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Abandon Ship!: Boat Extinguishers, Safe Petrol Practices, And Protecting Your Boat From Disasters

Jul 1, 2008
In the time before boat extinguishers, one of the most dreaded weapons in the Byzantine Empire's arsenal was the terrifying "Greek fire". To modern minds, it seems strange that the weapon would be such a threat: a few flares fired at a boat, patches of oil that continued to burn while floating on the surface of the water. But for the all-wood navies of the past, to catch on fire meant losing a boat and all souls aboard it.

Today, people no longer cruise the seas in wooden ships, nor are they constantly menaced by Greeks who bear the gift of fiery death. But petrol engines and fiberglass construction bring with them their own dangers, and a proper attitude toward fire safety while on the water is still the one best way to avoid ever having to call "Abandon ship!"

First: make sure your boat is well-stocked with extinguishers. How many extinguishers you'll need depends mostly on the length of your boat. Anything under about 25 feet can be covered by two good boat extinguishers, rated at least 5A/34B separately or 10A/68B combined. For boats 25 feet and up, it's better to use three good extinguishers of at least this rating. An extinguisher in the bow of your boat is no good if you've got a fire at the stern: keeping enough extinguishers to cover your boat's length is essential to good fire safety.

Second: most boats, sail or "stink", involve at least some petrol usage for trolling motors or full-blown boat engines. Never refuel these engines while you're actually on the water--that's just an invitation for fires. When you do refuel your engines while docked, make sure to keep all galley stoves, motors, and electrical devices off. One spark can cause more trouble than you'd think.

Third: in the event that a fire does break out, don't ever go back into the cabin, galley, or any other enclosed space. Smoke collects in these spaces very quickly, and it's easy to become totally overwhelmed. Keep yourself awake and alert by avoiding these enclosed spaces and fight fires from the deck. (As a corollary to this rule, don't store all of your fire extinguishers in one place. One in the galley and cabin area is enough to stop any fires that happen here before they start--your other boat extinguishers should be kept out in the open, so that you don't pass out just by trying to pick up your extinguisher.

Fire safety is a serious issue on the water. Protect yourself and your boat by following these safety guidelines, and it's a sure bet that you'll never cry "Abandon ship"--except for the fun of it, of course.
About the Author
Find all the information you need about boat fire extinguishers at www.FireProtectionOnline.co.uk
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