A fire breaking out on a boat is a true nightmare for sailors.
For example, in May 2021 a fire that swept through Marina Kaštela in Croatia brought this horror to reality: five 20 m boats were completely destroyed and 18 were damaged. The fire started at about 8:30 pm on one of the yachts. Crew members tried to put out the fire but were unsuccessful so they waited for the firefighters.
Vladislav, professional yachtsman
— Fortunately, fires rarely occur in marinas but they do more often happen at sea. The crew then find themselves in an extremely dangerous situation with a real risk of death, and if the fire is not extinguished in time the boat can burn to a cinder.
The causes are often regrettable and entirely avoidable. So what are they?
Statistically, most fires occur in the galley. And these are usually due to minor incidents. The oil in the pan catches fire, a tea towel is clumsily thrown over the gas stove or a tea bag sets alight. Even a small flame is enough and thanks to the wind, a fire can begin to spread at an unexpected speed. Of course, the gas itself is also a threat. Unfortunately, gas inspections are not mandated by law and therefore aren’t often carried out on privately owned boats. Just a small leak is enough to get it started.
Next, after the galley is the drive system itself. Although the flashpoint of diesel is up to 220°C, just 58°C can ignite it, for example when diesel drips on a hot part of the exhaust. Just a single spark is enough. Generally, petrol engines pose a greater risk of fire, and the flashpoint of petrol is surprisingly low. Leaking fuel lines or carburetor gaskets can get us into problems. Of course, outboard tanks or poorly stored fuel canisters also pose a risk.
Cover photo: Neil Smith / Pexels