Vessel type/length – Pearson Motor Yacht 38 feet
Engine type/horsepower – Crusader V-8 350 HP
Cruising speed – 19 knots
Starting point – Bear, DE
Final destination – Beach Haven Yacht Club, NJ
We had just arrived in Baltimore aboard a 44 foot trawler and got a call for a delivery from DE to Long Beach Island, NJ. Call this luck or fate, I think we were in the right place at the wrong time? Wrong time for those boat owners who have gasoline engines…
The boat is a 1989 Pearson twin gasoline engine boat experiencing engine stalling issues. I asked a few questions and figured they had transition problems from the “old” standard gasoline to the new E-10 Ethanol Gasoline. This is the same gas that you’ve heard so much about in the North East. The fiberglass gas tank resin dissolves because of the ethanol alcohol. Metal gas tanks have a different issue where the “varnish” stains on the interior walls of the gas tank has a chemical reaction with the E-10 and the resulting debris falls to the bottom of the tank. Yes, even if the tank is metal many boats still experience problems transitioning from the “old” gas to the new E-10 Gas.
The tanks were being cleaned by the motion of the boat and the ethanol dissolved the buildup on the tanks’ interior. As that buildup fell off the tank walls it collected in the bottom of the tank. The buildup was eventually pulled into the gasoline supply line which plugged the fuel filter, stalling the engine.
The owners preferred to run it home and get the work done to the boat in their own marina. I correctly figured the problem was just a clogged fuel filter and decided to purchase an armful of fuel filters to complete the trip home. We rented a car in Baltimore and stopped at every marine store we could to purchase the Sierra Brand spin on gasoline filters as we drove to Bear, DE on the C&D Canal. Without exaggeration, I think we purchased 16 filters to complete the trip.
Daybreak and we are off. The evening before I changed the filters and had prepared a simple system to change them on the run. I placed a plastic dishpan, filter wrench and other tools so I could swap filters ASAP.
Being cautious we idled North and East in the C&D Canal so we would not stall in the ship traffic or current. As we turned right and headed down the Delaware River we were ready for adventure. We didn’t get far before the first engine stalled. After pulling the throttles back to idle I killed the bad engine while Alyse ran the boat on the other engine. Remember we are in the Delaware River: I change the filter, place the waste gasoline on the aft deck and we take off. It isn’t too long the before other engine stalls. Repeat the filter swap procedure and take off again. We do this leap frog procedure all the way to Cape May NJ. Since we were loosing light we decided to spend the night in Cape May then start again the next morning, idling through the harbor and into the ocean before throttling up to cruise speed of 19 knots. As we roll around in the ocean the filters start to clog again. We begin the filter change routine, repeat again and again. I start to feel like a pit crew in NASCAR. The weather is getting nasty so we put into Atlantic City, NJ to purchase more filters and rest…well, after strolling the famous boardwalk THEN we rest.
Next day we take off and change more filters as we ride along in the ocean. We eventually arrive at the south end of Long Beach Island, NJ and wonder how do we get into the “Local Knowledge ONLY” Little Egg Inlet. Today it is easy, Sunday afternoon there are hundreds of boaters returning from their weekend so we just follow larger boats than our and have no trouble finding the channel to head up to Beach Haven Yacht Club.
Everybody calls me Pa Pa because I always have a plan B, so I radio the yacht club to stand by in case we experience another engine failure. As we back into the slip with an ebbing tide another engine stalls. Fortunately we have help to walk us into the slip and shut her down. The fuel polishing and tank cleaning man is already scheduled to start on the boat Monday.
Monday he arrives and we discuss my thoughts on the fuel issues. Delivery complete, we rent a car and drive back to Baltimore. We later learn the tanks were cleaned, fuel hoses replaced and lines blown clear of debris. The owners now have a fine operating boat since the gas tank and fuel system have been cleaned and now work well with the E-10 Gasoline.
Read more about E-10 Gas in marine magazines to learn how you can plan the transition. E-10 gas is now the norm on the US East Coast from Virginia up through Maine. I have recently seen automotive gas stations in Florida with the E-10 sticker on their gas pump. Beware, it may end up in your dinghy or scooter.