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Dirona carries 1735 gallons of diesel for the main engine: 835 gallons
in each side tank and 65 gallons in the day tank. (We also have a 10-gallon
supply tank for the auxiliary engine). Although 1735 gallons would have been fine
for the roughly 2,000nm
trip between San Francisco and Hawaii, we added 532 gallons in cockpit bladder
tanks for that run. We did this for two reasons: 1) it allowed us to run
faster (at additional fuel cost) and 2) we wanted to test the practicality of
fuel bladders for longer offshore runs.
We went with ATL FueLocker
bladders. ATL bladders had a good reputation with other boat owners, and
from his car-racing days, James knew they could smack the wall at 200 MPH
without leaking. We
two 300-gallon bladders with tie down-kits--these would come close to
filling the cockpit, leaving space to walk around them, but little room for the
bladders to shift should they come loose. The only question was how the extra
weight would affect boat trim.
We air-filled the bladders with a vacuum cleaner so they would be roughly the right size
and shape as when filled with fuel, but light and easy to move. Once we'd
determined the positioning for them, we installed extra pad-eyes on the cockpit
walls and on the floor under the barbeque console to attach the tie-down
One side-effect of getting the bladders was that our Westminster teak
extension table in the cockpit would have to go. We sold it on Craigslist
and replaced it with a slightly smaller
We also purchased SunShields for the bladders, mainly to protect them from UV
rays. But they also provide abrasion and heat resistance. And on the trip
across, the straps did wear the covers a bit, so we were glad to have them. The
picture below shows the bladders ready to be filled in Oakland with the
We filled the bladders with air first to get everything properly placed, then
deflated them just prior to fueling. Our teak
chairs and the
flopper-stopper plate are secured against the aft cockpit wall. We normally
secure these on either side of the cockpit, but the bladders filled that area.
And the folding table, normally strapped-down by its base in the cockpit, is
secured to the starboard walkway.
When we put the pad-eyes in for the bladder tie-downs, we also installed
two in the ceiling above each
bladder to support the fill standpipe when fueling. We tied a small line
to the standpipe, ran it up and over the pad-eye to a cleat and adjusted the line as the bladders filled.
The bladders are spec'd at 300 gallons but felt fairly full at 266, so we stopped there.
It may have been possible to fit considerably more in, but we didn’t push it.
With the bladders full, the boat did go down a couple of inches at the stern,
but the swimstep was still well above of the water.
We were carrying 2,277 gallons of diesel: 835 in each supply tank, 65 in the day tank,
10 in the wing engine tank and 266 in each bladder. #2 diesel weighs 7.1
lbs/gallon so the total weight we carried in fuel when we sailed from Oakland
was 16,167 lbs. That is more than half the weight of our
previous boat, a 40’
Below are shots taken underway. The bladders seemed quite secure, with no
obvious impact on boat trim.
are not very stable when partially full, so we emptied them completely on the third day out
when the main tanks had drained enough.
To transfer fuel, we had installed
a half-inch fuel hose from a
Camlock quick-connect fitting at a bulkhead in the cockpit back to the fuel manifold. A
short section of hose with Camlocks on either end connects the bladders to the
with a valve at each bladder end to control flow.
This way we can use
our fuel transfer pump to pull fuel directly from the deck bladder tanks, through a filter and into one of the side tanks.
This had several advantages over the more standard method of pumping from the
bladder into the deck fill using an external pump:
We left the empty bladders in place on deck for a few days, with the tie-downs
tightened to hold them securely. On a calm day underway, we tilted them to drain
the last 20 or so gallons out, hosed them down and stowed them in the flybridge brow.
When we arrived at Hilo, we had used 1,746 gallons so were 12,397 lbs
lighter. Here are our fuel stats for trip:
Our cruising guide, Waggoner sister publication
Cruising the Secret Coast, is available
at local bookstores and online. Click book image for details.