Fire Safety at Sea

In the wake of three severe yacht fires, we review boat fire prevention and safety.

Last month, the 77-foot motoryacht Positive Energy, caught fire in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and took several hours to extinguish. Luckily, no one was hurt in the blaze that destroyed the vessel.

Earlier this year we saw two other mega-yachts, The One and Barbie, catch fire in Turkey.

Fire on board can be devastating and cause irreversible damage, or even worse, sink the yacht altogether. These stories create an opportunity to review some vital fire safety tips from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Fueling your yacht

Whether you have an inboards or outboards, you should fuel your yacht with caution. Inboards have a higher chance of leaking into the bilge and outboards can pose a threat as well with fuel lines that run into the engine.

The United States Coast Guard advises boaters to take a big sniff with your nose in the bilges before you take off. For inboard vessels, close all hatches while fueling and then open them and let the blower run for a few minutes before starting the boat.

If your fuel tanks are portable, leave the vent open as you cruise, and close it when you stop.

Never leave anything with fuel on it, such as rags or towels aboard your vessel. This leaves room for dangerous accidents.

Check for fraying, chafing or corrosion

Periodically check all electrical connections to ensure there is no fraying, chafing or corrosion. These can lead to sparks that will start a fire. Check that the fuel line fittings are free of these hazards as well.

Plugs, cords and breakers

Make sure your heating and cooking appliances use the correct breakers and fuses.

Know what amps your vessel can handle. If it says 30 amps on the cord, you should only expect to continuously use 24 amps safely.

Many times people overlook the importance of unplugging from the shore power box correctly. Turn the breaker off first, and then unplug the shore power cord to prevent arcing, possibly lowering the capability of the cord, and sparking a fire.

Prepare your yacht and crew

Do you routinely hold drills on emergency procedures? If not, the U.S. Coast Guard says you should make these drills a habit. Practice fire drills, man-overboard and emergency communications drills and make sure everyone onboard knows where to find the fire extinguishers, flares, life vests and life rafts.

Know how to use a fire extinguisher. The U.S. Coast Guard says to remember P.A.S.S.: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the flames, Squeeze the trigger while holding the extinguisher upright, and Sweep the extinguisher from side to side.

It never hurts to be too cautious, and we want everyone to be safe aboard his or her yacht. Make sure to check out more safety tips from the U.S. Coast Guard.