Fuel problems.....

Trip Start May 05, 2010
Trip End Oct 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Saturday, May 8, 2010

May 8, 2010

Our second day out started well enough. Weather was great and skies were blue. We were up at 0630 and running by 0700 hoping to build on our very successful first day out of Hilton Head. We were feeling pretty good as we moved north past grassy fields, old indigo plantations and fishing boats.

I had noticed the day before that we were needing a change of fuel filter. I had been watching this carefully since we left as I always do. Fuel management is key to a long distance trawler. First Forty carries two 480 gal tanks and we left home with 300 gallons. Those 300 gallons had been in the tank since last fall. Diesel fuel does not get better with age. In fact, it deteriorates. Historically we have had to change fuel filters fairly often .....perhaps every 50 hours where a normal range might be several times that. Faced with the choice of spending a thousand dollars to have the tanks cleaned, we watch it carefully and change filters as needed. The filters catch bad stuff and we have a vacuum gauge that tells us when there is too much pressure. High pressure suggested the engine fuel is not being drawn easily by the engine and the filter was ‘packing up’ with bad stuff.

I had switched to a new filter in the morning so I expected it would last the normal 50 hours or so. But by noon, I was getting an abnormal vacuum reading. It was unusual reading in that it was a constant high reading not a ‘jumping around” reading which was the norm when the filter was getting dirty. Soon there after, our tach showed that the engine was struggling. Then I was not able to get the engine to accelerate past 1500 rpm. This was serious and it was not anything I had ever seen. We looked for a place to anchor so we shut the engine down and took time to investigate.

Sue took the wheel and we anchored the boat in an open area and I spent an hour changing both primary filters and the secondary filter on the engine. This was radical but the fact that the secondary filter was at risk, caused me to take that step. When we restarted the engine ran fine confirming the fact that the filters had been so clogged the engine could not get fuel.
We continued on past Georgetown making great time with an usually good following current. This was able to get us up to 10.5 MPH. For First Forty, that is flying. We took a marina south of Myrtle beach. I had my homework to do now and had a lot of phone calls to make. But since it was Saturday, help would be hard to find. This problem had to be diagnosed and fixed before we go forward.

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Bill Kingsbury on

It is about 11:00 Wednesday morning. I just read your two blog entries. Hope that you have the fuel problem solved by this time and are making good time North. A fresh load of fuel will probably help, but the sludge from previous years will remain to give you problems with the fuel and the more the boat rocks, the more it is lifted from the bottom of the tanks and heads for filters. A good, cheap fuel cleaning system would sell well, but I know of none.

Thanks for keeping us posted.


gknopp on

Thanks Bill...stay tuned for the details. We do, in fact, have a fuel polishing
system. But history has shown that it is not that effective. Stay tuned.

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