Port Orchard Marina has ethanol-free fuel for area boaters again

Boaters stopping to fill up their tanks at the Port Orchard Marina will once again be able to top off with ethanol-free fuel.

The marina recently switched from a fuel that contained 10 percent ethanol alcohol to an ethanol-free alternative, said Brian Sauer, the marina’s operations manager. This switch is a welcome change for water enthusiasts who have seen their boat motors damaged since most area marinas moved to an ethanol-mixed (E-10) fuel about two years ago, Sauer said.

“People would come up to me and say, ‘this ethanol fuel is killing me,’” he said.

Ethanol, an alcohol commonly made from corn, is often combined with gasoline to make fuel. While it works for cars, Sauer said fuel containing ethanol can wreak havoc on boat engines.

Ethanol attracts and combines with water from the moist marine air, he said. When run through a boat engine, the water causes corrosion, fuel pump issues and other problems that could otherwise be avoided when using an ethanol-free fuel.

“Really, E-10 is horrible for our industry,” he said.

It was never any secret that the E-10 mixture could damage a boat engine, he said. But when the state Legislature passed a bill requiring a certain percentage of all fuel sold in the state to include ethanol in an attempt to increase use of biofuels, ethanol-free fuel became harder to find.

The marina’s ethanol-free fuel is purchased from Ferndale instead of somewhere closer to home, Sauer said.

Oren Nelson, owner of Kitsap Marina on the west end of the Port Orchard waterfront, agreed an essentially state-mandated switch to ethanol fuel has hurt the boating industry. He sees an increase in engine problems related to E-10 since most docks switched sometime in 2008.

“We’ve noticed a lot more repairs on fuel systems lately,” he said.

There’s really no way to avoid the minimal damage caused by the fuel, Nelson said. He recommends boaters who have used should flush their fuel tanks before winter and try to run the motor every so often, minimizing the amount of water absorption.

Though ethanol-free fuel can be more expensive, Sauer said with a recent overall drop in gasoline prices, boaters won’t notice much of an increase at the pump. Besides, most boaters are willing to pay a little bit extra for a fuel that keeps their vessel in better shape over the long run.

“This is the product we need,” he said. “We’re glad to be able to help our community by giving them what they want.”

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