Fueling Up

By John Tiger, Feb. 2017

On the Water or In Town,

Tips for Safe and Convenient Filling


For safety and environmentally conscious boaters, there’s always the question of filling up: where to do it? If your home waters have lakeside filling marinas, this is the easiest and safest choice. Most marinas keep a careful eye on filling operations, keeping spillage to a minimum.


Marina gas is more expensive than fuel bought in town or out on the highway. Cost savings can be substantial. There are other potential benefits too; here are some pros and cons of both:

• Service stations typically sell a lot more gas than marinas. So what, you say? So, their fuel gets refreshed much more frequently, leaving less chance for water/condensation contamination and time-diminished octane (“going stale”).

• If your boat requires premium fuel, it’s possible that the high-volume stations will have higher-octane fuel than most marinas.

• Be especially mindful of ethanol-enriched fuel. E-10 fuel (10% alcohol content) is standard at filling stations in town or on the lake. However, many marinas (and possibly service stations located near waterways) stock non-ethanol fuel, as they’re mindful of the damage that the alcohol can wreak on boat fuel systems. Non-ethanol fuel is always better for a boat than E-10 fuel, so despite the increased pump cost per gallon, it pays dividends in the long run due to reduced potential for service problems.


If you’re lucky enough to live on the water, it may seem attractive to fuel your boat from your dock, considering the savings—especially if you put a lot of hours per season on your boat. However, there are potential hurdles to consider:

• Some waterways prohibit boat owners from fueling their own boats from their own docks, for fear of spillage. Sounds crazy, but it’s true; check your local regulations.

• You’ll need a large container to make the hassle of buying and transporting the fuel worthwhile; a few 5-gallon cans will soon prove to be more hassle than convenience. There are several options. Large-capacity, wheeled tanks with built in manual or electric pumps are readily available, but they’re relatively expensive and must be stored and used cautiously (http://www.moellermarine.com/aftermarket/fuel_storage_tanks/wheeled_transport_tanks/), (http://www.plastic-mart.com/category/354/fuel-tanks).

• A simple siphon hose such as the Turbo Siphon (http://www.turbosiphon.com/) can make transferring fuel from a portable can to your boat cleaner and safer.

However you do it, be especially mindful of the potential for environmental damage and real danger should you spill fuel into the water. Take extra precautions; use a large-mouth filtered funnel that fits securely into your boat’s fuel filler neck. Have someone help you and be a second set of eyes and hands. Watch for rough water approaching your dock and boat, which could cause a spill. These are all good precautions to heed whether you fill up at the marina or at your home dock.