Whether your vessel serves primarily as a daily liveaboard, weekend racer, or the occasional sunset cruiser for friends and family, one of the more intimate (read important) but less talked about pieces of equipment you have aboard is your stove. A safe, efficient, and reliable stove is no less important than your rigging or navigational equipment. After all, when you’re cold and tired after battling choppy waters, what can revive you and your crew like a hot cup of joe? Or what can relieve the tedium of a dead calm like a hardy meal cooked with friends?
A good stove can be a sailor’s best friend. But only if you get the right unit for you and your sailing and cooking style. Consider the following quick intro to stoves and what to know about the whole propane vs. alcohol debate:
Let’s Talk Stoves: Propane vs. Alcohol
The Debate for Propane
Propane stoves and ovens have been the standard on just about every production cruising and most all weekender and racing sailboats built from the early 1980s and onto today. Such popularity is well deserved owing to the great many benefits of this type of fuel. Benefits like propane being available worldwide at reasonable rates and being convenient to cook with. Propane stoves are quick to take a pot of cold water and set it boiling, making cooking food and heating up water quick and fast.
That said, propane stoves and their set-ups require care and maintenance. The gas is heavier than air and its fumes can and will settle in the bilge if they are not properly ventilated out. Propane leaks and settled gas come with the risk of explosion which can cause grievous injury to body and property.
If your boat is already set-up for a propane stove, then so long as you keep the lines properly maintained and the stove itself in good condition, you will enjoy all the benefits without much risk. Check and ensure that the system includes a remote solenoid shut-off for extra security. Long-range cruisers and frequent weekenders ought to consider investing in an oven/stove gimbaled unit like this Force 10 Propane Range Oven. This unit won’t break your bank but it will provide consistent, reliable service. A single Coleman two-burner camp stove can also be readily bolted to the galley for less intensive purposes.
The Argument for Alcohol
Alcohol stoves have arguably long gotten a bad rap as older, pressurized models were notorious to light as they required an intense amount of priming which, once lit, was prone to flare-ups and difficult to control. Today’s alcohol boat stoves have come a long way and many sailors looking for a simple stove are finding this their preferred solution. The Origo non-pressurized alcohol stoves are a great example of what’s to love about this style equipment.
Origo brand stoves feature a simple (and affordable) set-up where all a cook needs to do is pour alcohol onto the system’s wicks and then open a flue to light the burners directly. This equipment boils water at rates nearly as fast as propane stoves but without the risks of noxious, explosive fumes.