion, and then cause a leak. We fished our tiny USB camera down between the tank, and its compartment, to get a look at the exterior of the tank. But we couldn’t see any major areas of corrosion. It wasn’t entirely clear that the tank was leaking from the bottom corner, so it seemed possible it could be coming from somewhere else. So… Ugh, we’ve already pushed back our launch date by a week or is it two weeks now? Yeah, two weeks. It’s probably not gonna happen.
[Kirk] What have you got down there?
We’ve got diesel jerry cans, because we need to pump out our fuel.
[Kirk] I picked up some hose. We’ve got a little priming bulb here. We’re gonna stuff it down into our fuel filler, and hopefully we’re gonna start to siphon some stuff out to see if we can minimize the leaking until we’re able to get this tank out of here. All right, are you ready?
[Kirk] Okay, so I’ve hit a dead end here. Maybe there’s a screen? Are we already foiled? We need to go inside the boat.
[Lauren] That didn’t work.
No. It did not work.
We think we might have hit either a 90 degree bend, or a screen. But we don’t know if we have a screen. So, we’re bringing the hose in and trying to put it through the fuel sender. We’re hoping, when we open it, that fuel isn’t gonna come rushing out. Because before we had left the boat, we had filled the tank all the way up to the level of the deck. If it’s been leaking this whole time, I think the odds are pretty low that that’s gonna happen. You have taken it off before, and you have looked inside?
[Kirk] Yes. I mean, I didn’t look at– it was when I had pumped all the fuel out.
After I got water in the tank.
[Lauren] Oh, way way back. When we got water in our fuel tank, which caused our engine to stop on the Illinois River. Now, we got to hoping that maybe it was just our fuel sender that had been leaking. It’s weird, it smells like oily popcorn in here. Apparently, that’s what warm wood and diesel smells like.
Here’s the interesting thing.
[Lauren] What’s that? Looking at this wood, under here.
This is all dry wood, and then right here, on this panel,
It’s wet, and it gets wet all the way till basically right where this is.
And then it’s dry again.
[Lauren] Well, what does the seal look like, and the sender? It look cracked at all?
[Kirk] No, it looks fine. Just if it was dirty.
[Kirk] And there was any bit of pressure on it, it could’ve been coming outta it. I don’t know, I feel like at this point, we’re committed to taking this freaking thing off. I don’t know, really don’t want to.
[Lauren] We were reluctant to remove the top of the fuel compartment, because this piece was bound to the side of the hull, solidly glued underneath the chart table. And all the screws were neatly hidden with plugs. Darn Tartan and their craftsmanship.
Regardless, if we pull the top off, then we can make the decision of whether or not, we remove the tank. And if we remove the tank, we’ll be able to see if it’s corroded, and whether or not we need a new tank, or if we just need to patch the tank. Worst case scenario is we go through the effort of cutting this top off, and we don’t need to yet change the tank, but, it’s a really old tank. If it is just the top leaking, well, we maybe we need to replace the tank soon anyhow, so, then we’ve already cut this thing off and made a removable top that we can inspect easier next time. But, chances are it is probably leaking and so we just need to do it. All right, we’re going in. Did we keep that, that clothing rod? ’cause I feel like we need it again to be able to push this all the way down to the bottom of the tank.
[Kirk] Wait, Lauren, what was that exasperation I sensed in your voice? Was it that we had to move every thing in the boat before we could do one thing to do this next project?
[Kirk] Was that what it was?
Am I over here throwing a temper tantrum?
[Kirk] No, I just, I heard a little whimper.
[Kirk] You express your frustrations different than I do.
Yes with a moderated sigh.
[Lauren] We keep losing pressure?
[Lauren] Oh, gosh! Just needs to get over the hump, right?
[Lauren] Come on.
[Kirk] Oh, no.
[Lauren] Oh no. Is it going?
Yeah it’s going. It’s looks pretty clean,
[Lauren} Yeah. There’s no, like, growth, that I see.
[Lauren] How long is this gonna take?
[Kirk] This is gonna take a long time. So I wanted to get a big enough hose, but.
Too bad our van doesn’t take diesel.
[Lauren] I’m ready whenever you are. That was pretty slick.
[Kirk] We read on the Tartan forums from a fellow Tartan owner who has done this job, that he cut about three inches away from the hull. So I found something that was about three inches, used that to trace a line. Underneath the piece of wood that we leave, we want to build a little lip so that when we go and we put our quarter berth floor, I guess, back down, it has something to rest on. But we don’t want to cut it too far out from the hull, because we want to be able to get the fuel tank out. And we’d like to do a nice, long, smooth, single, clean cut, so that we can use this as the cover that goes back in there, and we don’t have to cut a new piece of wood. I’m now going to go through and drill out all the little screw holes they put plugs into, which is interesting. It probably didn’t need plugs. But, that’s how Tartan does stuff. I’m not going to save them, or else I would put a little tiny screw into it, get my vice grips, and pull each plug and pop them out so I can put them back in, but we don’t need plugs there. So, I’m just going to drill the tops off. There’s a screw there definitely. I don’t think there was a freaking screw there. When it comes to boat projects, nothing ever turns out to be very straightforward, and removing this lid was no different. Sometimes what looked like a plug, had no screw underneath. And other times, they had been covered so well by paint, they were nearly impossible to find. There’s a couple of screws here that we missed along this edge. Hammer?
[Lauren] Oh, it’s really stuck back there. Is it happening?
So, the only place that we’re not free, I think is right here. Oh, god!
It’s coming out, but it’s also gonna pinch those–
Yeah. I’m gonna crawl back into hole.
[Lauren] Do you want me to go over there?
Err, yeah. Would you?
‘Cause my right foot is asleep. Actually, my whole right leg is asleep. Need some grease so you can ing climb in there? So, what I wanna try and do, is pick this up–
[Kirk] And then slide it this way a little.
Okay but we’re stuck over there still.
[Kirk] Well, I think that’ll break it free.
[Kirk] So, you ready? So is there just a screw that I’ve missed? There’s gotta be somewhere. There it is, I see it. I see it, bird. We’re gonna be home free. Found you, you er. Let’s do it! This is the one.
[Lauren] Whoa! You did it!
[Kirk] We did it.
[Lauren] Dang! That’s our fuel tank.
[Kirk] How come you’re a Marshmallow Man again?
‘Cause we gotta sand down our… Um, what are these things called?
[Kirk] Jack stand patches.
Our jack stand patches. Um, this is one of seven, and it took me five minutes to do this. So it might be ambitious–
[Kirk] Ten minutes each one?
Yeah. Maybe we’ll have sanding done– Oh, no, we’re not gonna be done with sanding. We’re still gonna have to sand the copper after we get that done.
Burning the midnight oil.
[Kirk] At seven PM.
At seven PM.
So, here’s the things I don’t know about. I don’t know how bendy this copper is. I think it’s pretty bendy, but it’s definitely gonna get in the way. I also don’t know how much these cables are gonna get in the way. But what I wanna do first is just see if we can move this damn thing.
If we can move it, then we know we’re kinda home free and we can figure it out.
[Lauren] If we can’t move it?
If we can’t move it then–
[Lauren] We’ll have to figure that out.
That’s gonna be a cluster . That’s not moving at all! I don’t know.
Hey look at that! Okay, that’s a start. I need you to grab down there.
I’m gonna lift a little and we’re going to slide back and see what happens.
[Lauren] So, like, here right?
[Kirk] Well, if you can do that, sure.
[Kirk] Okay. Is it moving?
[Lauren] Let me get my foot up, chart table. Okay.
[Kirk] Oh, yeah! Okay, sweet.
[Kirk] Awesome! You see that right down there?
[Kirk] That’s a screw that has a ground wire connected to it that I couldn’t get off, but I think I might be able to reach it now.
[Lauren] Right here?
[Kirk] So we need to take that off, and then we need to take this one off right here.
[Lauren] For the next hour, we’d wiggle the tank an inch, readjust the cables and fuel lines, get stuck, realize we needed to trim more of the compartment, then wiggle again. Then someone’s leg or foot would fall asleep and we have to change positions. Around and around we went.
[Kirk] Sweet! You’re hitting this. Can you slide it forward?
[Kirk] Then you can tilt up more, then we can slide back.
[Kirk] We had dozens of exchanges like this, discussing the hypotheticals of moving the tank one way or the other, lifting one side or sliding it back. Every once in a while, we were greeted with little victories as the tank inched closer to being free. Now go backwards a little.
[Lauren] Whoa! Look at that.
[Lauren] It needs to go back towards me, right?
[Kirk] Yeah. You’re gonna have to tilt it up a little higher.
[Lauren] That’s as far as I got!
[Kirk] Can we tilt it?
[Lauren] Yeah. You want to tilt it this way?
[Kirk] It’s so close.
[Lauren] Set backwards or not?
Yeah. All right. Cutting the back corner more. That was the last cut, this ers coming out. How’s this gonna work? Oh my God! What ing geniuses! Holy . That was so close. The tank had an half inch to spare going through the companionway and we have found these tight tolerances repeatedly. We were blown away by how well everything on this boat is designed to fit just perfectly.
[Lauren] Wow! A fuel tank used to be in there.
[Kirk] Dang! This is the issue right here. A little bit of fuel.
[Lauren] Oh, yeah, look at that!
I don’t really like taking things apart that I don’t really know how to put back together.
[Lauren] And I took out a chunk of each thumb.
It’s like a spaceship. Wow!