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I spoke to Tom Gordon recently when I was looking at a 2002 Hells Bay Waterman.  I'd heard that a number of older Hells Bay skiff were requiring fuel tank replacement due to corrosion..  Tom gave me some information about increasing the lifespan of aluminum tanks.

First of all, most of the tanks that are having problems are the ones that Hells Bay bedded with some sort of "putty" to help prevent vibration issues.  When you take a wave over the bow, which happens at times when posted up for tarpon in very windy conditions or keep wet anchor lines in the bow compartment, the water will creep in between the putty and the tank and sit there for years. This will eventually corrode the tank and cause leaks..

Tom Gordon said:

Whether you have your tanks puttied in or not (my HB is not puttied in) you should rinse out the front compartment every 6 months or so..

1) Disconnect and remove any batteries in the front compartment.
2) Get a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with soapy water (warm soapy water is best, so let the bucket sit in the sun for an hour).
3) Pour 5 to 10 gallons into the front compartment. ** NOT INTO THE TANK **
4) Raise the trailer jack as high as it will go and rock the boat back and forth and side to side for a few minutes.
5) Lower the tongue jack all the way down and scoop out as much water as possible, followed by a shop vac or towels to remove as much water as possible.
6) Keep hatch open until it is dry.  A fan directed into the hatch speeds up the process..
7) Crack a cold one...  Your done!

Tom said that this should easily double the life of your fuel tank..

I hope this helps.  I know that I'll be doing this twice a year from now on..

PS...  Does this boat look familiar? ;D ;D ;D

 

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Yes that's all true in theory however if this maintenance has not been done from day one, doing it now will not make a difference.

Once aluminum begins to pit the corrosion is like a cancer. The best way to protect a bare aluminum fuel cell is to weld angle aluminum mounts to lift it off the floor and ground it. As long as air can make contact with aluminum it will not corrode to the point of pitting. As for failure from vibration I do not have any experience with that.

The best way to protect your tank is to not foam it in place and either powder coat or better line x and support it on small neoprene pads.

Congrats on the skiff. It's a beauty.
 

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SeaArk 1860 MVT
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I've been doing that for quite awhile but I think the warm water may be a bit overboard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've been doing that for quite awhile but I think the warm water may be a bit overboard.
I agree, I just use water warmed by the sun.. I don't see myself breaking out the gear for a low country boil, just to wash the front compartment of my skiff... ;D
 

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devilray snob
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I wonder if this is a good regiment to start with one a new skiff with an open bulkhead and mounted aluminum tank in the bow...
 

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I wonder if this is a good regiment to start with one a new skiff with an open bulkhead and mounted aluminum tank in the bow...
It is a good idea for any boat that has an exposed tank. I always tell people to once a year rinse the outside of the tank the best they can and try to leave the hatch open for all the compartments even the bilge area you will be suprised how much it helps.

This just takes it a step further which won't hurt!
 

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Resurrecting an old one here...

Instead of buckets and towels to remove water, you can also siphon it out. Pretty simple if you have some hose or tubing and don’t have a wet vac.
 

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Yes that's all true in theory however if this maintenance has not been done from day one, doing it now will not make a difference.

Once aluminum begins to pit the corrosion is like a cancer. The best way to protect a bare aluminum fuel cell is to weld angle aluminum mounts to lift it off the floor and ground it. As long as air can make contact with aluminum it will not corrode to the point of pitting. As for failure from vibration I do not have any experience with that.

The best way to protect your tank is to not foam it in place and either powder coat or better line x and support it on small neoprene pads.

Congrats on the skiff. It's a beauty.


you're correct on the allowing air to circulate around and under the tank.


tanks sitting on rubber/neoprene strips is bad - these will hold moisture.after saltwater evaporates,salt is left - that salt wicks moisture - not a good thing
I've had fuel tanks leaking under those strips more times than I can count.believe it or not,the neoprene/rubber will form somewhat of a gasket,sealing the tank.you'll get a fuel odor,but very little leakage.when the tank is removed - you see the damage.

powder coat,line x - sounds like a good idea.it will fail.i've seen fuel tanks wrapped in fiberglass,these failed quickly as well.
2 ways to protect aluminum fuel tanks: epoxy barrier coat,or coal tar epoxy.prep is to be followed,do not skip proper prep ! new tanks - clean with solvent,scuff sand,clean with solvent again,chemical etch prime - then apply the coating - I like and use interprotect 2000e,make that coating thick as a matchbook cover - this will make the tank bulletproof....

do not use bronze fittings on an aluminum tank - this will cause a galvanic reaction !

unprotected aluminum will corrode...

rinsing a fuel tank is a good habit to get into - I do not like soap and water - I like salt a way and water...

fuel systems are the most overlooked maintenance item on a boat - fill hose,vent hose and motor feed hose,all these have a finite life,most owners wait till there's a problem,before replacing hosing.take a proactive approach - inspect your fuel system at least every 3 months.
 

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I Love microskiff.com!
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you're correct on the allowing air to circulate around and under the tank.


tanks sitting on rubber/neoprene strips is bad - these will hold moisture.after saltwater evaporates,salt is left - that salt wicks moisture - not a good thing
I've had fuel tanks leaking under those strips more times than I can count.believe it or not,the neoprene/rubber will form somewhat of a gasket,sealing the tank.you'll get a fuel odor,but very little leakage.when the tank is removed - you see the damage.

powder coat,line x - sounds like a good idea.it will fail.i've seen fuel tanks wrapped in fiberglass,these failed quickly as well.
2 ways to protect aluminum fuel tanks: epoxy barrier coat,or coal tar epoxy.prep is to be followed,do not skip proper prep ! new tanks - clean with solvent,scuff sand,clean with solvent again,chemical etch prime - then apply the coating - I like and use interprotect 2000e,make that coating thick as a matchbook cover - this will make the tank bulletproof....

do not use bronze fittings on an aluminum tank - this will cause a galvanic reaction !

unprotected aluminum will corrode...

My old 1987 Hoog Hornet had a tar coated and glass wrapped, still in service with no issues and tank in in the bilge compartment.

rinsing a fuel tank is a good habit to get into - I do not like soap and water - I like salt a way and water...

fuel systems are the most overlooked maintenance item on a boat - fill hose,vent hose and motor feed hose,all these have a finite life,most owners wait till there's a problem,before replacing hosing.take a proactive approach - inspect your fuel system at least every 3 months.
 

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I believe all major manufacturers are now powder coating tanks and have been for a good while with great success.
 
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