Retro fitting a propane locker in a small sail boat - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 06-05-2009
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Drop-in propane locker for small sail boats?

I am building myself a propane locker for our Islander 28. I am a retired boat builder / composite engineer. I have an older Islander 28 that my wife and I sail along the Maine coast. We want to install a propane heater and convert the alcohol stove to propane. After considering several options I have decided to build a "drop-in" propane locker that will consume the aft 26 inches of the quarter birth. It will accommodate a pair of 5 pound fiberglass propane tanks, regulator and solenoid shutoff valve, be sealed from the interior of the boat and have an overboard drain. It will be installed in the starboard cockpit seat and will have a double hatch configuration that seals the locker from the weather and a second "internal" hatch that seals the propane compartment from everything else.

I am "retired" and enjoy designing and engineering "stuff". It occurs to me that there are many smaller, older, sail boats that suffer from the same lack of space the Islander 28 does for retrofitting a propane locker. I know we will not miss the full length of the quarter birth and I suspect that is true for many other owners.

I want this locker to be "drop in" and easily removable so if it is installed in a location that blocks access it will not create a permanent obstruction. The actual locker will be removable by disconnecting hoses, removing a few fasteners and and lifting it out through its exterior, flush cockpit seat hatch. As I considered this design's application to other small sail boats it occurred to me it might solve this same problem for others.

I am going to build it. I am going to build it as a fiberglass part that is ultimately produced from a mold. I want it to be a "finished" component and am wondering if I should build the molds to a standard that will allow me to produce more than the one I intend to install on Tundra Down.

Does this idea appeal to anyone else?

Thanks,

George
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Old 06-05-2009
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Just a few words about having only 10 pounds (2x5) of propane and using a propane heater. Check how long ten pounds will heat, most propane heaters use a lot and ten pounds will not be practicable.
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Old 06-05-2009
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I'd be interested. Currently, the propance lockers available commercially are too big and way over priced for what they are. Our boat does not have a dedicated propane locker and while we have alittle bit more room tha you, we don't want to waste it anymore than is necessary.

Keep me posted, I can;t stand the fact that as of now our gas locker is a propane tank strapped to the rail!
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Old 06-05-2009
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George

I also might be interested. We have a 28 Newport which we may be sailing for a few more yrs. I have considered using our aft cockpit cooler but the wife doesn't want to give up the beverage storage.

Peter
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Old 06-05-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by downeast450 View Post
Hi,
I am building myself a propane locker for our Islander 28. I am a retired boat builder / composite engineer. I have an older Islander 28 that my wife and I sail along the Maine coast. We want to install a propane heater and convert the alcohol stove to propane. After considering several options I have decided to build a "drop-in" propane locker that will consume the aft 26 inches of the quarter birth. It will accommodate a pair of 5 pound fiberglass propane tanks, regulator and solenoid shutoff valve, be sealed from the interior of the boat and have an overboard drain. It will be installed in the starboard cockpit seat and will have a double hatch configuration that seals the locker from the weather and a second "internal" hatch that seals the propane compartment from everything else.

I am "retired" and enjoy designing and engineering "stuff". It occurs to me that there are many smaller, older, sail boats that suffer from the same lack of space the Islander 28 does for retrofitting a propane locker. I know we will not miss the full length of the quarter birth and I suspect that is true for many other owners.
Getting the propane locker truly air-tight to the boat's interior and still having it drain overboard properly will be very difficult if it is mounted in the quarterberth.

Quote:
I want this locker to be "drop in" and easily removable so if it is installed in a location that blocks access it will not create a permanent obstruction. The actual locker will be removable by disconnecting hoses, removing a few fasteners and and lifting it out through its exterior, flush cockpit seat hatch. As I considered this design's application to other small sail boats it occurred to me it might solve this same problem for others.

I am going to build it. I am going to build it as a fiberglass part that is ultimately produced from a mold. I want it to be a "finished" component and am wondering if I should build the molds to a standard that will allow me to produce more than the one I intend to install on Tundra Down.

Does this idea appeal to anyone else?

Thanks,

George
There are probably going to be some severe logisitical problems in making a single mold that will allow the locker to be properly retrofit into boat's other than the one you've designed it for.
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Old 06-05-2009
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In theory it sounds like an interesting idea. I'm sure you're aware that mass-produced propane lockers already are available on the market. Pulling from vague memory, it seems to me that some of those could be modified for the application you propose. Maybe not?

The biggest negative I see about your proposal is the use of 5 lb propane tanks. Those are pretty small. If someone is looking to add a propane system to their boat, they are often thinking about more than just a stove/oven application. Once you have propane, it's nice to have the option of adding other appliances, like grill and cabin heater. More capacity via larger tanks would be better.

Have you considered all the other options? Like hanging twin 10 lb tanks off the transom in a dedicated mounting bracket:




In any case, it sounds like you have the ability and understanding to do a nice job of it. Even if it's only for your boat, if it's what you want and it works out well for your purposes, then I say go for it!


P.S. I noticed that you posted the same thread in two different forums. I combined them for housekeeping purposes. If you prefer that the thread be kept in the "Islander" forum, let me know and I'll move it.
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Last edited by JohnRPollard; 06-05-2009 at 09:49 AM. Reason: added p.s.
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Old 06-05-2009
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Thank you for all the good advice. I like the two transom mounted tanks but it won't do for this boat. Only having 10 pounds of propane is a limitation but it is 10 pounds more than I have now and the diameters of larger tanks won't allow this solution. Our uses will be limited to weekend and week long gunk holing and will never be too far from refills.

The size of the installation will be fashioned around a standard after market hatch and will be 16" wide which just fits our cockpit seat.

I think I have solved the drain and seal issues but you are right on in pointing out their special requirements.

I was also wondering how "dear" the space is in the stern end of the quarter birth. Is it an important berthing space? It was a standard use of space when these boats were being marketed as sleeping 5. I wonder how many people use their quarter birth for sleeping? Times have changed and for us that space is storage anyway.

Thanks for consolidating. Placing it here was a second thought after I had put it in the Islander post.

George
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We use our quarterberth all the time for sleeping -- so we wouldn't want to give up that space. But that would likely differ from owner-to-owner. Just keep in mind the resale issue: If you plan to sell the boat down the road, somebody else may be looking for that bunk as a sleeping space.

Have you exhausted all the other possibilities? For instance, our locker is tucked up in the "dead space" under the cockpit coaming. This is outboard and above the cockpit locker. There's enough space there for 2 x 10 lb tanks:






I don't know the configuration of your boat, but I offer those photos just as an example of how creative thinking can often find unconventional solutions.

However you configure it, be sure to follow the ABYC safety specs: Vapor tight fittings, pressure gauge, remote safety solenoid, etc etc.

Good luck!
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Old 06-05-2009
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This post prompted me to check the price of a pre-built LPG locker from our favorite Marine dealer - WOW!!! It would seem to me that there is a lot of potential margin if you were to make these as a reasonable cost ($100-300).

Be careful though, I am sure that some lawyer will tell you that you may be liable unless you include appropriate disclaimers with your product.

I am looking at boats that have only one propane locker, and had considered adding and additional one myself. I would love to see what you come up with, and, pending boat, would be interested in buying one myself.
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Old 06-05-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by downeast450 View Post
I was also wondering how "dear" the space is in the stern end of the quarter birth. Is it an important berthing space? It was a standard use of space when these boats were being marketed as sleeping 5. I wonder how many people use their quarter birth for sleeping? Times have changed and for us that space is storage anyway.
That's one of those things you have to evaluate for yourselves... short term/long term...... My forward berth cushions are at home in my cellar and my still un-done project is to make a rack system for better storage up there.
I had done all that to my C320 but when I traded/brokered it in for the NC 331 the Broker said ..... Oh... you HAVE TO.... return the forward berth to original so I can sell it. I removed the shelving and intrusive DVD/VCR with much labor and aggravation. So when I spoke to the person the broker sold it to who was going to Live Aboard he said...... "Oh that's such a shame we would have Loved to Have it the way You had it set up".
Will the intrusion totally ruin the berth? Will it still be able to be used if say.. a daysail with guests turns into an overnighter dictated by weather or something ? You can guess my opinion - go for it.
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