Tom Benak of Saunders Yachtworks removes Betty Jane's fuel
The AlgaeSep itself is impressively designed and built. On the back of its thick, aluminum mounting plate is a beefy, interconnecting matrix of top-notch Eaton Aeroquip fuel hoses and brass JIC fittings. On the front there's a control box with on/off toggle; a high-water alert light; an auto-off switch that automatically shuts down the unit after a set period of operation; an electric pump (12- and 24-volt versions are available); a couple of threaded-brass connectors, one for suction and the other for supply; and finally, the piece de resistance, a canister-type dynamic fuel/water separator with screw-on, secondary "debris filter" on top and clear sight glass with a valved drain to remove water and contaminants on the bottom. The separator's the heart of the AlgaeSep—it contains a proprietary "coalescer" that relies on fluid motion, flow patterns, and special metal plates to remove contaminants.
The evening before installation day, I took Betty Jane over to a small, commercial marina behind the Saunders facility and docked her amidst a fleet of shrimp boats waiting out bad weather. Since Saunders planned to replumb the sight gauges on my fuel tanks so each would accommodate the AlgaeSep's suction and return lines, the contents of said tanks had to be temporarily emptied into 55-gallon drums, a task more suited to a commercial marina than a recreational one. I slept onboard peacefully that night, despite a howling wind laden with conversational snippets from partying shrimpers.
Saunders' Bruce Forehand pulls wire.
Four Saunders guys arrived the next morning and began the work. After pumping Betty Jane's fuel off without spilling a drop, they connected the AlgaeSep to a spare breaker on my 12-volt electrical panel, fabricated and connected a series of Aeroquip hoses and ball valves, and gave the system a try. The entire job took nine hours; the tab for said job, had I forked over the cash myself, would have run roughly $3,900 ($2,300 for the unit and approximately $1,600 for the installation).
Once I'd returned Betty Jane to my marina the following day, I flicked on the AlgaeSep for a couple of hours—the unit can be operated whether the engine's running or not, a big advantage—then drained a dollop of fuel from the sight glass into a clear container. While there was no sign of water, a profusion of black specs covered the bottom, a hopeful sign if ever there was one.
Indeed, the diesel fuel in Betty Jane's tanks may be twiddlin' its thumbs these days, but the water and gunk that once threatened its usefulness is either going or flat-out gone.
This article originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.