With the beginning of a new year there’s always a lot of attention given to resolutions; everything from dropping a few pounds to really trying to learn a new language and a whole lot of others.
We had an incident that took place at the marina where we are based that prompts me to offer one more resolution, but this one is very important to those of us who love the boating life.
First, a little back story: A 32-foot cruiser stopped for fuel and just a few seconds after its tanks were topped off there was an explosion and fire. Despite very prompt response by local firefighters, the boat was a total loss. Thank goodness, there were no serious injuries and no other boats were affected by the explosion, fire or resulting debris.
This takes me back to resolutions for the New Year and this one is two-fold: Properly preparing, planning and preventing onboard fires.
Boat U.S. reports the number one cause of onboard fires is AC and DC wiring/appliances. That’s followed by engine or transmission overheating and fuel leaks. Failure to use the blowers on gas engine boats after fueling is also often the cause of an explosion and resulting fire. While it remains to be seen what caused the one at our marina, the above list if far reaching.
Check your boat’s wiring, cooling and fuel lines or have someone in the know do that for you on an every so often basis. Next is to familiarize yourself with the fire extinguishers on your boat. Understand how to use them and check them regularly to make sure they are fully charged.
If a fire does start, there are several things you can do to minimized the potential for damage. Notify all on board; make a distress call to the Coast Guard and nearby vessels and activate emergency firefighting equipment. Next is restricting the fire by shutting off its air supply, de-energized affected electrical systems, confine the fire, shut off the fuel supply, maneuver the vessel to minimize the effect of wind on the fire. Make sure there are no crew members in the fire area before activating the firefighting system. Keep in mind you may not have the luxury of time.
If you manage to get to your extinguisher, activate it and direct it at the base of the flames using short bursts and sweeping it from side to side, covering the area of fire until no flames are visible. If the fire is not extinguished but the extinguisher is empty, grab another and repeat the process until the fire is out. It’s easiest to remember with the PASS technique: Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the flame, Squeeze the trigger and Sweep side to side.
As part of your prep work, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the classifications of fire and the right extinguishing agents to use. There are some do’s and don’ts that are important to know when it comes to using water, foam, dry-chemical, carbon dioxide and halon in the right combination to successfully distinguish a fire. The wrong mix could be disastrous. The website, www.boatssafe.com, has good information in that regard.
I hope you keep this resolution, but never have to use its lessons. Be safe and enjoy the boating life.
Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, l liveaboard yacht school. Barb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 239-257-2788.