Fir has five fuel tanks located midships as follows:
Tank 1: 9,300 gallons
Tank 2: 2,174 gallons
Tank 3: 6,500 gallons
Tank 4: 9,308 gallons
Tank 5: See below
Tank 6: 6,300 gallons
Tank 1 is essentially a Day Tank. Tanks 3, 4, and 6 were “settle” tanks where fuel oil was allowed to sit while debris settled to the bottom. Tank 2 was as an emergency reserve tank. Tank 5 no longer exists (at least we can’t find it). It is worth noting that Fir was built to supply lighthouses with fuel oil so her carrying capacity and facilities included accommodations for fuel as cargo as well as for her own use.
Originally, the engines supplied depended on there being some static pressure in the fuel system. Previous owners did not want to fill the Day Tank and made several modifications to the fuel system. An electric pump was added to service the main engines and converted a lube oil tank to supply the generators with fuel. Our intention is to restore the system to its original state.
Previous owners used Tank 2 as a waste oil tank. Since the cost of disposing of waste oil is so high in California, we decided to wait for now. Eventually, we will get to a shipyard able to handle the waste material at a more reasonable rate.
There is a rumor that the existing fuel in Tank 1 was commandeered from a WW 2 minesweeper when both boats were docked at Pier 38 in San Francisco. The story continues that when Fir moved from Pier 38 to its current location there was a crew member stationed in the engine room changing Racor filters every few minutes because the fuel was so polluted. Without knowing the truth one thing is certain, the fuel currently on board is crap.
Tank 3 is the only one to appear untouched since Fir's decommissioning. This tank had slight scale and surface rust but was easily cleaned within a few hours. Our plan is to use Tank 3 to collect useable fuel from the other tanks. We will add new clean fuel and send the filtered product to our Day Tank. We estimate the Day Tank will need to be at least 20% full in order to create the necessary static pressure. This is about 2,500 gallons of fuel.
We began by skimming off the cleaner fuel oil from tanks 4, 6 and 1 using a portable fuel pump. We ran the fuel through a Racor system setup with 30-micron filters then into Tank 3.
We then started the grueling task of cleaning the sludge and miscellaneous debris that accumulated in Tanks 1 and 6. This was especially laborious since we do not have a disposable pump capable of removing viscous material from the bottom of fuel tanks. Edward and Pooch had to scoop the gloppy crud into 5-gallon buckets and pass them through the hatch. We then poured the goop into 55-gallon drums that we moved onto the buoy deck.
We planned to augment Tank 3 with 2,000 gallons of clean fuel oil from Ramos Oil of Stockton. We will then transfer the fuel from Tank 3 to Tank 4 passing it through a 5 micron Racor filter.
Progress was slowed when the new owner of Helen and Herman’s Marina decided to remove all docks around Fir. Ramos has no way to deliver fuel by boat. Although the fuel can be delivered by truck, in accordance with California law, the transfer line can never be in the water. Therefore, a dock is necessary and the delivery will be rescheduled once we figure this out.
Check back for our progress.