Wood burning stoves are the worst from a fuel perspective. The fuel takes up a lot of space and provides relatively little heat for the amount stored. It has the lowest energy density, and is also the messiest to clean up. Have you ever emptied the ashes out of a fire pit...now imagine trying to do that on a boat without getting ash all over the interior.
Diesel is nice, since it poses the least risk from an explosion/fuel leak point of view. However, it does have the strong potential to coat the sails and rigging with soot. It is probably the safest of the three fuels to use in some ways. It is probably the least expensive of the fuels as well.
Propane is probably the most convenient of the three fuels. A propane powered heater generally doesn't require the coddling and maintenance of a diesel powered one nor the clean up of wood burning one. However, propane has the highest potential for an explosion. Given modern safety systems, like a fume detector and cutoff solenoid—these concerns can be handled and a properly installed system is going to be fairly safe. The exhaust from a propane powered appliance is going to be the cleanest of the three.
You will really want to get a vented heater or fireplace, since propane or diesel will add a lot of moisture to the cabin otherwise. If you get an unvented heater, mold and mildew will become more problematic due to condensation from the exhaust.
A vented heater is also less likely to exhaust carbon monoxide into the cabin. However, it would be a good idea to have and use a CO detector.
I like the look of the bulkhead stoves I've been seeing at West Marine and around the internet. I think one would be a great addition to the cabin. I would be interested to hear how people have fared with different types of stoves, particularly different fuel types. Also am looking for feedback from a fire hazard perspective.
Wood seems the lowest tech - pro: could picture rounding up firewood on a beach at an anchorage for fuel. con: How much space would a woodpile take up compared to a jerry can of diesel or propane? Then again a woodpile might be safer then propane. Also what about the smoke will it discolour sails and deposit soot about the decks?
I like the window on the propane models I've seen that simulate a fireplace - won't have quite the good smell and charm of real wood and costs more then wood.
The diesels seem the least charming of the lot aesthetically but could be quite practical as the jerry can of diesel would already be aboard as reserve fuel. Might be kind of smelly and same question about soot?
Thanks in advance for all input...
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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