Safety First
Courtesy of John Hughes
1970 MK-I Sloop SARAH

I've got another "safety first" bit of advice (along the lines of "don't get trapped in the seatlocker"). I was reminded of it a month ago when I was helping a friend try to get his Columbia 40 ready to go around the world.

When you're working on the electrics, and you have to keep connecting/disconnecting things (like a battery being hooked up to the engine so you can turn it over, but NOT being hooked up while you're messing with other things), you really, REALLY, want to keep the battery in a battery box, with an insulated cover over it. Once (many years ago) I had the battery cover off, and was working with a 12 inch crescent wrench nearby. It slipped from my hand and as luck would have it, managed to end up across the battery terminals. There was a loud "pop" and it bounced off. My crescent wrench now has two "weld spots" with brownish-black stuff around them as a reminder of my stupidity. If it had stuck rather than bouncing, I'd have surely had a fire (complete with lots of boiling sulfuric acid) on my hands.

Another expensive lesson from last summer: never trust anyone with your fuel.

Before leaving for Maine , I topped up my 18-gallon tank with about 3 gallons so that we could motor the whole way (about 30 hours) if we had to. As we approached the coast of Maine , the wind started to ease up a bit, and we thought we'd start the engine, which we'd run for a few hours the previous evening. I did my quick morning engine-check (oil, xmission oil, belts, coolant level, Racor filter to check for water/junk in the fuel). Everything looked fine except the Racor: the little conical piece at the top of the see-through bowl looked as if it was made of wax and had melted -- long drips of plastic were hanging down to the bottom of the bowl, sort of like a lava-lamp. I drained a little fuel onto a paper towel and instantly understood the problem: those last 3 gallons were gasoline, not diesel! So...we sailed into Boothbay Harbor rather than motoring up to Tenant's Harbor, and I spent a day and a half emptying the fuel tank, replacing the Racor, and generally being annoyed. Disposing of 18 gallons of fuel, plus buying a new filter unit, cost me about $350 by the time all was said and done. And it was all because the marina where I filled up had some fancy system where the hoses were on the dock, but the metering was all up in a room at the head of the dock, and all three hoses were the same color, and ... well, you get the idea. From now on, I smell the end of the nozzle before it gets near my fuel-fill.