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Adventures in Fueling - Courtney Kirchoff Adventures in Fueling - Courtney Kirchoff

Adventures in Fueling

 One thing I love about living on the hook is living privately, quietly, and having a 360 water view. Life on the hook is abundantly pleasant.

Winter moorage officially ended on May 1. Tuesday was my first day back on the dock to fuel and fill up my water tank. Like all boating tasks, even fueling is an adventure. Let’s talk about that, shall we?

I’ve never filled the diesel tank before, as Libby is the cutest little sailboat and her captain hates running the motor. Okay, perhaps hate is a strong word. Anyhow, the surveyor and boat listing put the tank capacity at 10 gallons, but Ron, sailboat whisperer, said that was pure poppycock. Turns out Ron was, as usual, totally right. But that’s not the point of this story.

Fellow liveaboards have been making plans to get the heck out of here, and I’ve been jealous. I have a boat, I should go places too! Of course I went in for fuel at low tide, so low that the usually floating buildings were tipped and resting on mud. And, as I approached the fuel dock, a gracious attendant yelled down to me that they couldn’t fuel as they were out of water. Naturally. I have such timing and luck.

I swung around and docked, so I could at least plug in and fill my water tank, and as I was pretending that I knew how to tie a rolling hitch for my spring line, a large and shiny sailboat (looked like an Oyster to me) approached the fuel dock, but was, like me, turned away. This is part of the story, I promise.

There we are, charging our batteries, hull being cleaned and sprayed by moi, when one of the looked-like-an-Oyster-to-me owners came up and asked how many gallons I was getting, as they were in line to get fuel, and would I be untying and getting fuel soon because they needed fuel but I was first. I said she could go first, as I was charging my batteries, but she insisted and said they’d be buying more fuel than me. The woman was quite gracious and friendly, but I could tell she wanted me to haul ass and fuel up.

I untied, coiled up my cord, abandoned the hose and sponge, and pulled out to go get fuel so the looked-like-an-Oyster-to-me boat could get its fill of diesel, too.

Never having fueled directly into the boat before, I had no idea it would take me that long. My boat is a 1972 Islander, and I point that out because my boat is OLD. Before my time. Before my parent’s met, even. Sorry if you’re reading this and you were born that year, or like my mother, graduated from high school in 1972. I don’t mean to imply you are old, only that my boat’s fueling system isn’t state of the art. The diesel frothed and bubbled and liked to peek out the top of the fuel cap, so I didn’t so much pump the fuel as I did drip it in  to keep from spilling. Think feeding a baby bird with an eye-dropper. I hate people who spill gallons of fuel all over everywhere and stink up the marina because they were impatient, and I’m pleased to tell you that I’m not one of them.

Keeping in mind that looked-like-an-Oyster-to-me boat owner was standing/hovering over me (she helped me tie up to the dock and seemed like a great woman, but a hoverer is a hoverer), and I’m now standing at the stern of my boat in some kind of yoga position that ensured every muscle was screaming at me, and we were approaching the magical time of 4 pm when the port, by law, must shut off their fuel, who happens to come up but another boater who needs fuel. A motor boat owner. Those guys don’t need fuel, they need Saudi Arabia. I was bird-feeding my tank a humble ten gallons, but those people need the Persian Gulf to get anywhere.

Looked-like-an-Oyster-to-me boat lady, let’s call her “Pearl,” and the fuel attendant (who’s name I’m keeping anonymous on purpose) told the guy that two people needed to fuel up before he could. For some reason this guy, let’s call him “Ned” had modified his boat electrical system to take 50 amps rather than the standard 30. Yeah, it’s a head-scratcher, but some people are that way. Ned, thinking that I’ll be fast and Pearl will be quick, goes up to a marine store to look for the proper power adapter.

Meanwhile the diesel fuel is still bubbling and frothing and reminded me of that nasty fluid the dentist gives you as a kid and tells you to swirl around in your mouth for like 2 minutes.

Pearl, still there, is carrying on a conversation and I find out that before this boat, which is not an Oyster but a Fantasy 47, she and her husband had a Baba 40. Ah! And that they still went to the Baba rendevous because wow, what great boats. This conversation did not help my lusting problem when it comes to Babas. I told Pearl that I had my heart set on a Baba or a Tashiba, and she told me all about how comfortable they are in all things sailing. Sigh.

Ned comes back, not having any luck with finding the proper cables for his 50 amp system, and makes a beeline for me. I do not even look up to see his face, so I couldn’t describe him to you, which is awfully good for Ned.

“How many gallons are you getting?” Ned asks, hovering over me, looking over my shoulder, observing the delicacy of which I’m fueling my boat.

“Ten,” I said.

“Does your boat have a vent?” Ned asks, scanning.

“No,” I replied.

“Does it always take this long to fuel?”

“Yes,” I said. Yeah, I know this was my first time fueling, but still. Not his business.

Ned sees my fueling progress, looks for a vent on my boat (because what do I know about my own boat?), then talks with Pearl about how many gallons she needs for her boat (100), and she tells him that her boat has three fueling locations and they open up all of them to speed the process along. And there I am, crouched in a position that would make Buddhists proud but which made my feet numb, thinking dark and twisted thoughts about Ned.

Drip, drip, drip goes the fuel. Pause to let it vent. Drip, drip, drip. 6.5 gallons. 6.7 gallons. 7 gallons…

Ned leaves to get his boat ready to fuel up, as Pearl has decided she’ll bring her boat back tomorrow, when she has time and when her boat can make into the fueling station without hitting the bottom.

I tell the Port attendant that I could never have her job, because all I wanted to do was jump out of my boat and beat the crap out of that guy. What I really wanted to say to Ned, and I wish I had, was that as far as I knew, having five people looking over my shoulder watching me fuel my boat, did not, strangely enough, speed the process along! And good for Ned that he left when he did and did not have to experience my dark and twisted imagination, nor my kickboxing trained muscles.

I’d pulled my boat in for fueling on a Tuesday, when there was no one there, at 2:30, which had the Port not run out of water, would’ve been plenty of time. Another thing I should’ve told Ned that I said to the attendant: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” Ten gallons of fuel is paltry compared to 100 or however many Mr. Ned the 50 amp boat owner needed, and anyone with that kind of fuel thirst should arrive at a station with hours of time.

Moral of the story? I wish I’d spoken my mind and gotten Ned to back the eff off as I fueled my boat, as I was there first. I hope to never fuel on the weekend, as I learned from the attendant that fueling is a blood-thirsty endeavor, akin to the gladiators entering the arena. Okay, I added the last part, but I think the analogy is a good one. Also, ten gallons brought my fuel gauge up to 3/4 of a tank, so I’m betting both the boat listing and surveyor were smoking crack, my fuel tank holds more than ten gallons.

And, when you fill up water or fuel, and some wind starts a-blowing, the liquid will slosh around the tanks. Yep, I know this from the previous night’s sleeping experience, as my water tank is below my v-berth. Since I was running on the E but now I’m closer to the F, my diesel also likes to make its presence known when the boat moves.

Second moral of the story? If you need to fuel, but see a girl filling up her sailboat’s tank, just assume that not-so-deep within her is a ferocious ninja just waiting to try out a spinning hook kick on someone who asks her “how much longer is this going to take?” Don’t let the blonde hair fool you.

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Copyright 2018. Courtney Kirchoff.