Sailing News

Newly Reformulated Gasoline with Ethanol Could Rupture Old Fiberglass Gas Tanks

Explosion Hazard and Significant Engine Damage Evidenced on Large, Older Vessels

Older fiberglass fuel tanks may fail as a result of recent gasoline reformulations that are using increased concentrations of the fuel additive ethanol.

BoatU.S. believes that as a result of industry-wide changes in fiberglass resin formulations in the mid 1980's, the problem appears to be limited to tanks manufactured prior to this date. Diesel fuel systems are not affected. The fiberglass fuel tanks in question were standard equipment on some Hatteras, Bertram and possibly other boats. While the investigation is still in the preliminary stage, BoatU.S. believes that reformulations made to gasoline in the Long Island Sound area that replaced MTBE (Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether) in late 2004 with a 10% concentration of ethanol is causing the additive to "attack" the resin in the old fiberglass tanks. The results are weakened tank walls and bottoms with the potential to leak.

Anytime gasoline leaks into the bilge, there is a significant risk of an explosion.

BoatU.S. has confirmed reports of tank wall failure in which gasoline was found leaking into the bilge. It also has reports of a tar-like substance - possibly created from the chemical reaction between the older fiberglass resin and ethanol - causing hard black deposits that damage intake valves and pushrods, ultimately destroying the engine.

"At a minimum the problem can devalue a boat significantly since replacing damaged fuel tanks and engines can be a significant expense. However, the potential for leaking and explosion is a far greater factor," said Chuck Fort, associate editor of Seaworthy, the damage avoidance newsletter from BoatU.S.

BoatU.S. is asking boaters for any firsthand reports or other information they may have on the issue and is doing additional testing to evaluate the extent of the problem. "We'd like to know if other gasoline reformulations with lesser concentrations of ethanol react with the resin, perhaps at a slower pace," said Fort.

The increasing use of ethanol has largely been the result of federal and state efforts to replace MTBE, a potential carcinogen, with a safer alternative. MTBE and ethanol oxygenate fuel to help reduce harmful emissions when running cold engines just after startup. BoatU.S. has no reports from other states using lesser concentrations of ethanol. "Many well-regarded boat manufacturers have used fiberglass tanks reliably for years," said Fort. "But unforeseen by these builders, the new reformulation in New York and Connecticut includes a high percentage of ethanol. And unfortunately, gasoline with ethanol is the only fuel available to boaters in these areas," he added. Some stations in New Jersey may also be using ethanol-enhanced fuel.

Early symptoms may include engine backfiring and hard (sluggish) starting, in which the motor turns over slowly as though the battery were weak.
Affected engines also may not reach their rated RPM. Fort said,

"Ironically, the substance seems to pass through fuel filters leaving no tell-tale marks - some have appeared clean on our reports. The only way to know for certain is to pull the carburetor and inspect the underside for a black, gummy film which can indicate a serious problem."

Until it fully understands the extent of the issue, BoatU.S. is recommending that any early 1980's or older vessel with fiberglass gas tanks be stored empty over the winter.

If you have any information on the issue, please contact Fort at 703-461-2878, ext. 3033 or email

Sailors World Expands to Bayfield, WI

We are pleased to announce the opening of a new sales office in downtown Bayfield, Wisconsin where we are featuring our New Island Packet Sailing Yachts 37-51’ and Packet Craft Express 40’ Power Cruiser. New Catalina sales and used and brokerage listings will also be featured as we attempt to work closer with our Great Lakes customers.

“Our main office remains in Wayzata, Minnesota on Lake Minnetonka where most of the new inventory will remain,” according to Gary DeSantis owner of Sailor’s World.

Our Bayfield office will help us connect better with our current and potential customers that generally live in the areas in the cities near our main office but like some more contact and service nearer the area where they use their yacht and hopefully we can better serve them now.

The address for our Bayfield office is 24 100 Rittenhouse Avenue, Bayfield, WI 54814. We are right across the street from the Bayfield Inn. Captain Dave Skoro will be manning the office as we move towards spring.

But to reach us in the off season our main office number of 952-475-3443 is still the best one. The Bayfield number is 715-779-5203.

Heading South For The Winter? Or North For The Summer?

Low Cost Rental EPIRB Option From BOATU.S. Foundation

For thousands of boaters who summered up north and want to dodge winter's icy grip, fall is the time for the annual migration south. To save time or avoid shoaling many of these snowbirds elect to travel a portion of their trip outside the protected waters of the Intracoastal Waterway and venture into the open Atlantic Ocean. In an effort to bolster marine safety, the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety & Clean Water can provide these cruisers with a much-needed lifeline - a low cost 406MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

This rental program makes these $800 life-saving devices available as low as $50 per week as a public service. Reservations can be made online up to six months in advance at or by calling 888-663-7472. The rental fee includes round trip shipping via three-day service and the BoatU.S. Foundation handles all of the critical registration information.

"By going online we can have an EPIRB delivered to your door in a matter of days," said David Carter, manager of the BoatU.S. EPIRB Rental Program.

Carter also cautioned against borrowing an EPIRB from another vessel as it could hamper rescue efforts. "The EPIRB registration information is married to the vessel. You don't want the authorities looking for the wrong boat," he said.

The BoatU.S Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit education and research organization.

Shorewood Yacht Club Under New Ownership

As we bring in the new year, the Shorewood Yacht Club will bring in some new faces. On January 3rd, Gabriel Jabbour and Mike Maloney purchased the Yacht Club from previous owners John and Judy Cross.

Gabriel Jabbour is a resident of Orono, MN and owner of the Tonka Bay Marina. Mike Maloney, Excelsior, MN is a retired Northwest Airlines mechanic, life time sailor and is the General Manager and onsite contact for the marina.

"We are anxious to get the ball rolling for the 2006 sailing season," said Mike. As the Ensign fleet captian and active racing member of the Wayzata Yacht Club, Mike is hoping to establish Mutual cooperation between the lakes Yacht Clubs.

Shorewood Yacht Club will offer an array of affordable services, Specificlly for sailboats, including complete masthead service as well as mast up or down storage. The marina offers 117 deep water slips on Guideon's bay, the most protected harbor on Lake Minnetonka. In addition, Shorewood Yacht club offers all the advantages of a full service marina including assigned slips and winter storage, plus the fellowship of a yacht club possessing full facilities including a club house for members and their guests.

For more information on the Shorewood Yacht Club, call 952-474-0600.

BigFish Sailboat Giveaway at The Minneapolis Boat Show

Kare11-TV has partnered with the Minneapolis Boat Show, Island Packet Yachts and the local Island Packet Dealer, Sailor’s World, to give away a new sixteen foot BigFish board sailboat. The boat is valued at over $4,000.

The New BigFish is as roomy and stable as they come for this type of board boat. Its simplicity and cockpit room for two adults set it apart from the rest.

She pops right up on a plane and is built so well by Island Packet, your grandchildren will be passing it on to their grandchildren. The BigFish equals Big Fun!