Many boat owners look upon insurance surveys as a necessary evil, a rite of passage to be endured to propitiate their insurers. It’s important to remember, though, that insurance companies understandably want to protect themselves and make sure that a boat is an insurable risk, something the owner should want as well. Surveyors—me included—are not evil people who delight in finding faults. We are there at your request, you are paying our bill, and our sole motive is to ensure your boat is safe and seaworthy.
With this in mind, an insurance survey is a good way to check that your boat’s systems are in good shape. Propane installations are just one example. On this boat, seawater had found its way into the propane locker on the starboard side deck and severely corroded the propane line, solenoid and regulator. Gas was slowly but surely leaking from the pipe into the gas locker where it was draining overboard.
Thankfully, in this instance the leak was only inside the locker. Had it been inside the boat, the gas would have inevitably collected in the bilge and an explosion would have been a distinct possibility.
One way to check the safety of your propane lines is to open the gas valve at the tank and then make a note of the reading on the gauge. After that, turn off the gas at tank, wait 10 minutes and check the reading again. If it’s the same, then the system is good. If the needle drops at all you have a leak in the system that must be corrected without delay.
Photo by Mark Corke