Fill ‘Er Up! (January 2012)

January 26, 2012

Make sure this is the DIESEL tank!

Filling up your Nordhavn is not quite like filling up your car. Shear Madness holds 4465 gallons of diesel in 5 separate tanks. Two aft tanks hold 1400 gallons each, two forward tanks hold 800 gallons each, and a “day tank” holds 65 gallons. The engines draw fuel from the day tank which can accept fuel from any of the other tanks through a series of valves and transfer pumps. Fully loaded, our fuel weighs over 32,000 pounds, so it’s important to keep the port and starboard tanks relatively equal to prevent listing to one side or the other.

We had only a couple hundred gallons of fuel in our tanks when we arrived in NC. Since we were planning to fill up, the first step is to negotiate a good price! Given the variation in fuel prices between states and between marinas within states, filling up at the wrong place can costs hundreds of dollars.

John keeps track of how muc is added as we alternate filling between tanks

A check of marinas up and down the east coast and input from fellow Nordhavn owners who have recently fueled up confirmed our own research that showed NC was a good place to buy fuel. Jarrett Bay agreed to match the price of another marina if we committed to a large purchase, so we were able to get a good discount off the regular price.

The next step is to move the boat to the fuel dock. It’s just a short move, but despite the lack of wind (good), there was a very strong current (bad) making Bradley thankful for the fully operational bow and stern thrusters. We took our time and made a couple approaches to the fuel dock where we were soon safely moored.

Bradley and John determine how much more we need in aft tanks

Next is to determine the order in which to fill the tanks. First, the day tank is filled from fuel in the other onboard tanks. Then we ensure that we have opened the diesel fill holes (which look just like the ones for filling the water tanks – there are many stories out there of people putting water in their fuel tanks or vice versa!). Then we ensure that the hose we are putting in is connected to Diesel fuel, not gasoline (ditto previous comment). Before adding the fuel, we add the appropriate amount of fuel treatment – in our case Stanadyne Performance Formula Diesel Fuel Additive, which is designed to clean, protect, and stabilize the fuel. Then we start fueling the aft tanks, adding several hundred gallons to one before switching to the other in order to keep them somewhat balanced. This is repeated until both tanks are at the desired level. Then this process is repeated for the forward tanks. Throughout this process, John is monitoring the hose while Bradley is observing the tanks from inside the boat, watching the sight gauges as fuel is added and ensuring no leaks are apparent. John and Bradley communicate via two-way radio to ensure that all is OK and to coordinate switching between tanks. Someone on the dock monitors the gallon counter and keeps John apprised of how much fuel has been added.

Leanne and Lisa (from Jarrett Bay) finish with the gasoline for the tender

The whole process takes several hours. Once we are full of diesel fuel, we also take on some gasoline, which is used in our tender (the smaller boat used for going ashore when we are at anchor). Our tender holds about 60 gallons of gasoline and we have an onboard tank that holds an additional 60 gallons.

The next step is the hardest of all – we have to pay for the fuel! In this case, we had agreed to pay by check in order to get the best price. Since we do almost all our banking online these days, writing a real check is a bit of a novelty! We took on 3800.2 gallons of diesel and 76 gallons of gasoline, so the total was just over $13,000. Fortunately, we don’t have to fill up very often! This will take us over 4000 miles, enough to get us to Florida, the Bahamas, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, back to the Caribbean, and then some!

For now, we just move back to our regular dock, full of fuel and ready to go! After all these months, we are finally ready to go cruising. But wouldn’t you know it – now the weather has decided to turn nasty, with high winds and big seas forecast through the weekend. So we’ll stay put until this passes, then start our journey south. Hopefully this will give me a chance to post a couple more updates!

Here’s a short (1 min) video of the process, set to appropriate music:

 Click below to comment.


  1. #1 by Anonymous on February 4, 2012 - 4:12 am

    I have to admit Bradley, the sound track was more exciting than the video!

    What about fitting cap/cam locks to one fuel filler on each side and you could pump in 100 l/min into the one fuel filler, provided your fuel transfer pump could keep up, You might need an upgrade to the pump. With a cap/cam locks fitter, there would be no question of which was fuel & which was water.



  2. #2 by Liz on January 30, 2012 - 4:45 pm

    Really enjoyed the video and giggle. Very pleased to see my BMB looking great and healthy. You chose the best job video monitoring the whole process so if there are problems…….. you’ll know who to point the finger at. 🙂

    fair winds and a following sea

    Love the Hearns


  3. #3 by Vera on January 28, 2012 - 8:02 am

    Hi Kathy!:) Very interesting and educational, I didn’t know and even didn’t imagine such details:) I look forward to read more about your travels!


  4. #4 by Anonymous on January 27, 2012 - 1:28 pm

    Fascinating process. Everything about boats is more complicated than I ever realized.

    We hope to see you in Florida.

    We are out in Breckenridge snowshoeing at the moment, but return next Monday.

    Carol T.


  5. #5 by Anonymous on January 27, 2012 - 8:25 am

    Kathy and Bradley, Like Debbie, the video made me laugh and it captured my thoughts as I was reading your blog. All I can say is OUCH!! Glad to read that you are finally ready to take on the high seas. Despite the set back, it sounds like you totally now have a thorough understanding of every inch of Shear Madness and I am certain these past months have been very educational. Thank you for your message over the New Year’s. Sorry to have missed you. Was back “on the farm” in Illinois where cell service is very limited. Keep the blog going. Love hearing from you. Please be safe out there!! Miss you ….. OX …. Sandy B.


  6. #6 by Anonymous on January 26, 2012 - 6:10 pm

    Hi Kathy, loved your video! I just was laughing out loud and trust me, I feel your pain! Congrats on getting Shear Madness ready to go – you guys have had more than your share of obstacles. We look forward to reading about your travels!
    Debbie Heiniger, Eliana


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