In the Bahamas
, Eastern and Western Caribbean
, (even areas of the Chesapeake), Alcohol can be quite hard to find, and is expensive anywhere you go. The more third world the country, the more likely that they rely on propane
. Test have shown that propane is a more efficient cooking
Studies done by the US Coast Guard concluded that most of the galley
disaster injuries or deaths were because of alcohol fueled fires, not propane explosions.
Now, having said that... if I had a 24' boat, that I didn't actually live on, only used the stove on weekend outings, and never left the country with it... THEN a non pressurized alcohol stove is a fine choice. There is nothing terribly wrong with them at all, in that application.
The thing is, that this is CRUISERS FORUM, so one assumes a boat that is over 30', lived on, and/or cruised for long periods of time, and more than likely... travels to other countries with unknown availability of hardly ANYTHING that you would get at a hardware
, or home supply store. (Just ONE long taxi ride, to get alcohol, could double your yearly fuel cost!) Propane is sold at regular gas stations...
For CRUISING and/or LIVEABOARD
boats in the above category, using propane as a preferred stove fuel, is a nobrainer. Yes it can blow you sky high if you don't know what you're doing. So can the gas tank between my legs when I ride my motorcycle. I know however that unless I do something REALLY stupid, (like the guy I saw fueling up his bike, while smoking a cigar), My bike is not going to spontaneously combust! Getting run down... now that's
what I worry about. It has happened several times.
I have installed all types of boat "systems" as a vocation and avocation for over 40 years. When I install a propane system (as I did in our boat), I start with a light weight aluminum
cylinder, and put it in a properly (vented out the bottom) compartment. Then I use a pressure gauge in the line after the bottle's valve. I open the valve to pressurize the entire run, then turn off the bottle, (leaving the electronic solenoid on), and over several hours watch for tha gauge to go down. If it does not, NO LEAKS
. I also bubble test every connection, and put chafe protection at every place that the reinforced neoprene hose passes through or over a hard spot. When I go get more fuel and reconnect, I ALWAYS bubble test the connection at the bottle. I inspect the entire run once or twice a year, and change out everything except the stove and perhaps the non corroded bottle, at around 10 or 12 years. When I am through cooking
, I never just turn off the valve. I flip the solenoid button. The indicator light going out, then a CLICK noise
and flame going out, tell me that the bottle is off, and the entire plumbing
purged. Then I turn off the burner's valve, followed by the stove's valve. TRIPLE REDUNDANCY!
IF you do all of the above, Propane is possibly even safer than alcohol, in a cruising application, because of how much less often you handle, store in thin wall cans, and transfer fuel.
If you are not using ALL of the precautions that go with the use of propane, perhaps you ARE courting disaster?
In our case, the 5 gallon aluminum
bottle last three or four months, and if we run out at an inconvenient time, I thread on one of those little green camper stove bottles, which last over a week. This way I don't need a "y" valve, dual bottle system.
I'm speaking here of serious cruising sized boats, that are regularly used that way...
Propane is not "inherently safe", but if used correctly, (like I described), it falls WAY WAY below the numerous other dangers of cruising. It IS a better / hotter cooking fuel, has less smell, is more convenient, more available, WAY cheaper, and the logical way to go.
If you have a small weekender, cruised fairly locally, and / or, "avoid at all cost" complicated systems and the required vigilance, THEN you have a good argument for alcohol as a stove fuel. It might then be a better way to go... for you.