Please select your home edition
Edition
Marine Resource 2016

Avoiding Fire on your Sailing Boat

by Nancy Knudsen on 2 Sep 2008
Sailing boat on fire - Don’t let this be you .. .
Report of an explosion on board a sailing catamaran moored in Pwlheli Harbour in North Wales this week raises the question of how to keep one's yacht safe from fire.

The two crew were taken to hospital after the Holyhead coastguard received a 999 call. The cause of the blaze was under investigation according to the coastguard.

The 8 metre catamaran was about 100 metres off shore at the time. (picture below left)




Most fires on sailing boats are electrical or gas fires. The key to making sure your boat will not be prone to a fire is proper maintenance of gas and electrical systems.

Electrical Fire Prevention:

One very common scenario is leaving the boat hooked up to shore power during the winter, using a space heater, and not checking on the boat. The shore power plug can become a real hot spot.

Most electrical fires are a result of high resistance in a plug or other electrical device, creating enough heat to catch fire. High resistance occurs most often at connections. The shore power plug is just one of those connections. The others are connections between wires and electrical devices, connections in the panel box to a buss or to circuit breakers and fuses.

Corrosion is the main culprit. The damp environment leads to rapid corrosion. Corrosion does not conduct electricity very well. This can even occur in fuse holders, which are usually copper. Copper corrodes rapidly in a marine environment, especially if it’s saltwater.

Keep wiring out of the bilges. If your boat should flood during the winter, you may have to replace all the wiring and electrical equipment. Get it inspected by a certified MARINE electrician.

All electrical systems need to be inspected annually, at the least. Plugs and connectors should be kept clean and shiny. If you don’t use your boat very often, you should check EACH time you use the boat.

Here are the main checks:

-Check fuse blocks for corrosion and clean the contacts.
-Check circuit breakers for proper operation.
-Check electrical equipment for proper operation.
-If something keeps tripping the circuit break or blowing a fuse, find out why. Do not ignore it or jump the breaker or fuse. Fix the problem. Not doing so could mean a fire.
-If you have shore power, pull the plug on both ends and inspect the cord and both ends for corrosion. Do a resistance test. If it’s any more than 0 ohms, or at most 1 ohm, find out why.
-If the cord is getting old, cracking, getting soft, or frayed, replace it.
-Check the shore power socket on the boat. Is it clean and free from corrosion?
-Check the cap over the socket to make sure it is keeping moisture out of the socket.

Gas Fire Prevention:

Safe Handling of Gas Cylinders:
Be especially careful when handling the gas cylinders used onboard your boat. Follow these safety tips:
- install a gas detector on the boat;
- gas cylinders should be secured in a sealed, weatherproof container with low-level atmospheric vents;
- use only approved piping;
- isolated and secured gas cylinders when not in use;
- regularly hand-pump bilges to remove potential low-lying vapours;
- hatches and portholes should be opened sufficiently to provide ventilation if weather condition permits;
- any compartment which has not been used for some time should be ventilated thoroughly;
- do not leave a cooker or any other appliances unattended if there is a danger of a wind draft extinguishing the flame.

When Changing Gas Cylinders Aboard:
- check that the valve on the empty gas cylinder is turned off before disconnecting;
- ensure the full gas cylinder is secure before connecting;
- do not turn on the gas cylinder valves before connection is complete and has been checked;
- keep empty gas cylinders in the open air and secure them by a safety strap or other quick release device.

If a Fire Occurs on a Boat:
Preparation is the key to dealing with a fire, if and when it should occur. You should always make sure that everyone knows how to escape danger, where fire safety equipment is installed and how to make an emergency call. These are the essential points to remember:
- think of your own safety: get out and abandon ship immediately;
- isolate fuel and gas if possible;
- avoid getting too close to other craft and alert them to the danger posed by your boat;
- Always know where the emergency grab bag is and how to activate the life-raft. You won't have time to learn this once the fire has started.


Sail-World Cruising thanks 'New Boat Builders' for contribution to this article

Newport Boat Show 2016 660x82T Clewring J-classZhik Dinghy 660x82

Related Articles

The Clipper Race turns 20!
Throughout the race, tales of crew celebrating birthdays on board filter back and they are always a special occasion Throughout the race, tales of Clipper Race crew celebrating their birthdays on board filter back and they are always a special occasion, likely to remain a completely unique event in their lifetime.
Posted on 23 Aug
America's Cup - Architect of NZ Qualifier withdrawal steps down
The Commissioner for the America's Cup General Dr. Harvey Schiller has stepped down from the role The Commissioner for the America's Cup General Dr. Harvey Schiller has stepped down from the role and will finish at the end of the month. The move was confirmed today by America's Cup correspondent Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press.
Posted on 23 Aug
An Q&A with Steve and Heidi Benjamin about the NYYC’s 2016 Queen’s Cup
Sail-World caught up with Steve and Heidi Benjamin to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup. When it comes to U.S. Grand Prix sailing, it’s hard not to encounter the names of Steve and Heidi Benjamin. The two highly polished sailors have been successfully campaigning their series of yachts, named SPOOKIE, for years, starting first with a Carkeek 40 and progressing to their TP52. I caught up with Steve and Heidi to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup
Posted on 19 Aug
PredictWind - One stop shop
PredictWind have taken the bold step of adding government provided forecasts to their award winning forecasting software PredictWind the world leader in forecasting believe that more is better, and have taken the bold step of adding government provided forecasts to their award winning forecasting software.
Posted on 15 Aug
Rio 2016 - Fresher breezes expected inside and outside on Day 3
Stronger winds are expected for the third day of racing in the 2016 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Rio de Janeiro. Stronger winds are expected for the third day of racing in the 2016 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Rio de Janeiro. Two of the fleet scheduled to race outside on the Atlantic Ocean course off Copacabana Beach, while the 470 Men and Women will race inside on Guananara Bay.
Posted on 10 Aug
35 Copa del Rey Mapfre - Armin Strom Sailing Team in action
Armin Strom Sailing Team remain in contention for the top of the podium throughout the 35 Copa del Rey Mapfre this week. Heading the leaderboard from the start and quickly finding a ‘turbo’ foiling mode saw Armin Strom Sailing Team remain in contention for the top of the podium throughout the 35 Copa del Rey Mapfre this week.
Posted on 8 Aug
American Windsurfing Tour – Final day
Ferdinando Loffreda slashed his foot open in the campo last night so retires from the Pro bracket. Ferdinando Loffreda slashed his foot open in the campo last night so retires from the Pro bracket.
Posted on 7 Aug
35 Copa del Rey Mapfre - Final day images by Carlo Borlenghi
Carlo Borlenghi provided this gallery of images from the final day. Carlo Borlenghi provided this gallery of images from the final day.
Posted on 7 Aug
Azzurra wins 35th Copa del Rey Mapfre
Azzurra, the boat flying Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s burgee, has won 35th Copa del Rey Mapfre placing first in a race Azzurra, the boat flying the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s burgee, has won the 35th Copa del Rey Mapfre placing first in a race even in the final day of the event.
Posted on 7 Aug
Team Norauto wins the Copa del Rey Mapfre!
The showdown between New Zealanders, Adam Minoprio and Phil Robertson was battled out at the Copa del Rey in Palma. You could well hear 'well done mate!” on the dockside today in Palma. The showdown between New Zealanders, Adam Minoprio and Phil Robertson, both world champion match racers and both skippering the Norauto and Armin Strom GC32s, was battled out at the Copa del Rey in Palma.
Posted on 7 Aug