Every day I learn something. Yesterday was that running a diesel engine out of fuel is more trouble than with a gas engine. This boat is all diesel. The only gas engine is the dingy outboard. I’ve never had a diesel anything before save a diesel rental car in France years ago. That did not turn out so well either, since I forgot at a service station and filled up with gas, but that’s another story.
The boat started vibrating different. I thought some weeds or a line might be caught in the prop, then the starboard engine quit. I raced downstairs to the salon station and checked the level in the tank I was using for both engines and the genset. Zero. I raced downstairs to the engine room and opened the valves for the other tank and closed off the empty one. Miraculously the port engine and the genset never missed a beat. Not sure how that happened, but one engine running is a whole lot better than none.
Could not restart the engine. Paul, who has a diesel motor home, thought it was air in the fuel path and turned out correct. You simply should never allow a diesel engine to run out of fuel. I had checked the tank in use that morning and the gauge, which measures inches of fuel in the tank, showed plenty at 10 gallons/inch. What I did not think about is that the bottom of the tank is not flat because it sits against the sloping hull bottom, so once fuel gets to that area its height on the gauge drops twice as fast. When today I for the first time filled a completely empty tank I also learned it holds 210 gallons, not 245 like the old manual that came with the boat says.
Daryl the mechanic from Sail Craft Marina met us at 8:30 this morning and soon found it was a typical running out of fuel situation. He explained his actions, working a little hand pump right on the engine I never knew about as he loosened several fittings in sequence to let out the air. You know the air is out when diesel squirts all over and makes a mess. Glad it’s not explosive like gas. Daryl showed me a few other things as well as explained some diesel do’s and don’ts. He even cleaned up the mess. Good guy.
With all that we got away just after 10 AM. It was only 55 miles to Washington, a short trip for us so we could still make it.
If you don’t learn anything else from this blog, remember this: don’t ever let a diesel engine run out of fuel!