Our passage from Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun, Mexico to the west coast of Florida was 4 days. We left with 20 knots of wind, unfortunately blowing us toward the south coast of Cuba and not the west coast of Florida. We wanted to go to the south coast of Cuba, but NOT when we were on our way back to Florida for a much needed refit! So the diesel rumbled allowing us to “sail” closer to the wind, and closer to our destination. After about 20 miles out, the wind totally quit.
No forecast mentioned no wind and flat seas, what was THIS? Yikes! We have no fuel gauge, just a wooden dowel rod and with over 500 miles to go, we were already doing fuel calculations. Winterlude carries about 60 gallons of diesel in 2 tanks as well as 2 jerry jugs of diesel on deck. Depending on the conditions, we burn a half to three quarter gallons of diesel an hour with our little 30 hp putt-putt Nanni Kubota diesel.
You should always allow at least a 20% emergency ration of diesel, so allowing for emergencies, we could only count on 57 gallons (72 gallons X 80%). 57 gallons with our half to three quarter gallon per hour burn rate comes up to 81 – 114/hours of motoring, at 5 knots = 400-500 miles. It’s gonna be close if we don’t get some WIND!!!
In the meantime, there are two ways of putting diesel into the tank underway – on deck being the preferred method IF there are no splashing waves or any potential for water to slosh into the deck fill while doing the refill. We always use our baja filter to fill the diesel, especially if diesel has been sitting in jerry jugs for awhile.
We can also add extra diesel down below via the inspection port on the starboard tank under the quarterberth, but if it sloshes funny, we have slippery diesel fuel in the salon, not to mention that lovely almost unnoticeable smell. 🙂
As the hours slipped by, we kept getting e-mails from friends and radio contacts via the SSB Northwest Caribbean Net about our progress and the fuel status. After two days with no wind, we decided to add the last of the diesel to the tank while we were still in calm seas and before we needed it.
Adding diesel to a tank on an underway moving platform is a challenge in the best of conditions, we don’t need the wind or waves kicking up and adding a bit of salt water to the tank – that would have VERY BAD consequences! Although we’ve never needed to add diesel underway on any prior passages, the operation went smoothly and both of us slept better that night as the diesel rumbled on … and on ….. and on …..
A few days later we did get a few hours of sailing and made it back to Charlotte Harbor, Florida with a sip of diesel to spare. Whew!
*NOTE: The photo was taken underway from a US port — diesel fuel in Mexico, and many other countries is yellow and not red.