What Should You Do Before Fueling Your Boat? (Important!)

Because gasoline is a flammable and explosive substance, fueling your boat is fraught with danger. Failure to observe correct protocol when fueling could lead to thousands of dollars in damage and even cost people their lives. So, what should you do before fueling your boat?

Incorrect fueling of a boat can have severe consequences. Always follow correct protocol before fueling by ensuring that the boat is tied up and empty of people, preventing the build-up of gasoline fumes, and shutting off all sources of sparks such as the engine, electronics, and burning tobacco.

Because we do not want you to experience a fire or even an explosion aboard your boat, we have compiled this list of things to do before fueling your boat. Following all these vital safety protocols will help keep you and your passengers safe and prevent damage to your boat.

The Safety Steps To Follow Before Fueling Your Boat

Take the following precautions every time before fueling your boat:

  • Securely tie your vessel to the fueling dock. Doing so ensures that your boat won’t drift, causing spillages or disrupting the metal-to-metal contact necessary for grounding. It is also essential for sending your crew and passengers ashore.
  • Turn off the engine and electrical equipment aboard your boat. You want to shut off everything that could throw a spark, including the engine, bilge pumps, lights, air conditioners, any heat sources, radar, etc. If it works with electricity, switch it off!
  • Ensure that you shut off the blower vents to prevent them sucking gasoline fumes back into your boat and causing a build-up of fumes.
  • Have your crew and any passengers disembark. Make sure that nobody is still aboard your boat before fueling. Doing so helps keep the boat stable and minimizes the chance of spills.
  • Clear the area of anybody not directly involved with fueling the boat. Doing so means that there is less chance of injury and death if anything goes wrong.
  • Shut off the fuel valves to propane tanks and ensure that pilot lights and galley stoves are off.
  • If your boat has a cabin, close all hatches, doors, and windows to prevent gasoline fumes from entering. Once you have fueled your boat, you’ll need to open all hatches, doors, and windows to allow air to circulate.
  • Ensure that your fire extinguisher is within easy reach. If a fire does start, you want to be able to contain it quickly before it gets out of hand.
  • If your boat uses portable fuel tanks, remove them from the boat and fuel them on the dock. Doing so provides you more control over the process and minimizes the likelihood of fumes building up.
  • If you have a larger boat, you can’t remove the onboard tank, and you will have to fill it through a port in the deck, in much the same way as an automobile.
  • Do a thorough inspection of the fuel lines, connections, and vents to ensure that they are all in good condition before fueling. You don’t want any leakages that could deposit fuel into the bilge.
  • Do not smoke while fueling. Ensure that nobody is smoking anywhere around the fueling dock. Do not use lighters, matches, or electronic devices such as cell phones when on the fueling dock. You do not want any sparks around gasoline.
  • Check with the fuel dock or marina staff about the flow rate for the fuel source you are using. Know your boat’s fuel tank capacity and its current level to know how much you need to pump and how long the fuel nozzle should be on.
  • Ensure that you use the correct fuel type to fill your boat’s tank, and ensure that it is entering the valid fill entry, especially if a less-experienced crew member is fueling. You do not want fuel going into water tanks or rod holders.
  • Immediately before you start filling your tank, ensure that the nozzle is firmly against the fill pipe to maintain metal-to-metal contact. Doing so will ground it against static build-up.
  • Check with the fuel dock or marina staff about their fueling policies. If you are unsure about the correct way to fuel your boat, speak to the staff to get clarity.

Why You Should Follow Safety Rules Before Fueling Your Boat

You’ve fueled your boat so many times it’s easy to get complacent and start taking risks without even thinking about things.

But improper fueling could lead to a fire or even an explosion. Gasoline burns at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and can melt a fiberglass boat to the waterline in mere minutes. In addition, gasoline is explosive.

A fire at sea, or even on an inland waterway, is a terrifying scenario, resulting in devastating damage and horrific injuries or death.

These are some of the ways that fueling can result in fumes in the wrong place:

  • Engine blower vents may suck fumes back into your boat.
  • Bad hoses can result in gas fumes building up in your bilge.
  • Inexperienced operators may pump gas into the wrong hole, such as a rod holder or water tank.

Once you have fumes, all it takes is a spark for the gasoline to burn or even explode. Sparks can result from several mistakes, for example:

  • Failure to turn off all electrical equipment.
  • Failure to shut off the boat’s engine.
  • Static electricity from failing to maintain metal-to-metal contact when fueling.
  • Sparks from a burning cigarette.


Rigorously following the safety protocols given above before fueling your boat will ensure that you stay safe from a disastrous fire or explosion. Please do not get complacent and take shortcuts. It is not worth it to save a few minutes. Your safety is far more critical.

To summarize the protocols: ensure that fumes cannot build up and eliminate all ignition sources. If you ensure that there is no fuel in the wrong place and nothing to ignite it, you will stay safe while fueling…

Project “Dont Blow Yourself Up” Boating

Check out our article on: What Does A Boat Blower Do? (Explained)

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Project Boating Editorial Staff

My name is Brad Visser the chief editor and owner of Projectboaing.com. We have an amazing team of writers that contribute to our website. This team is passionate about boating and have years of experience not only in boats, but in writing helpful, informative articles to answer questions you may have.

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