ATL Fuel Bladders
I recently had the opportunity to help run a boat from Port Canaveral, Florida across the Gulf Stream to Spanish Cay in the Abacos Chain of the Bahamas. I’ve always said that we are so lucky to have paradise in our backyards. Meaning that the Bahamas with its crystal clear tropical waters and incredible fishing is within our reach from Florida.
Now this saying is true, but the term backyard is relative and the trip is not to be taken too lightly.
The run to Spanish Cay is about 180 nautical miles of open ocean from our port, and a good portion of that is travelling against the northward flowing Gulf Stream. I’ve made this crossing many times and it can either be a flat calm pleasure, a back-side whipping, or often a combination of the two depending on the wind speed and direction. Any wind from a northerly direction will blow against the current direction of the Stream and make that portion rougher. We do not like to cross on any kind of north wind for this reason. Afternoon storms are common and can change the reality of a crossing despite a calm forecast. One thing for sure is that you are normally all alone and preparation and good maintenance become imperative.
The planning that goes into a boat trip like this will fill many future articles, but the boat’s range, based on fuel capacity, is an all-important aspect of any trip. A few words of advice from my experiences, take the time to know and confirm your boat’s fuel consumption, the usable capacity of your tanks and always figure in a wide margin of safety factor, because you really never know what turns your trip might take.
While the Bahamian out islands are civilized and friendly, the facilities are often unpredictable and operate on “island time”. For example, the fuel stop your counting on might say, “We are out of fuel “mon”, but the barge should be here in a few days, No problem “mon”.” Some are more dependable than others and calling ahead sounds good, but that is on island time too. It is also very expensive, but we don’t even ask how much, cause they have it and we need it.
A crucial piece of equipment that we use for travelling and fishing is a collapsible fuel bladder. ATL is the company that everyone I know in the boating industry uses. In fact they are used in many other industries including the military and boat racing. That is because the ability to safely store extra fuel, but gain the ability to roll it up and put the “tank” away once its emptied is priceless. Yes you can put fuel in a 55-gallon drum, but they are awkward to tie down, have a higher center of gravity, and are just as bulky and “in the way” when empty as they are when they are full.
The ATL bladder tanks are made in a wide variety of styles and models, or they can easily be custom built to a shape that fits your boat. They are made from incredibly tough materials that can handle all types of fuels. They have a built-in vented fill cap and a discharge outlet with valve that can be both pumped-out or gravity drained.
I have built two custom ATL tanks for various boats I’ve run and have nothing but great things to say about the quality and ease of use.
I built custom tanks so that I could maximize the fuel capacity of the bladder, yet not cover any deck hatches that I might need to access in daily use or an emergency. I do not want a hundred gallons of fuel sitting on top of the lazzerette hatch if the rudder falls out. That does not mean however that one of ATL’s many standard sizes won’t work for you, and of course standard models offer savings compared to custom ones.
This most recent trip was aboard an awesome 34-foot custom Hines Farley called the Sea Wrangler 2, owned and chartered by Captain Joe Palermo. Joe and I have fished together for years and I was excited to get back out on the water, especially to the Bahamas.
We calculated the boat’s range, assuming a full load of people, gear, fuel, ice and “stuff”. The 180-mile trip was within the boat’s range, but our calculations only showed a 30-gallon reserve. Neither of us thought this was near enough, so we started talking about a fuel bladder. We decided that the livewell was a cavity that we would not be needing for the ride and would offer a great place to put a fuel bladder as it would be protected and not take up any room at all.
We measured up the available space inside the bait tank and contacted the crew at ATL. They quickly came up with a design for a custom bladder that would fit in our space. After signing off on the design and going over the final details, we placed our order, which promptly arrived in the mail .
The fuel cell fit perfectly in the bait tank and conformed to the shape of the tank when filled. This design allowed us to add 65 gallons of reserve fuel to our capacity, thus giving us a very comfortable safety margin and reducing the amount of high dollar “tropical” fuel we would have to buy.
The deck fills for this boat were located in the top of the tanks and just below the livewell. This allowed us to just use gravity to drain the fuel bladder and not even fool with a pump system. We used clear tubing so that we could see the fuel flow and know what was happening.
We hooked up to the pickup valve and put the hose down the fuel fill. By gently pressing on the flexible fuel tank, we squeezed the fuel out and started a siphon, with no one taking the chance of a mouthful of fuel. After the siphon started, it only took about twenty minutes to drain the tank.
We did pause at the halfway point and switch tanks, but by shutting the valve we did not have to start the siphon again.
At the very end, the bladder was light enough to pick up and turn upside down to drain the last bit of fuel. No mess, no fuss and we now had 65 more gallons at our disposal.
We left the tank in the livewell for the duration of the trip, but on other boats, I had a plastic storage tub that fit the rolled-up bladder for storage in the engine room, until the return trip home.
ATL is the industry leader for this technology and their line of products is always growing. They are also making OEM shaped bladder tanks to replace cracked or leaking factory tanks in boats. They can make any shape you need, and the fact that they are flexible can make installation much easier.
They have several varieties including their newest ATL FlouroCell Fuel Bladder. It is capable of handling many fuel types including gas/ ethanol mix. They are even making collapsible water tanks for various applications. The options and uses are endless.
If you need to extend your boat’s range so that you can go where the fish are, I highly recommend you check out ATL Fuel Bladders and see how they can help you safely go farther and more importantly, get home.
ATL’s new FluoroCell™ Bladders are a revolutionary step forward in the manufacturing of a totally flex-fuel compatible bladder. FluoroCells readily accept and resist (a) high-aromatic gasolines; (b) ethanol oxygenated fuels E10, E50, E85 and E100; (c) Jet Fuel A,B,4,5,8,10; (d) diesel, bio-diesel, bio-butanol, MTBE, (e) crude oil, Bunker C, #4 (f) octane boosters, (g) methanol and even aniline. No other bladder tanks can resist this full range of hi-performance fuels. Years Of Exhaustive Research And Testing Have Yielded A Bladder With These Features:
• Superior scuff, cut and abrasion resistance over conventional fuel cell bladders.
• No “extractables” like “gum residue” or “plasticizers” to leach out and contaminate fuel.
• Unparalleled tolerance for continuous temperatures of 210°F (100°C) with brief excursions to 400°F (200°C)! • Environmentally “green” in that they reduce fuel vapor “diffusion” emissions to 1/100th that of conventional fuel bladders, and without need of any “barrier” coating.
• Can be fitted with internal baffles, pump mounts, collectors etc., either during cell manufacture or later as an upgrade. In contrast, today’s vulcanized bladders are very difficult to modify once cured.
• Readily repairable if ever damaged, unlike conventional fuel cells which absorb fuels and oils making them difficult to patch reliably.
• Made from renewable domestic resources rather than derived from petroleum as all current-day fuel cells are. FluoroCell reinforcing-fabrics are produced from organic materials and then coated with elastomers synthesized from base minerals.
• Pliable and fully deformable, yet totally self-supporting in their containers or cavities. This “stoutness” feature prevents FluoroCell bladders from being whipped and slammed about in their enclosures. That same self-support feature also allows FluoroCell bladders to maintain their shape without the need for internal foam baffling in most cases.
• Exhibit a remarkable resistance to harsh environments, more so than any current fuel bladder design. FluoroCell elastomers display excellent resistance to: UV rays, shock, vibration, freeze-thaw cycles, ozone, acids, salt water, alkalies, hydraulic fluids, and even NBC hazards. Typical dampness-related conditions such as mold, fungus, mildew and hydrolysis are also no match for FluoroCell’s impervious compounds.
• “Non-aging” in that they don’t suffer from volume swell, delamination and surface “crazing” as many other fuel cell bladders do over time. Life expectancy is 15 to 30 years.
Contact the crew at atlinc.com to find the affordable solution to go further and still get back.