Refilling the diesel tanks aboard a boat is generally the simple process of a taking side tie at an accessible dock, where helpful staff assists in fueling your boat and processing your credit card. At least that’s our memory of most of the developed world. However, it bears almost no resemblance to fueling we’ve experienced recently. Here’s one recent day-in-the-life.
Take dinghy along shoreline to locate a “fuel dock.” This turns out to be an iron riprap wharf. There are no pumps, just a concrete slab with some rusty bollards on top.
Return from scouting and figure out how to get boat into the dock. Understand that bay is literally full of wrecks and volcanic ash making charted data irrelevant. Be grateful that wind is near zero knots for tying up.
Discover that available bollards are massive, designed for large ships. Tie up awkwardly. Try not to get anxious about the fact that bolts that are supposed to hold bollards down are mostly cracked or missing.
Locate the office associated with selling fuel at the wharf. This turns out to be a 10 minute walk down a dusty track towards town.
Find out that fuel is only available by the 200 liter drum. Recalculate drums to purchase from gallons originally desired. Pool total volume for purchase with other cruisers, so everyone can get something close to whatever they want (since nobody needs a perfect multiple of 200 liters).
Pay for fuel: they take credit cards. At least something is simple! Cross fingers that card does not get put on hold from large charge in a third world country.
Get boat to dock, then return to the office so they know you’re there and will have the diesel delivered.
Return to boat. Wait. After an hour, a truck loaded with the drums shows up. Yay! Truck leaves abruptly, without unloading drums. No! Feel confused.
Wait another hour. Truck comes back. Drivers decide to make small talk for a while. Chat a bit then ask if you can fuel up please. This seems to be what they were waiting for.
Peel metal cap off drum with pliers. Insert four foot long length of pipe provided by truck, at the top of which is a hand-crank pump and ten meters of hose.
Take hose to deck fill inlet. Hold a baja filter in one hand, and hose in the other. Realize baja filter is too big for deck fill, and you must also hold a funnel underneath it. Wish you were an octopus.
Call out to a man on the dock to begin fueling. Man manually cranks the pump and fuel comes bubbling and gurgling into the tank. Keep communication going with the man pumping, so he doesn’t exceed the filter flow rate.
When fuel has been dispensed, prepare to depart. Discover that breeze has kicked up and is now pushing you directly into the dock. Eyeball rusty riprap and worry about how to get off sideways.
Return to anchorage. Realize this has taken all day. Kick back, crack cold local beer, watch sunset behind the volcano and be grateful for living in paradise- even if it does involve convoluted fueling procedures.
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