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Old 24-07-2013, 07:42   #1
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Alcohol Stove

We just purchased a 1985 Catalina sailboat. She came with a pressurized alcohol stove , which we have heard horror stories about. Any suggestions about whether or not to keep this stove onboard or take it out and start over?
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Old 24-07-2013, 07:52   #2
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Re: Alcohol stove

use and see if you like it.....
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Old 24-07-2013, 08:00   #3
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Re: Alcohol stove

Years ago I read something by sailor and author Donald Street (who some might say is a bit eccentric) about alcohol stoves. This was when propane was first becoming popular and there were a lot of concerns about safety. His comment, I would rather be blown up all at once by propane than tortured to death slowly by alcohol.

Having lived with both I tend to agree. Alcohol fuel is very expensive, it takes about a week and a half to boil a pot of water, it smells bad, the fuel is hard to get in out of the way places and if you cook much at all you will use a lot of it.

My take on the subject, if you will cook on board rarely and then basic dishes or heating up something from a can you can probably get by with the alcohol. If you plan on doing anything even slightly serious in the way of cooking, toss it and get propane.

Don't get me wrong or take the humor in the D Street comment to lightly. Propane can explode like a stick of dynamite but it isn't that difficult to handle safely. Install with a remote shutoff, use it faithfully and inspect the system on a regular basis. Add a fume/gas detector and you are cooking with gas.
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Old 24-07-2013, 08:10   #4
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Re: Alcohol stove

The only fire we ever had, onboard, was because of a pressurized alcohol stove. The flame is invisible, by day. Linda was heating coffee one morning & turned away for a minute..poof & the curtains were ablaze..scared the hell out of us. That was it for the alcohol stove. She hated it anyway.

I've lived aboard with propane for over 15 years & never had an incident..remote shut-off in galley & sniffer should be part of your installation.

Happy Cooking.
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Old 24-07-2013, 08:11   #5
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Re: Alcohol stove

You didn't say which model (Size) you had...

I had a Catalina 27 with a slide out two burner stove. It had two separate two burner stoves, one 120v and one alcohol.

The alcohol stove worked, but wasn't as hot as propane. I had used alcohol stoves as a teenager, when I first started sailing, so I was safety conscious about it, but wanted to replace it.

Then I priced the upgrade to propane, which at the time would be around $800 to do it right and decided my next boat would have propane.

A stove, propane tank, electric solenoid valve, hoses and a storage locker for the propane tank with a drain over board, compliant with USCG regulations will be expensive. If you do not comply with the USCG regulations, you won't get insurance or if you don't tell them and something happens you will be held liable.

I would try the alcohol stove and see if you like it... If you are doing a lot of cooking on board an alternative would be a Coleman stove, which is what I did in the C-27.
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Old 24-07-2013, 08:32   #6
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Re: Alcohol stove

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Originally Posted by jerrymc View Post
The only fire we ever had, onboard, was because of a pressurized alcohol stove. The flame is invisible, by day. Linda was heating coffee one morning & turned away for a minute..poof & the curtains were ablaze..scared the hell out of us. That was it for the alcohol stove. She hated it anyway.

I've lived aboard with propane for over 15 years & never had an incident..remote shut-off in galley & sniffer should be part of your installation.

Happy Cooking.
We were off Bermuda I looked in the galley just as teak bulkhead turned black and then I could see flames and smoke. that was in 1980Talk about being scared! I have refused to sail with an alcohol stove ever since.But install propane correctly no shortcuts.the only issue with propane is runnig out,
look at the new fiberglass propane tanks. yes coffee is good.... Ole
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Old 24-07-2013, 09:01   #7
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Re: Alcohol stove

I went through the horrors of an alcohol stove my Hunter 30 came standard with. No need to relate all the details other than recommend propane! It is your boat, your stove. If you're happy stick with the BPIA just keep a charged fire extinguisher nearby. Make sure your wife knows how to use it.
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Old 24-07-2013, 09:22   #8
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Re: Alcohol stove

Nearly completed 2 circumnavigations with a non-pressurized alcohol fuel stove. I'd be hesitant to use a pressurized system though for the reasons cited by others. I'm also hesitant to go propane due to associated hazards.

Finding methylated spirits was often necessary in Muslim countries because selling and consuming alcohol is unlawful. Still, it was easier than trying to locate propane or butane, hassle with adapters and transport bottles to sometimes distant locations to be filled. Propane is not cheao 'out there' either.
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Old 24-07-2013, 09:27   #9
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Re: Alcohol stove

Back in the 1970's I sold and serviced a lot of pressurized alcohol and kerosene stoves. A lot of people did long range cruising with them but there just wasn't anything better. When yours breaks, and it will, you will probably have a hard time finding parts. In general they are a pain to live with.

I have a non pressurized alcohol stove that I'm happy with for the short cruises I do. Even my wife likes it.
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Old 24-07-2013, 09:58   #10
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Re: Alcohol stove

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Propane is not cheao 'out there' either.
Weeeell, maybe! Back in the days of yesteryear but after the Lone Ranger, we enjoyed propane cooking in our Hunter 30. And we did a lot of it during a season. No oven!

I had two 6# aluminum cylinders in my approved storage and we went the entire summers on one (1) tank. Sure, it cost $10 or so to fill it and yes, I understand prices are higher in much of the world. But heck, how much do you expect to use during a season?
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Old 24-07-2013, 10:41   #11
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Re: Alcohol stove

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Originally Posted by foggysail View Post
Weeeell, maybe! Back in the days of yesteryear but after the Lone Ranger, we enjoyed propane cooking in our Hunter 30. And we did a lot of it during a season. No oven!

I had two 6# aluminum cylinders in my approved storage and we went the entire summers on one (1) tank. Sure, it cost $10 or so to fill it and yes, I understand prices are higher in much of the world. But heck, how much do you expect to use during a season?
Has been a long time since I purchased propane in remote cruising areas but I can compare the consumption rates compared to alcohol.

Cooking for 2-4 people, one full meal a day plus coffee and incidentals and occasional baking as well, a 5 gallon (25 lb?) size propane tank would last 2-3 months. One gallon of alcohol would last 2-3 weeks.
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Old 24-07-2013, 21:23   #12
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Re: Alcohol Stove

I love my pressure alcohol stove! You will get a lot of negative comments about them but most of it is just editorial. They are not like the stove at home. They are a little cranky but so am I and I'm still lovable.
Learn to light it. Use a separate bottle of fuel to prime it. Use it before making changes.
I have proven it will boil water just as fast as other fuels can. I can bake in the oven at 450 if need be. There has never been any proof they are more unsafe than any other stove. Lots of stoves have been sold by damning pressure alcohol, and I feel it was unjust.Call me silly but I don't like propane. Non-pressure alcohol doesn't offer an oven. Good Luck!
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Old 25-07-2013, 05:23   #13
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Non-pressure alcohol doesn't offer an oven. Good Luck!
They do have non pressurized alcohol stoves with oven. My hunter has an origo two burner with oven. I like the alcohol stove ok. It takes longer to boil or cook anything. Not sure my oven ever made it up to cookie baking temp but it is easy to use and fuel is easy to find.
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Old 25-07-2013, 05:33   #14
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Re: Alcohol Stove

I think the poster who talked about costs makes a good point. If you don't have a lot of extra coin hanging around then get good at operating your stove. I've owned both pressure alcohol and kerosene and back in the day I was happy with both but they were certainly not maintenance free and there was an art to operating them. That said I would not go back to them as I prefer propane but if I bought a boat with it alcohol and I was short of change then I'd get used to it.My wife wasn't it love with either by the way and I was always busy making sure the stove operated as good as it could LOL
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Old 25-07-2013, 05:46   #15
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Re: Alcohol Stove

I used an unpressurised one in a cruising boat many years ago.

It worked great, but as others have said suitable fuel is very expensive in some countries.
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