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Old 01-04-2017, 11:02   #1
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Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

My used boat was supposed to have a portable, two-burner, alcohol stove. There was no stove when the boat was delivered.

I have a small two-burner coleman camp stove and a larger three burner propane stove in my pop-up camper. I used to have a coleman white gas stove. Should I just use the small propane stove, or go buy something new?

What fuel is the best for a 27-foot sailboat? What are your recommendations?
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Old 01-04-2017, 11:03   #2
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

FYI, there's no room for a permanent stove. Whatever I use has to be stowable.
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Old 01-04-2017, 11:24   #3
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

Iwatani single burner butane stove if you're sailing locally in the US. Highest output burner and convenient spray-paint sized cans that last about three-fours hours on high and cost two bucks when bought in bulk on the net from Gas One...about 5 bucks if you pick them up at West Marine. Small and light and easy to put in the cockpit, take to the beach in the dink, or use on the counter in the galley.

I was sold on kerosene for a long while, liked the convenience and safety of Origo alcohol for longer (and still have a two burner in the boat), but when I want to cook a single pot dish or heat water for coffee in the kettle, I use the Iwatani. One two mug French press of water boils in 150 seconds...

Good luck.
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Old 01-04-2017, 11:45   #4
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

Alcohol is recommended by some for safety reasons but in my opinion and experience it's expensive and a terrible fuel for cooking.

Propane in my opinion is the best for cooking BUT on a boat it can kill you. If you get a leak the propane is heavier than air, sinks into the bilge and will blow up like a stick of dynamite and that is NOT an exaggeration.

Use strict safety and handling procedures and propane is fine. Get slack and it can be very dangerous.
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Old 01-04-2017, 12:58   #5
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

For ease of use, availability, and cost I'd have to recommend propane. Of the three it also has the potential to be the most dangerous. Enough boats have had propane explosions that to be safe you should install a propane sniffer and an approved bilge fan with a path to vent any gas. Store any extra propane cylinders outside the cabin as well as the cylinder on the stove when you are not using the boat.

I'm currently using a kerosene stove and cooking grade K-1 kerosene runs at least $10/gallon. I have only been able to find it at hardware stores. It is also hard to find replacement parts for the stove and when you can they're expensive. When I finally upgrade I'm going to propane.
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Old 01-04-2017, 13:12   #6
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

I used to use a single burner Sea Swing stove with an alcohol burner on my old 27' boat. I didn't like the alcohol burner (hard to see and adjust the flame) so I converted it to a butane burner and had good luck with that till one day I was screwing a new butane canister on to the bottom of the burner. The canister didn't seal properly and leaked gas. I baptized it off the dock. Which ever you choose just follow safety rules and secure fuel supply.
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Old 01-04-2017, 13:47   #7
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

I think there are two factors:

1) what is easily available is the best,
2) what you are used to is the best.

Get a fuel that is easy to get and one that you are actually comfortable about.

In our land home we used to have LPG and an electric plate. LPG is easily available where we sail, so we stick with LPG. But a small electric plate seems to work just as well if you can tie up to a dock with a plug.

Spirit/kerosene sounds more like a UK / US cultural thing. These are not widely used on European boats but they are visible on boats that sail in as visitors. This fuel is more difficult to buy here (Europe) and also more expensive. But it can be quite the other way round where you live.

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Old 01-04-2017, 13:54   #8
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Spirit/kerosene sounds more like a UK / US cultural thing. These are not widely used on European boats but they are visible on boats that sail in as visitors. This fuel is more difficult to buy here (Europe) and also more expensive. But it can be quite the other way round where you live.

Cheers,
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I think more of a UK thing. Not unknown on US boats but far from common.
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Old 01-04-2017, 13:57   #9
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

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I think there are two factors:

1) what is easily available is the best,
2) what you are used to is the best..
Well, not waking up dead the next morning should factor in here somewhere.

Propane is great for cooking but a portable propane stove on a boat is unsafe and cannot be made safe.

I had an alcohol stove (built in) on a previous boat and it was a poor second to built in propane. I have no experience with kerosene or diesel stoves.
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Old 01-04-2017, 14:01   #10
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

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Originally Posted by Diesel Bill View Post
I used to use a single burner Sea Swing stove with an alcohol burner on my old 27' boat. I didn't like the alcohol burner (hard to see and adjust the flame) so I converted it to a butane burner and had good luck with that till one day I was screwing a new butane canister on to the bottom of the burner. The canister didn't seal properly and leaked gas. I baptized it off the dock. Which ever you choose just follow safety rules and secure fuel supply.
Ah, some good points here. Propane is more dangerous because it is heavier than air. In our RV, we have a propane sniffer. But the gas can leak out through the door, given some time. In a boat it will sink to the bilges, waiting for a stray spark. Our camp stove has a simple canister supply. I think that would as big as I'd want to go without proper venting.

I used to sail on a C&C 37 that had a dedicated propane storage bin aft of the cockpit. It was vented overboard. But this precaution only dealt with tank leaks, not a blown out burner and other leaks.

Good points. Thanks.
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Old 01-04-2017, 14:14   #11
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

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I used to sail on a C&C 37 that had a dedicated propane storage bin aft of the cockpit. It was vented overboard. But this precaution only dealt with tank leaks, not a blown out burner and other leaks. .
That's why you shut off the tank after use, either manually, or with an electric solenoid.

I have a kerosene stove, it's a good stove, but lighting it is a two-stage process requiring first priming with alcohol ... so it doesn't have the convenience of instant cooking heat like propane or alcohol.
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Old 01-04-2017, 15:18   #12
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

From my log from last year's trip from SF to Vancouver Island:


The butane stove worked great. We’ll keep it until and if I decide to deal with a propane mod for the CNG stove.


It's simple and works great unless it's below 40F.
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Old 01-04-2017, 16:42   #13
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

Bigjim, if a two burner stove cannot be permanently, use your 2 burner camp stove, with the propane canisters. Use it only in a well ventilated area, and figure out some above decks storage for the canisters, perhaps a waterproof box, with a vent hose overboard glued in, and lashed to the pushpit. If the canister gives 10 meals per can, just figure out how many you need for the trip you will be taking, and allow one extra. Mostly unretired people only have weekends and vacations for sailing, so not long trips, with no replacement stuff available. If you're taking longer trips, consider a small outdoor tank, that you hitch up when you use the stove. You'll also need a regulator and a hose, but a gas supply place will probably have all you need. Be sure to check all connections for leaking before use. We use soap bubbles for checking. Pay close attention when you're cooking and if you're extra safety conscious, remove the canister each time after cooking and store in its vented box.

Up to you how careful you personally need to be. I'm sure someone may object to my quick and dirty methods.
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Old 01-04-2017, 16:44   #14
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

Bigjim, if a two burner stove cannot be permanently, use your 2 burner camp stove, with the propane canisters. Use it only in a well ventilated area, and figure out some above decks storage for the canisters, perhaps a waterproof box, with a vent hose overboard glued in, and lashed to the pushpit. If the canister gives 10 meals per can, just figure out how many you need for the trip you will be taking, and allow one extra.

Mostly unretired people only have weekends and vacations for sailing, so not long trips, with no replacement stuff available. If you're taking longer trips, consider a small outdoor tank, that you hitch up when you use the stove. You'll also need a regulator and a hose, but a gas supply place will probably have all you need. Be sure to check all connections for leaking before use. We use soap bubbles for checking. Pay close attention when you're cooking and if you're extra safety conscious, remove the canister each time after cooking and store in its vented box.

Up to you how careful you personally need to be. I'm sure someone may object to my quick and dirty methods.
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Old 01-04-2017, 16:56   #15
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Re: Propane, alcohol or kerosene stoves?

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.................... Up to you how careful you personally need to be. I'm sure someone may object to my quick and dirty methods.
An explosion on one boat can take out an entire marina.
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