A simple error

I get fuel delivered.  Gasoline is heavy, messy, hard to handle and expensive and potentially kinda dangerous.  But like all but the lost tribes of Patagonia, I have come to depend on it for running any one of 8 separate engines from boats to chainsaws, from gensets to power winches. I rely on the stuff.  Gasoline: an expensive addiction.

For the first few years, I carried it in totes in the back of the car and on the boat and then I schlepped it up and down hills sometimes in the rain, in the dark and always in conjunction with hundreds of pounds of other crap. I hated gasoline almost as much as I hated propane. Plus it stinks when in the car.

So, almost ten years ago I bit the $bullet and put in a big tank for propane and a couple of smaller ones for gasoline.  And it was good.

It is still horribly expensive but I do not use enough to be ‘hurt’ by $1.50 a liter gasoline and propane at approximately 25% higher than market.  Like I said, ‘It’s worth it.’

And the $30,000-plus solar panel system has cut way into the use of generator-time.  In the sunnier times, anyway.

When we were away, we knew that our tanks were low and we knew that the delivery service was going around our area BEFORE our arrival rather than just after so I ordered a fill-up and was NOT there to oversee the delivery.  Which was not a problem.  The guys know my system better than I do.  I usually ‘oversee’ the exercise by cracking jokes with the captain while the crew zoom about doing the job.  I rarely have to say anything about the delivery itself.  And it has been that way for almost ten years.  They know their stuff.

Well, until this one time when we were NOT there to check.  For reasons unknown, one of the crew (likely a new guy) put diesel in one of the tanks.  The ‘second one’.

When we got back, we went about our business and took out our allotments for fuel as they arose and, eventually, went through tank one.  That took six weeks or so.  Maybe two months.  Then, in anticipation of needing more, I filled a few totes from the second tank and placed them where they would be needed when the current engine I was using ran out.  I had three totes spread about.

Last week, I filled my genset with the five gallon tote from tank two.  It would not start.  I went through the ‘check-spark-and-fuel-routine’ and was somewhat surprised to find that I had filled my tank with diesel fuel!  But, an hour of draining, filling and fixing broken fuel lines (inevitable, it seems), I had pulled all the offending diesel out and re-filled with gasoline.  I was good to go but I had lost the afternoon.  Life, eh?

I figured that I must have had an old diesel tote sitting around the fuel shed and, somehow, had forgotten about it and accidentally used it.  ‘Must be my fault’.  I wrote it off to getting old.  I am doing that more often and it seems to be the right answer most of the time.

Over the course of the next few days, I filled two more tanks.  The earlier experience with the genset was not even a memory. Turns out that I hadn’t used an old diesel tote, after all. Turns out my real error was assuming that I had made the first error.  The real error was not realizing quickly enough that my second tank was filled with the wrong fuel.

So, another day spent draining and filling and cleaning and repairing.  THAT was irritating. But the worst part was that I was down to my second tank and that tank was unusable and so I was really OUT OF FUEL!

That is NOT good.  That necessitated a trip to town.  Worse, I could only take three totes with me because the other totes were full of diesel.  I could NOT get enough to get me through until the next planned barge delivery.

So, things will be awkward for a while.

A simple error.  NOT disastrous.  Just awkward and expensive and a waste of time.  And one more ‘weird’ incident in life off the grid.


17 thoughts on “A simple error

    • Well, first off the government bastards have reduced the not-on-the-streets ‘discount’ so that it is negligible. At least it is not much of a discount at the gas stations that sell ‘marked’ gas. Almost not worth going to. But our barge guys only deliver marked gas, anyway. It is still $1.50.


  1. Kind of reminds me of a time when one of the airplanes at the college went to get fuel at an airport away homebase. They fueled up at a self-serve pump and flew home. No problems occurred during the flight, but we learned after the plane’s return that the 100 LL tank had been contaminated with Jet A fuel sometime prior. The airplane was grounded, the engine removed and rebuilt. Because the airplane was one of two used by the students learning to fly as a part of the commercial pilot program, it was a major setback for scheduling. Fortunately for the college, the fuel vendor had to pay for the cost of the repairs. At the time, a replacement engine for a Cessna 152 would have been about $10,000 that wasn’t in the school’s budget. – Margy


      • I verified my source, it was Jet A and the tank hadn’t been properly cleaned before the 100 LL was added. My source says it was probably a bit of overkill, but because the planes were used by college students and the engine change was covered, it was the prudent thing to do. – Margy


        • @ Anonymous
          …..and then there is option “B”.
          Take off in a plane that you know previously had flown with the wrong fuel in it and pray the engine doesnt seize midflight……..its not a car and Terra firma isnt very forgiving.
          Not to mention the liability issues with renting or flying a plane that has a questionable engine.


          • You make a good point……..an abundance of caution when hanging in tin in the air while traveling at speed. Having said that, is there an engine out there in any conveyance that could be considered unquestionable? I have doubts about all of them.


  2. What a major pain in the azz.
    Has the Barge company said anything about the screw up?
    And how much unwanted diesel are you stuck with?
    I guess it could have been worse.
    Gasoline in a diesel engine = Engine kaput.


    • Exactly. Diesel in a gas engine is just an annoyance. Glad it wasn’t the other way around. I have about thirty gallons. My neighbours will be happy. Unless the barge co wants it back. They have offered to swap it out. I am kinda curious as to HOW that could happen. The guy had to go back and get a second hose!


      • Murphy and his Law.
        The rare time you’re not there to supervise and thats when new guy arrives….Yer gonna have to pick a nickname for him… “Extra!” has a nice ring to it as in he gave you extra fuel you didnt want or need and caused you extra work that you didnt have time for. The other crappy thing is now the inside of your fuel tank is coated with diesel. Sloshing gas around inside it to clean it and then deal with THAT liquid goo (camp fire fuel?) is always a joy. Never a dull moment eh?
        Well, look on the up side you’ll come by your “curmudgeonly” attitude honestly….


        • For the record, there is not one iota of my curmudgeon-ness that has not been earned honestly. Many times over. Grrrr…


  3. @ anonymous
    “is there an engine out there in any conveyance that could be considered unquestionable? I have doubts about all of them.”

    I once went flying with a friend in a rental Cessna 172. He is an excellent pilot. We spent an hour doing spin recovery, stalls, negative G’s (floating), tail drops, etc.
    He scared the shite out of me several times that day….after we landed I said, ” You’re the best pilot I’ve ever flown with but you’re only as good as the last guy that worked on the engine in this plane…..”
    About 2 weeks later he calls me up and says, ” Hey! Did you hear about that Cessna that packed it in last weekend? It was the Cessna we rented….they think it was bad fuel.”
    A student and an instructor walked away from it….and if you can walk away from a crash…..you had a good day. The plane was a right off.


  4. Oh man! That really sucks! We’ve gone full cycle with our fuel situation; gerry cans to 500 liter tank with barge delivery back to gerry cans because now the barge won’t fill our tank which does not have an emergency catchment system in place. We were lucky, the barge guys never messed up, but I did one memorable afternoon when I put diesel in the outboard tank by mistake and then set off with my youngest, 18 months at the time, to pick up my eldest from kindergarden down the way. Luckily we had a neighbour at the time who happened to be home, so when the outboard died in a cloud of black smoke it was only a short paddle to the neighbour’s house, where the rescue process began….long story, but we all survived. Since then, I always apply the old sniff test before pouring!


    • Ahhh yes. The Govt rules for “catchment”.
      I managed an office building in dwntwn Van….
      We had PCB’s in some of our old light ballasts ( each ballast….about the size of a 1/2lb of butter). We had 25 PCB ballasts awaiting disposal. My boss wouldnt spend the money to ship them off to a PCB disposal site in Alberta.
      A Govt inspector comes by and sez,” Oh no no no! You can’t keep those in a Rubbermaid box! You need a metal 50 gallon barrel properly labelled!”
      Another year and another govt inspection, ” Oh no no no ! You cant store those in a barrel in your main storage area….you need to place the barrel IN ITS OWN STORAGE ROOM….”
      Another year goes by, another govt inspection, ” Oh no no no! You cant store a barrel in its own room without a sprinkler system and no floor drains! The contaminated water could flow to a regular storm drain. You have to build a SEPERATE room beneath this room with ANOTHER barrel to hold the sprinkler water in the event of a fire”
      My boss finally spent the money to ship this paper pushing beaurocratic nightmare away……
      ALL Govt rules depend on the inspector and what kind of day they are having….not on common sense or intelligence


      • We got bureaucrat-types, too. And you are right, it all depends on who you are, who they are, and what kind of a day they are having. Being a female with a beautiful smile usually helps the paperwork, tho. Our electrical inspector was smitten way back when. Don’t think he looked at anything but Sal and because she wired the whole house, “It was all perfect!” Practically had to PUSH the guy out the door when he was done.


    • I guess you can’t live out here and NOT screw that sorta thing up now and then. I don’t blame the barge guys, I blame the ONE barge guy but….really….even the barge guys can make mistakes. I am OK. BUT – fer shure- we are putting little signs on the tanks from now on.


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