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From the October 92 publication of the Peterson 44 Owner's Association

Removing Fuel Tanks -- The Mother of All Nightmares!

By Bert Novak - s/v CAHOOTS

Nightmare Number One

You pump your bilge and notice a diesel oil sheen on the water surrounding your boat. After a careful inspection it is determined that one of your fuel tanks is leaking fuel into the bilge. As a Peterson 44 owner with the original steel fuel tanks this is an adventure you will most likely face.Six years ago we experienced a leak in the starboard fuel tank, gradually loosing a full 45 gallons to the bilge and unfortunately it was pumped overboard unnoticed. Upon consulting with the local boat yard, they determined that all of the teak wood work form the sail locker forward to the hanging locker would have to be removed to gain access to the tank. This was not pleasant news because we did not believe the work could be done to maintain the proper appearance. Before giving the go-ahead, we decided to investigate further to see if the leak could be repaired in the boat.

One Saturday my son and I started the "Project" by first removing the ceiling of the sail locker and carefully peeling back the foam backed vinyl upholstery that is glued to the hull. With the bulkhead to hull joint exposed a sharp wood chisel was used to cut the fiberglass tape attachment and with some difficulty we were able to remove the bulkhead intact. From this vantage point, we could see that the leak was at the very bottom where a nail was touching the tank. Due to space and fire considerations, it was deemed unfeasible to attempt a welding repair in the boat. The tank would have to be removed.

After taking careful measurements, we concluded that the tank could be moved aft in the sail locker and with the engine room doors removed we could get it into the companionway, but due to the width of the tank, it would not clear the cockpit hatch with the teak trim in place. To remove the trim, we drilled a 1/8" hole down to the screw at each plug location and using a sheet metal screw driven into the center of each plug it was pulled out. The underlying wood screws were removed and with a sharp putty knife the caulking bond was broken and the teak trim removed. Before going any further, we duck-taped 1/8" plywood and cardboard on all surfaces in the companionway to prevent any scaring should the 100 plus pound tank get out of control during the removal process. After disconnecting the fuel lines and deck filler pipe we muscled the tank aft in the sail locker and using the boom vang attached to the lifting eye on top of the tank we winched through the cockpit hatch. Wala, sweet success.

Having the tank repaired was a simple process but faced with the same decision today, I would have a new one fabricated of aluminum. I now await nightmare number 3, since it is nearly 13 years old and will probably develop another leak.

Reversing the procedure, it was easily reinstalled and the bulkhead re-fiberglassed. The "Project" took two weekends but saved $3000 based on the boat yard estimate and preserved the good looks of the interior.

Nightmare Number Two

Three years ago the port tank developed a very slow leak. The boat yard came back with the magic $3000 estimate to remove the engine and other equipment to gain access. We decided to pass on this project, but now with a plan to go Cruising, the repair is being made using the engine removal route.

I know of one Peterson in San Diego that had thex`ir tank removed by putting it into small pieces and removing it through the main cabin. The downside to this is that the fuel capacity was reduced to about 20 gallons on the port side.I have just completed replacing the port tank with one made of 3/16" aluminum. Removing the cockpit floor and engine was not difficult, however, removing all of the equipment on the shelf and the reinstallation is proving to be very time consuming. Inspecting this tank revealed several poor welds but the main leak was caused by the tank resting on (you guessed it) a nail put though a shim that leveled the tank.

Both of my leaks were caused by poor workmanship which brought on the problems sooner, but the tanks are poorly made of what looks to be mild steel and probably have a useful life of around 10 years so don't be surprised to see an oily halo surrounding your boat someday soon.

Sweet Dreams ........

Last modified: January 01 1970 00:00