CD 33 Refit: Getting Tanked

stick an ice pick through me – I’m done.

I am fortunate to have good access to the fuel tank in my 1980 CD33. Those who don’t, I feel your pain. When purchased, I knew my tank was near end of life. Doing some electrical routing one fine day I slid it to starboard to get better access. Sure enough the next day I smelled diesel in the bilge. Pressing on the outside of the tank the probe went straight through in several places without any real effort.

the blackened, gunk riddled interior of my 40 yr old fuel tank

I was able to remove the straps and tilt the tank sideways, then lift out via the port side lazarette. The clearance was just enough, happy days. In terms of maintenance access, I believe the CD33 to be the best out of all the CD sailboats. Above you can see the inside of the 40 year old tank was coated with a black tar like substance. Probably never once cleaned out or flushed out or even drained and dried in all that time.

Luther’s in Bristol makes great tanks, they did the tank for my CD24 Trawler years back.

A smart choice for a new fuel tank (if you can get yours out without cutting the boat in half) is an aluminum tank with cleanout and drain, fabricated by someone who will pressure test and certify the tank. Most places will help you create a scale drawing or duplicate the tank if you give them the old one to measure.

drain petcock at the low point of the tank is the holy grail of preventative maintenance

Most boaters don’t realize that the primary and secondary filters in the system are only there to protect the engine. The only thing protecting the tank (and the fuel inside it) is you, the owner. And you just can’t do that properly if you don’t have a way to remove all the dirt, water, or biosludge that will inevitably accumulate in there. And replacing a fuel tank is a huge job compared to replacing a fuel filter. So for those with access, a clean-out and drain petcock are the holy grail. With the clean-out access hatch you can physically inspect and scrub most of the inside and service the pickup tubes if clogged or broken. With the drain you can empty the fuel, or drain off the water and sludge that accumulates on the bottom just as it does in the bowl of your primary fuel/water separator. You do not want water sitting at the bottom of your tank regardless of the material used to make the tank.

thorough cleaning, rebuild kit, and repainted

The old Racor 500 FG separator/filter I have is actually a really good unit. They have a unique design that spins the fuel well, and as far as water separation I believe it to be superior to the newer, smaller spin-on Racors. I was able to buy a new o-ring set and clean/rebuild it. So she is not glamorous but she is working great, and the bowl is easy to view and drain.

new fuel selector/shutoff.

With the tank replacement I put in all new fuel hoses and a new shutoff/selector. This allows me to add a second fuel tank to the system if needed.

My First Real Boat

Cape Dory 24T

I had dreamed about a live-aboard explorer boat my entire life. Channel 38 in Boston (public TV) would play Jacques Cousteau documentaries over and over again when I was a kid, and I was mesmerized and energized by them. He was an appealing blend of intellectualism and adventurism, and the passion to explore became a dream. My first “exploration” boat was Viola, a Cape Dory 24 ft trawler. She had a little diesel engine and could go forever on a tank of fuel.

Cape Dory 24 Trawler

I purchased her in 2007 from someone in the Falmouth area. After launching her I headed South towards RI to bring her home. It was a multi-day trip in a little put-put trawler doing 7 1/2 knots, and I was not sure where I would anchor for the night since I had departed in the afternoon. While transiting Wood’s Hole Passage towards Buzzard’s Bay I saw a small ferry headed into Hadley Harbor. Being curious I followed it.

heading in to Inner Harbor

What I found was the coolest little harbor you can imagine. From Bull Rock next to Uncatena Island you weave your way towards Inner Harbor through a quaint and picturesque little passage with a few moorings here and there.

anchoring – Inner Harbor – off Hadley Harbor

Drawing only 2 1/2 ft I was able to get my little trawler right up into Inner Harbor and weigh anchor. No other boats within 100 yards. I was exhausted after a long drive to Falmouth from RI, the survey, the purchase, the launch, and then the transit south. And a new boat is unfamiliar. But I was snug and didn’t need to worry about wind, swing, or drag since it was like a pond in there. I slept easy.

hadley harbor
Inner Harbor – off Hadley Harbor (MA) – best kept secret for shallow draft smaller vessels

In the morning I woke to see deer feeding near the waters edge, fish jumping, and horses grazing on a hill. Most everything ashore on Naushon Island was private property (like Forbes family private). But you could not have dreamed up a better script for my first night on my first real boat. No slip fees, tourists or Aquapalooza – thank you very much!

Cuttyhunk 2008

I bought an 11 ft Zodiac as well to round out my fleet, and towed it around as my dinghy. It was a perfect setup for exploring Narragansett Bay and Block Island Sound.