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Old 02-02-2011, 09:00   #1
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Denatured Alcohol

Looking at installing a decent cooking appliance on our smallish boat. How aviable is denatured alcohol along the ICW and down into the Caribbean? Also looking at a Wallas kerosene unit. Not crazy about having the exhaust out the side though. No doubt the kerosene is more bang for the buck and perhaps easier to find? Colin...
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Old 02-02-2011, 12:05   #2
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Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Colin.

Alcohol stoves suck.
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Old 02-02-2011, 12:31   #3
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Go with propane. Most practical and widely available. No danger of blowing up if properly installed.
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Old 02-02-2011, 12:57   #4
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We had alcohol ...and as Gord said "Alcohol stoves suck"
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Old 02-02-2011, 13:09   #5
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Here we go again with people saying alcohol sucks and go with propane, the "conventional wisdom" of the day. 25 years ago anyone with propane on a boat was considered insane. Today most boats have it. I personally would not have it on my boat but I don't tell others that "it sucks", "it's dangerous", etc. To each their own.

We have lived aboard and cruised full-time for 5 years now with an Origo 3000 two-burner non-pressurized stove. We have gourmet meals and the greatest variety of food I have ever had in my lifetime. Linda even bakes cakes, meatloaf, etc. in a skillet with no oven.

The Origo non-pressurized alcohol stoves are the safest way to cook on a boat. No explosive gas. The old style pressurized alcohol stoves were a bit dangerous as they flared up and the flame was not always visible. The flame is always visible with the non-pressurized stove. In the U.S. denatured alcohol is available at any hardware or paint store (Ace Hardware has the cleanest burning alcohol). It is easier to get than finding a propane filling station as there are usually hardware or Home Depot or a paint store closer to the marinas than propane filling stations. The first thing cruisers ask here in Marathon in the Keys when they arrive is "where can I get my propane tank filled?". And there is only one place within 10 miles of the harbor (fortunately just across the street).

The other thing people say is "Alcohol doesn't burn hot enough". This is also untrue. The Origo puts out I think 3000 BTU, a bit less hot than a gas burner but boils water in only a couple of minutes more than a gas burner. If anything we have a problems getting it low enough to simmer things.

So if you want a simple, trouble-free, safe stove on a boat don't let anyone tell you that you MUST have propane, a non-pressurized alcohol stove is the way to go. I can't say what the availability of denatured alcohol is in the Caribbean but if they have paint or hardware stores, it is probably available. BTW, we use maybe a gallon a month cooking all our meals aboard at a cost of about $15 per gallon here in the U.S.
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Old 02-02-2011, 13:09   #6
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Indeed pressurized alcohol stoves suck. Non pressurized Origo alcohol stoves work great. Not only that but they wont blow your boat up as propane occasionally does. I am in St. Lucia and havent had a problem finding the alcohol - It is far cheaper in hardware stores (1/3 to 1/2 the price of "marine" alcohol).

I have found that the debate of Origo stoves vs. propane is full of myths and preconceptions - No, it doesnt take longer to boil water on my Origo than it does on the propane I use at home. No, there isnt lots of water in the air from using alcohol. No, it doesnt smell. Yes, I can see the flame.

It is kind of like the eternal Mac vs. PC debate. People like what they have and dont like what they dont have (but dont really know about it either)
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Old 02-02-2011, 13:21   #7
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I did'nt mean to ruffle any feathers...we had alcohol and after 8 years changed it.
I would just recommend giving it a try before you commit...it isn't for everybody
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Old 02-02-2011, 13:37   #8
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I agree with the "alcohol sucks" guys. The fuel is REALLY expensive, hard to find, smells, and burns your eyes. It takes forever to boil water, and if presurized... is quite DANGEROUS!

I had the most popular alcohol stove on my first cat in the 70s. One would pump it up, prime it, and the heat would turn the alcohol liquid to a gas. Then I'd open the valve. If later the wind blew out the flame, as it often did, the alcohol would turn back into a liquid. Due to the pressurized tank, this liquid would run over and fill the crumb tray, and sometimes over flow that. Later I would light the stove again, and sometmes Without knowing it, the crumb tray and half my counter would be on fire!

The flame being so pure blue, only an inch tall, and with direct sunlight shining in on my counter, I didn't even notice that my damned counter was on fire. This happened more than once!!!

The Coast Guard finally recanted about propane, when they realized that even though propane can blow you sky high, and alcohol does not... 95% of the stove related disasters were from alcohol!

Then they came out with the NON pressurized / wick type of alcohol stove. Now they weren't dangerous any more, but they were still ALL of those other negatives.

Go with Propane!

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Old 02-02-2011, 13:58   #9
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We used a non-pressurised Hillerange Alcohol stove for six years, and couldn’t have been happier when we upgraded to propane.

In Canada, the cheapest alcohol fuel was sold as Methyl Hydrate (Methanol, Wood Alcohol), often used for gas line (not diesel) anti-freeeze & cleaning/thinning shellac, & as a powerful window cleaner with a streak-free finish.

Methanol is Methyl Alcohol is Wood Alcohol is Methyl Hydrate. This is the stuff that could blind you if you drink it.

Ethanol is ethyl alcohol is grain alcohol. This is the drinking stuff.

Denatured alcohol is ethanol with an additive to make it undrinkable. There are many different denaturing agents depending on the application.

Methanol, which I used, contains 9,800 BTU per Pound, whereas
Ethanol contains 12,800 BTU per Pound
which may explain some of my dissatisfaction with alcohol.
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Old 02-02-2011, 14:49   #10
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I like non pressurised alcohol stoves and have used them extensively and totally agree with the points raised above by "Downtothesea".

They have a lot of things going for them, no heavy gas bottles to disconnect from your boat and lug around for refilling, you can buy the denatured alcohol virtually anywhere and a 1 litre bottle can be picked up along with the rest of your shopping at the supermarket. It is very economical, lasts a long time and has less risks of explosion or leaking in your boat, there was a recent incident where some perople died throught propane fumes while sleeping onboard overnight.

It just comes down to personal preference and it is well worth the effort to track down a boat of a friend etc to see for yourself & give the stove a try and do some cooking to make your own opinion.
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Old 02-02-2011, 15:55   #11
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For non pressurized alcohol....

Have used it for years and have no problems. Available just about anywhere and as you point out in your 'smallish' boat I would consider the space the gas tank takes up.

As far as I deal with gas is the small bottles for the BBQ.


Alcohol vs Propane
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Old 02-02-2011, 16:31   #12
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I have an Origo 6000 non-pressurized alcohol stove an like it. The only downside so far is that the fuel is more expensive, but I figure it's probably less than $100/year, so it's not that big of a deal. I'd prefer diesel or kerosene, but on my small boat, neither was really an option.

Personally, I don't want propane, or gasoline, on a boat, so non-pressurized alcohol was my best option. My only concern now is availability.
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Old 02-02-2011, 17:16   #13
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This thread reminds me of one some time ago where a bloke posted that, because he'd had an alcohol stove fire, he was going to switch to propane. Apparently he'd previously failed to turn off the fuel supply and so the next time he went to light the stove, guess what... the thing ignited. Bluddy useless dangerous stove! ROFLMFAO. Eventually someone recovered eough to post the likely ramifications should he be so careless with a propane stove.

BTW, alcohol fuel fires are easily and quickly extinguished by common old H2O; just keep a spray bottle handy.

The bottom line is that propane and gasoline don't belong on boats; one mistake and you're sky high. And if it takes an exta minute to boil the billy, who cares.
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Old 02-02-2011, 18:49   #14
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I have gasoline on my boat. I'd rather not... It's something that sits in the back of my mind at all times... No way I'm adding propane to the mix. If I ever repower or buy a new boat, I'll definitely change that situation...

I have a pressurized alcohol stove now. I've considered between changing the burners to make it kerosene or just getting an origo (or otherwise non-pressurized alcohol stove). I decided that if I budget for $200 (very conservative) per year for alcohol fuel, less than $20 bucks a month added to my grocery budget seems quite reasonable... financially its not much different than the cost of having spare burners and spare parts on a yearly basis for a kero stove. And I'm extremely cost conscience... The extra cost seems to outweigh the hassle and other concerns in my book.

To compensate for the odd times I need a gimbaled stove (note that kero always needs to be gimbaled) , or when I can't find alcohol, I'd have a mini-galley and a gas bottle bbq.

I've used alcohol camp stoves for many years. I've used them outdoors with no protection from the wind except a flimsy little windscreen, and they have always performed flawlessly. They boil a liter of water in less than 10 minutes with 1oz of alcohol on the side a friggin mountain, on a stove that measures 1"x1". People that can't work an alcohol stove on a boat without causing a fire are the ones that really need to stay away from propane

The Original question about Alcohol Availability has not been answered. I'm also very curious to hear real accounts and actual costs of Alcohol in various countries.
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Old 02-02-2011, 19:54   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColinMurray View Post
Looking at installing a decent cooking appliance on our smallish boat. How aviable is denatured alcohol along the ICW and down into the Caribbean? Also looking at a Wallas kerosene unit. Not crazy about having the exhaust out the side though. No doubt the kerosene is more bang for the buck and perhaps easier to find? Colin...
Since no one answered the original questions, l'll try:

1) denatured alcohol is available from most hardware stores, including Ace hardware and Home Depot. You should have no trouble finding it along the ICW. I'm not sure about Caribbean, but I don't believe it would be too hard to find.

2) I'm pretty sure Wallas stoves can be installed to vent through the deck. The heaters certainly can.

My unsolicited advice is to go with propane. It is convenient, widely available, and safe if properly installed. If you are still concerned about safety of propane or if you have no space for a proper tank installation, Origo would be a reasonable choice. I have used an Origo stove and it was not too bad, but refilling the canisters with alcohol was a hassle (try to do it while bouncing along close hauled!)

Kerosene would be my last choice for a stove, unless you don't intend to use it much. I had a Wallas kerosene heater on my boat but I found it ornery and unreliable. I would hate to have to depend on it for a cup of tea.
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