10 things to do before fueling your boat

Adventure 3 min read

Refueling our boat for the first time was a little nerve-wracking. The closest fueling dock is a tight squeeze, the water was a bit choppy, and we weren’t entirely sure what we were doing. “It’s just like gassing up the car,” the attendant said before sauntering back into the office. He was mostly right. But, it still took five people a good half an hour to figure the whole process out (a few friends were miraculously willing to come along for the ride). Eventually, we successfully pulled away from the harbor with a tank full of diesel.

We’ve streamlined our refueling process since then (and only need a crew of two these days), but I still get a little nervous every time we pull up to that little floating fuel station. So, we created a pre-fueling checklist to help us avoid any mishaps. Here are the 10 things we always do before filling up.

1. Find the nearest fueling dock (or refueling service)

There aren’t an abundance of floating gas stations in the bay where we’re docked, so this part is pretty easy. We always go back to the same place. But, if you have options, take a look at the layout of the fueling dock, their hours of operation, and prices first. Some waterways have refueling services that’ll come to your harbor, too. Which can make the entire process a lot easier.

2. Call ahead

It would be a real bummer to cruise all the way over to a fueling station (when you’re likely low on gas to begin with), only to discover that they aren’t open. Or that there’s a long line of fellow boaters waiting to fuel up. So, be sure to call ahead to confirm when the pumps will be open and the anticipated wait times before you take off.

3. Check the weather

Rough seas will make refueling more challenging than it needs to be. So, if you can help it, try to plan refueling for a calm, clear day.

4. Check the current fuel level

Having a solid read on your current fuel level is important for two main reasons. First, you want to make sure you have enough in the tank to get you to the fuel dock, and to idle in place if there’s a wait. Second, you need to have an accurate measure of your current fuel level so that you don’t overfill your tank (or tanks) when the time comes. Topping off is a bad idea, as excess fuel can leak into the water.

5. Inspect the engine and fuel port

While you’re checking your current fuel supply, you’ll want to inspect your engine and fuel port, too. Make sure that everything looks to be in working order—no rusted caps, leaky hoses, etc.

6. Anticipate your costs

Fuel isn’t cheap. And if you have multiple tanks, those gallons can add up quickly. When you call ahead to confirm that the station will be open when you arrive, be sure to ask what the current per-gallon rate is. Depending on your budget, you may decide to pump as much as a certain dollar amount will get you. Either way, you don’t want to be blindsided by the final bill.

7. Stock up on rags and oil-absorbent sheets

No matter how careful you are, spills are always a possibility. If you notice fuel in the water, you need to act quickly to soak it up. Most stations have oil-absorbent sheets on hand, but you’ll want to have your own stash nearby, too. Just in case.

8. Consult the manual

If you don’t refuel very often, having your boat’s manual handy is probably a good idea. Refresh your memory by taking a quick look at the instructions or grab the directions whenever you’re feeling uncertain about how to approach the process.

9. Ask the attendant for pointers

Every boat, pump, and station is different. So, when you arrive at the fuel dock, take a moment to ask the attendant if there’s anything you should know about the pumps, meters, etc. Better yet, ask if they’ll help you refuel if you feel like you need an extra hand. Most people will be happy to help. And they’ll be even happier to receive a nice tip if you see fit!

10. Remember to ask for the right type of fuel

Gas and diesel aren’t the same things. We all know that. But, if you’re used to putting gas in your car and diesel in your boat, you might catch yourself asking for the wrong one on accident. So, double-check that you’re putting the proper type of fuel in your boat before you turn on that pump.

Filling up the fuel tanks can be a stressful process. But, if you take the time to prepare in advance, everything should go smoothly. Plus, it’s a great excuse to take the boat out for a cruise!

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