December 2006 -- I don't want to rant. However, this is my web site and I pay for it, so what the heck.
As of Nineteen-2006 (grin) Stella Blue is 25 years old.
Gosh, she's 25. Maybe it's time to get a divorce, and trade her in on a younger model.
I have heard many stories from other folks about insurance
issues when a boat crosses the 25 year mark.
Some insurers will refuse coverage. My insurer was cool, and requested a photo survey.
That's actually a nice approach. The alternative would be a professional survey, at my expense.
Note that I don't have my boat insured for blue water offshore
I'm insured for coastal sailing in Northern California, and at the moment that's fine.
Next, I was required to install a fixed fire extinguisher
with automatic discharge. That was a real challenge,
because I really don't have any good place to mount one.
Space in the back end of my boat is very, very tight.
The only place to mount a fixed extinguisher
would have been so far out of the way that I would probably forget that it was installed, and would forget to maintain it.
The insurance company gave me another option, though, which was to purchase
a handheld unit that uses a "Halocarbon" clean agent.
This one is made by Fireboy and is mounted under
the nav station (right next to the companionway.)
It is big enough to flood the entire back of the boat.
The access door for the engine area has a nice, big hole for fingers.
I extended the hole through the sound absorbing foam, and lined it with a little PVC pipe fitting.
Adding smoke detectors, the first requirement,
was no big deal.
It was clear, though, that the surveyor didn't know much about IOR era
It was recommended that I put a smoke detector in each sleeping area, the main cabin and the engine room.
Since I can walk the length of the interior
in three strides, I think one detector will be fine.
This one is USCG approved for marine use.
I put it around the corner from the galley.
The second one, in the engine compartment, was a concern.
Engine areas can get messy, and when I rebuilt mine I made sure I could hose it down occasionally.
So the detector in the engine room is up next to
the voltage regulator and the A/B switch to the starter.
This is one area I know will never get hosed down!
The fire extinguisher fits tight into that hole, and can be discharged into the engine room without opening the door.
My engine room area isn't really "enclosed",
but after working through the worksheets on the Fireboy site, I believe that the entire area is no more than 150 cubic feet.
It's important to note that on my boat, the engine area is
ventilated using a blower, with the exhaust right next to the helm in the
cockpit. If the engine area catches fire,
it will be immediately apparent from the cockpit. In addition, all of the instruments at the helm would stop working as the wires are very small and run right over the engine.
I think the surveyor was more familiar with power boats.
A 38 foot powerboat has tons of room, and the engines are a long way from the helm. On a 38 foot sailboat,
(especially ones from the IOR era,) the engine is about two feet away from the helm, and if there's a fire
smoke will be coming out all over the place.
I used Permatex goop to put a good seal on the valve fitting.
This is the same goop that I used for all my fuel line fittings.
Here's where I got really annoyed.
This model Racor is not UL Listed for marine use, and I must upgrade it.
The USCG only requires a UL Listed fuel filter for commercial or charter boats, and this is the only type of Racor stocked by marine chandleries in the San Francisco Bay area. This is also the most common filter on recreational boats. The commercial filter
was a special order.
However, the cost of the upgrade was less than the cost of challenging the insurance company, and potentially having to get an on-site marine survey done at my expense.
I was given the option of purchasing parts and upgrading the existing unit, so that it would have a metal flame deflector and a metal drain valve, instead of this plastic one.
After a great deal of research, I purchased $190 of spare parts to upgrade the old Racor. As I wasn't sure of the actual year of manufacture, I bought a new bowl as well.
Bowls built after 1998 have a slightly different flange,
which is required
for the O-Ring to seal properly.
What the heck, my old bowl was
scratched up anyway.
Note that I spent as much as an entire new 500MA filter
would have cost.
Yes, I'm an idiot.
I didn't want to have to disassemble my entire fuel distribution panel to mount a new bracket.
On the advice of a marine mechanic, I also
UL Approved drain valve. This is exactly like the valves that are mounted on my new fuel tank. However, since it came from Racor and is UL approved for use on fuel filters,
it cost twice as much.
On the left is the default drain plug assembly
that comes with the 500MA filters, which has passed UL and USCG approvals.
The default plug is just screwed in, and taking it off to drain water out
of the bowl will spray diesel fuel all over the place. I don't think that's
I would recommend the valve assembly
to anyone performing this upgrade.
Here's the entire new bowl and flame resistant metal assembly.
Here we are.
Installed and in place.
Note that a metal plug must be screwed into the bottom
of the metal drain valve to pass USCG inspection.
Of course, I'm not a commercial or a charter vessel,
so I'll never undergo such an inspection.
It's important to mention, as well, that retrofitting
an old Racor with the new bowl assembly doesn't result in a UL approved
filter. The UL approval process requires that a complete assembly be tested.
The testing process is very expensive,
and a retrofitted unit has not been through
the testing process.
However, the objective of this exercise was to meet the requirements of my insurance company. They stated "... As an alternative to replacing this fuel filter with a Marine Listed filter, the metal flame bowl and bronze plug can be purchased and installed."
So that's what I did.
Now I can get back to *my* list of required safety projects.
My insurance company didn't mention it, but
in my opinion the next thing to do is rebuild the cockpit mounted manual bilge
pump. I know that the rubber diaphragm is 25 years old, so I bought a rebuild
kit and plan to replace all moving parts that can deteriorate with age.
To me, that's a bigger concern than fire.
Of course, I put the bowl assembly together
before disassembling the old Racor.
Note that the bowl has to fit through the big mounting ring,
and it won't pass with
that metal flame bowl in place.
Oops, I did it again.
So I took it all apart
and reassembled it in place.
At this point I also discovered that I had planned ahead,
and had put stainless steel T-Nuts on the backside of the mounting panel,
so that the filter could be easily removed from the front.
I'd forgotten that I'd done that.
However, I think the new 500MA uses a different mounting
bracket, and requires different holes.
So I'm probably better off doing the rebuild this way.