|This Could Happen to You|
Onboard fires do occur, even on the best-run vessels. Here’s expert advice on how to avoid being a victim.
By Elizabeth A. Ginns — April 2003
You’re at the helm, cruising along, when all of a sudden, you smell smoke. Looking over your shoulder, you see smoke rising from the cockpit. Hoping it’s not what you think it is (because surely this couldn’t happen to you, right?), you reduce speed, turn the helm over to your copilot, and go take a look. There, your worst nightmare is confirmed: You have an onboard fire.
Though you might not want to admit it, the hypothetical situation above could happen to you. We all know that safety and security are top concerns on any vessel, and, if you’ve been keeping up with your PMY reading, you’ve learned about a number of new, high-tech security and safety products that allow owners to monitor the engine room to quickly detect such problems. While such technological advancements improve overall safety, the threat of an onboard fire remains a real possibility.
However, taking simple precautionary measures, like outfitting your boat with the proper fire-prevention and fire-extinguishing equipment and knowing how to handle fire when it occurs, could mean the difference between simply having damaged property and something much more tragic and far less repairable. Here are some simple steps to ensure fire doesn’t happen to you.
Before even leaving the dock, remove all flammable chemicals and cleaners from your boat. If you’re in the process of refinishing the wood or doing other painting, leave the thinners, teak oil, varnishes, and rags you’ve used behind. Never keep aerosol cans onboard—if they overheat or ignite, they will explode—and if you’re towing a tender, keep its extra gasoline tank in the tender itself. If your tender will be aboard, stow the tank in a remote, well-ventilated space—lashed to the swim platform is perfect. Wherever your tank is, don’t allow anyone to smoke around it. Gasoline is extremely volatile. To put it into perspective, gasoline has a flashpoint of around 40°F, while diesel fuel’s flashpoint is between 125° and 150°F. Handle gasoline carefully!
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.