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  #11  
Old 08-22-2006
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There it isn't

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
... Alcohol fires are really dangerous since the alcohol can float on top of water and still be burning, and the flames are nearly invisible.
That would explain my instructor's multiple dunking to douse his flames. He also reported seeing flames under water. Maybe that was the surface on fire.

We've probably all seen a formula race car driver after a crash hopping and rolling around as if on fire but without visible flames.
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  #12  
Old 08-22-2006
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Yup... they're hopping and rolling, because even if they can't see the fire...they can feel the heat...
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  #13  
Old 08-22-2006
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A close friend and I were anchored in our separate boats off Fort Adams 2 seasons ago, to watch the Newport Folk Festival. My wife and our two 20-something kids were on True Blue, close by his 25 y/o Pearson 33, while he and his party guests got pretty wasted during the course of the afternoon.

Close to 5:00 pm, he decided to cook some food, pumped up his pressurized tank, but was distracted by the encore performance and went up into the cockpit. Apparently, his valve was open before he pressurized the tank - overflowing the burner cup and sending alcohol fuel down into his bilge.

No one knows for sure how much time passed before he attempted to pre-heat the burner. But when he did, the flame ignited the burner and quickly spread down into his bilge. Flames began to melt the fiberglass interior hull and ignited the wood sole, cushion fabric, cabinets and bulkheads. As the hundreds of anchored boat people watched, black smoke & flames were blazing from the ports & companionway, while most of the guests jumped off the boat. The captain and a friend however, stayed onboard and eventually put the flames out with water & flour - only after pulling up every floor board.

The boat was nearly totaled, took 2 years to restore, and is still unfinished. The owner since then, installed a propane system to current ABYC safety standards. Modern alcohol stoves may be safer today, but onboard alcohol as a cooking fuel is still terrifying to me. I have yet to hear about a propane fire in this area, but plenty of alcohol fires occur each year - including one we had on a former boat.
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  #14  
Old 08-22-2006
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Propane generally doesn't result in fires...but does result in explosions. There was a thread previously which talked about CNG, which is mostly Methane, Propane and Butane, and Butane is probably the least safe of the gases used in cooking systems... CNG is the hardest to get, and requires a different burner from propane and butane, which can generally be interchanged fairly safely.
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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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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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Old 08-22-2006
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question: when does a boat sound like a dog ?

answer: when you fill the bilge with alcohol and light the stove -- woof !

Sorry I couldn't resist.

TrueBlue, at least it sounds like nobody was hurt in the P33 alcohol fire story and I certainly hope that is the case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TrueBlue
...I have yet to hear about a propane fire in this area, but plenty of alcohol fires occur each year - including one we had on a former boat.
In the propane case it's probably more of an explosion followed by some fire. I use CNG for the galley, but the tank is in the starboard locker which I'm not happy about. I'm planning on moving it to a new much smaller volatiles locker on the port side which is top and bottom vented and glassed out of the interior boat spaces. I carry two of the small coleman propane cylinders in the cockpit for the rail grill. I know that they often can leak after being used but at least the propane can pass down thru the cockpit drains. I'm making a pvc tube to store them on the rail away from some foot level inner cockpit portlights.

Then I'll never forget the story from "Total Loss" (great book !) in the fire section about a British captain with a gasoline inboard engine who said that he pressed the starter button one morning while his wife was making tea and the boat blew up around them. The next thing he remembered is his wife was yelling and hopping around on her uninjured leg, although he couldn't hear her right away. She had only minor injuries and they made it ashore in a smoldering dinghy in time to see the rest of the vessel destroyed (prerequisite for inclusion in "Total Loss").
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BoatUS insurance just put out a nice book that talks about the different ways boats are lost. A remarkably high percentage sink at the dock.
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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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  #17  
Old 08-23-2006
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What confounds me is how simple and hot the Origo is and how difficult and cold the pressurized alcohol. Pressurized alcohol is plain stupid. I would even go so far to say they aren't even a heat source, at least it feels that way when trying to boil water. The only problem I have had with the Origo stoves is the quality of fuel. Poor quality fuel causes my eyes to burn a little and require opening up the cabin a bit for some air flow. I would rather keep it closed up on a cool morning. Most people have no experience with non-pressurized stoves like the Origo so tend to be negative about them just because they use alcohol. No propane tanks to mess with and inherently safer than pressurized alcohol or propane.
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Old 08-23-2006
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I have used an Origo non-pressurized stove, but prefer the ease and simplicity of propane stoves. For people not used to an Origo alcohol stove, getting the hang of it can be a problem. Propane is far simpler to adjust to, as many have some experience with either natural gas in the home or propane equipment from camping or a backyard barbeque grill.

My main objection to alcohol stoves, including the Origos, is the cost of the fuel and the danger of the fuel source.

It is pretty easy to spill alcohol and not notice it—especially on a moving sailboat, where the angle of heel and boat's motion can easily cause the spill...and the flames are almost invisible, so you might have a small alcohol fire burning in an out of the way place, like having the fuel floating on water, which happens quite frequently, and not notice it immediately.
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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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  #19  
Old 08-23-2006
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Thank you all for your input. I'm still undecided which way to go, but really appreciate Jeff's comments as they mirror my thoughts/fears on safety. I realize any system is only as safe as the attention given to it, but am attracted to the minimal components of using alcohol. I liveaboard and cooking is important to me. Thanks again everyone.
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Old 08-23-2006
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Who ever it was that said that Alcohol can float on the water clearly does not know a thing about alcohol. Alcohol readily mixes with water and adding water immediately extinguishes it. Geez, I hate seeing misinformation on alcohol.

The alcohol used in stoves is completely different than the methyl alcohol used in race cars and beyond that most race cars that use alcohol use a mixture of methyl and gasoline which is what makes them so volitile and the flames next to invisble.

The story about the burning boat really surprises me. It would take a lot of alcohol to that much damage. More than would normally be present in a normal pressurized stove tank. Any mixture of water and alcohol, except for something approaching straight alcohol will not ignite. (It is my understanding that as little as 12% water content makes alcohol next to impossible to ignite.) so the simple expedient of throwing a couple glasses of water in the bilge should have put the fire out, that is unless other combustible materials were present. A hand pumped flower mister makes a very effective alcohol fire extinguisher. Most of the P-33's originally had gasoline engines so your friend is a really lucky man to still be here.

Speaking of things that actually do go boom in the night, how many of you carry small quantities of mineral spirits or other paint thinners in their cabin's. Just a thought.

Respectfully,
Jeff

Last edited by Jeff_H; 08-23-2006 at 02:33 PM.
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