Cleaning a Diesel Spill


A while back – I think it must have been when we were still in The Netherlands – we somehow ended up with a diesel tank too full, resulting in some spillage in our starboard locker. I know, I know … we were young and did not know any better.

For months everything was fine, until we started getting a very intense smell of oily diesel every time we returned to Bon Bini after a couple of weeks. I guess the problem was not so bad when we were back in The Netherlands, but the heat here down in Barcelona makes that diesel evaporate much more.

Starting with new years resolutions, we decided to spend new years on the boat and start cracking down on our ever growing project list. First order of business – get rid of the diesel odor.

After digging deep into our starboard locker (which is a full size locker), we found a bunch of boards that were held in place by a few metal bars, which themselves had been glued in place. Minor pain in the neck to rip those bars out. After removing these bars, and getting rid of the wood underneath it, we found a beautiful, big water tank. The weird thing was that even after pumping out all of the water tanks using our pumps, this tank in the locker still felt heavy. A quick look inside revealed that this was not ordinary fresh water tank – oh nooo. What we found instead was a holding tank, one that we have never used since we bought the boat. Luckily what was in that tank looked like water with some anti freeze in it, and the smell was nowhere near as bad as what you would expect coming from a tank that has been sitting there “maturing” for more than a year.

To get to the Diesel spill at the bottom of the locker, it was clear that the tank had to come out. No problem we thought, quick trip to the pump station in Port Vell and out comes the tank. Well, unfortunately, the pump station was out of order and expecting somebody to come and fix it on New Years day is just plain crazy. We were close to admitting defeat, but luckily remembered that we had a little manual siphon pump hidden somewhere. Using this pump, we managed to pump out whatever was left in that tank. The next challenge was removing all the hoses. There is two hoses going from the head to the tank, a hose for the pump out valve and than another set of hoses connecting to what looks like an air filter. Taking off the hoses proofed to be relatively straight forward, except for the most critical – the one connecting to the pump out. Unfortunately, the hose clamp had rusted to a point that it was impossible to open the clamp. The final solution came in form of a little metal saw, and we actually managed to saw off the clamp, hanging upside down in the locker, without cutting into the hose.

Taking the hose off without the clamp should be easy, right? Well, unfortunately not. The hose had been sealed with some form of sealant that had hardened over the years, and it required a significant amount of force to convince the hose to come of the tank. Ultimately the hose gave up, but not without showing his frustration by unloading a bunch of crap over me, while I was unable to get out of the way pinched in underneath the tank. Happy days!

We were finally able to lift the tank out of the starboard locker, and started to remove the wooden box the previous owner built around the Diesel tank. To our great frustration we realized that the screws that were used to built said box were of questionable quality, and the heads had rusted away. We’ll have to drill out these screws to finally get to the diesel tank.


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