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Old 20-11-2019, 13:43   #1
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alcohol vs propane

if cruising , is it better to have an alcohol stove or a propane stove. have read that propane is not available everywhere
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Old 20-11-2019, 14:30   #2
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Re: alcohol vs propane

In over 20 years cruising in Europe, Caribbean and SW Pacific we have never had a problem obtaining propane/ butane
On the other hand, alcohol is a controlled substance in some countries.
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Old 20-11-2019, 14:44   #3
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Re: alcohol vs propane

Were are you thinking of cruising to?

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Old 20-11-2019, 14:46   #4
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Re: alcohol vs propane

I've had the same thoughts, and have decided on keeping my pressurized alcohol stove, but bringing an electric hotplate (single burner, easy stowage), fold-up solar oven, and cockpit rail-mounted propane grill/stove. It's a lot for a 32-footer, but I need my 3 meals/day.
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Old 21-11-2019, 04:05   #5
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Re: alcohol vs propane

What a lot of clutter! In a 32' boat? That wouldn't take long to drive me bananas.

Just a tip, but long-term sailing goes MUCH more smoothly when you simplify, simplify, simpify.

Fair winds,
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Old 21-11-2019, 04:13   #6
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Re: alcohol vs propane

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Originally Posted by shadowdancer View Post
if cruising , is it better to have an alcohol stove or a propane stove. have read that propane is not available everywhere

We had a combo alcohol/electric stove on a previous boat. If we started boiling water on alcohol for coffee one day, coffee might be ready the next day. Might.

I was always concerned about using i because I couldn't see the flame, too.

-Chris
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Old 21-11-2019, 05:18   #7
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Re: alcohol vs propane

Propane would be best choice , but if you are going into reallyremote cruising areas for many months at a time a pressure diesel wiuld be good choice.


5 gal of diesel will last about a year of cooking and baking.
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Old 21-11-2019, 05:19   #8
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Re: alcohol vs propane

In the Caribbean alcohol is getting quite hard to find.
Propane/butane is available everywhere (I've been).
Propane is MUCH more economical.
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Old 21-11-2019, 06:52   #9
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Re: alcohol vs propane

NO fuel is available EVERYWHERE. Once upon a time, kerosene was the third world fuel of choice. If you read any of the old "classic" cruising texts that is what they recommend. Now, kerosene is scarce. Propane is the go-to fuel everywhere there is civilization.

Alcohol is a common cooking fuel, like, nowhere. Without a (relatively) expensive pressurized system you just can not cook on the low temperature alcohol flame. Cooking 3 meals a day a 15 lb propane tank lasts us 3 months. Carry two, and your good for 6 months. I am SURE you can find a source of propane in 6 months.
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Old 21-11-2019, 07:18   #10
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Re: alcohol vs propane

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Originally Posted by shadowdancer View Post
if cruising, is it better to have an alcohol stove or a propane stove. have read that propane is not available everywhere
Propane, but be sure you have installed according to standards, as it is explosive.

We found propane available everywhere but often they won't refill your bottle, you must exchange their bottles. This means you buy one and thereafter exchange it.

Learn to make or buy adapters from other countries' bottles to yours. Also learn to decant gas from their bottle to yours. (again, adapters)

Some places are very stringent but third world countries, usually anything goes.
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Old 21-11-2019, 07:56   #11
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Re: alcohol vs propane

Alcohol has a bad reputation for safety, even compared to propane, which can fill your bilge and go boom. Might I put a word in for a propane detector in any system that uses propane inside the cabin? The 12v ones are not as cheap (pushing $50 US) as the 120v types, but a propane filled boat is one time you might want to take to the life raft while the boat is still floating.
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Old 21-11-2019, 08:01   #12
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Re: alcohol vs propane

thanks, I have a propane system but heard that its hard to find. heading south and maybe thru Panama to the pacific
rock
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Old 21-11-2019, 11:35   #13
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Re: alcohol vs propane

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Originally Posted by shadowdancer View Post
thanks, I have a propane system but heard that its hard to find. heading south and maybe thru Panama to the pacific
rock
Where have you heard its hard to find?

Propane is the cooking fuel of choice in all of Central America/W Carib, so its everywhere...from small villages to big Cities.

Getting your yachtie style tank filled may not always be convenient since it cannot just be exchanged as can the local tanks. You can build a fill adaptor to get around this issue.
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Old 21-11-2019, 11:47   #14
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Re: alcohol vs propane

We cruise the US east coast and Bahamas, no issues with obtaining denatured alcohol for our non pressurized two burner origo stove, it all depends on where you are going. Some research on your destinations will answer this question. Call your locations tourist ministry they can tell you.

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Old 21-11-2019, 12:06   #15
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Re: alcohol vs propane

I have been very happy with my Origo alcohol stove. Here are the facts:

The Origo has two burners of 6,800 BTUs each. The oven burner makes 5,250 BTUs. A typical marine propane cooker has one 8,200 BTU burner and one to three 3,400 BTU burners. If you use lower quality denatured alcohol with higher methyl content, the output will be 10% lower. In practice there is very little difference between the total heat output, say the alcohol stove could be 20% slower to boil a given amount of water.

Now, in terms of carrying the fuel, let's do the math. A 20 lb propane tank weighs 38 lb and is typically filled by 15-18 lb of gas. In addition, you can only refill at selected locations, so you either need to carry multiple tanks or always leave a reserve, so that you do not run out. I would say that the average usable propane is a 38 lb propane tank is 15 lbs or 324K BTUs for a total weight of 40 lbs. The same weight alcohol gives you 40 x 12,000 BTUs = 480K BTUs, stored nice in plastic bottles, anywhere on the boat with multiple other uses for boat maintenance and no propane related dangers.

The problem with alcohol is availability and cost (approximately 2x more expensive). It is up to you to decide which way to go. I prefer alcohol.

In addition, consider an electric tea kettle for boiling water. Due to the design and the enclosure, heating water in an electric tea kettle is 80% efficient vs. 25-30% efficient over the stove. An electric tea kettle has many uses on a boat and speeds up cooking.
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