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Old 12-08-2008
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Stoves - pressurized alcohol or propane, which is better?

Hi,
I'm looking at buying an early 1980's catalina 30. I found two, one has a pressurized alcohol stove, one has propane. Which is a better fuel for the stove/oven? Which is safer? Cheaper to refill? Better heat output? Easier to use?
I wouldn't be cooking too often... maybe a small meal every other weekend, maybe using the oven once or twice a summer.
Thanks!
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Old 12-08-2008
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Propane, properly installed is more efficient and safer. It is also cheaper to fuel, has better heat output and is far easier to use.

Alcohol has a much lower heating value as a fuel and pressurized alcohol stoves are often a serious fire danger, as reported by Boat US in their book Seaworthy.
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Old 12-09-2008
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Propane is WAY better.
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Old 12-09-2008
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My boat has a pressurized alcohol stove. I was not thrilled about it when I bought the boat because they have a bad rap. The previous owners had converted from Propane to Alcohol. I've heard that with Alcohol, you can't see the flame. This is only true if the flames are in bright sunlight. If the flames from your stove are in direct sunlight, I think the battle is probably lost already! Besides, the flames from the burning fiberglass should be highly visible by then I can get fuel at any hardware store. It may be a little slower to heat than Propane, but I am very happy with the Alcohol stove and oven. I don't think it should be a deal breaker, there are bigger issues when buying a boat. I would certainly try it for a while before replacing it. I think Alcohol is fine.

Last edited by L124C; 12-11-2008 at 09:57 PM.
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L124C-

Don't know where you learned chemistry, but alcohol vapors are generally denser than air.

Also, water in insufficient quantity can spread alcohol fires instead of putting them out... which is one reason alcohol stoves caused some many boat fires... the person would pour water on the fire and the burning alcohol would get washed down into areas of the boat where it wasn't readily visible. By the time they realized their mistake, it was usually way too late. Water is NOT A RECOMMENDED EXTINGUISHING MEDIA FOR ALCOHOL FIRES.

Might want to learn a bit more about alcohol and alcohol fires before opening your mouth. Read the MSDS for denatured alcohol.

Let me quote the relevant section for you:

Quote:
EXTINGUISHING MEDIA:
Alcohol foam, CO2 or dry chemical.

FIREFIGHTING PROCEDURES:
Wear self-contained breathing apparatus approved by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Use water to cool neighboring containers.[

SPECIAL FIRE AND EXPLOSION HAZARDS:
Flammable. Dangerous fire risk. Toxic by ingestion and inhalation. Vapors are heavier than air and will travel along ground to ignition source.
Finally, alcohol vapors are harder to detect than propane, which is spiked with mercaptan to make it very noticeable due to the odor of the mercaptan.
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Weirder things have been done...
Quote:
Originally Posted by cardiacpaul View Post
Please tell me that you're not going to make a decision between two boats based on a stove.
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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
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I installed a propane stove in my boat. This thing burns HOT. I have to be really careful not to burn whatever I'm cooking. Way, way hotter than my gas stove at home.

On the flip side, my friend's alcohol stove takes 20 minutes to boil a small pan of water.
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Is there anyway we could make a sticky with proper storage of propane on a boat? At this point, I'm thinking the only safe place for me would be strapping them into the bottom of the cockpit. My boat is not set up for "fuel tanks" and there's no way I'm glassing one in and putting another hole for a vent. I'm assuming that the safest way is to obviously cook outside, store the stove inside with the tank/bottle closed off and in the cockpit? Is there a better way? I'm very paranoid about blowing up my boat.
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Never store propane inside your cockpit. Propane is heavier than air and WILL seep into the cabin. Mounting the tank on the aft rail would be much better EXCEPT that the tanks really don't like seawater and will corrode to junk unless you have one of the fancy new glass wrapped composite tanks.
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Old 12-09-2008
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If your search these threads you'll find a lot of discussion on this issue - including pics of some installations on boats that have no "proper" propane locker...

Having lived with a pressurized alcohol stove for 12 years for all the "right" reasons, our latest boat has propane and honestly we'd never go back.
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