3-Stove Steve.

I may temporarily be back to being merely ‘2 boat’ Steve as i now only have one boat in Cornwall and one in Suffolk….how posh is that ? .  However i am also temporarily ‘3-stove’ Steve in that i now own 3 Origo alcohol/meths stoves as WABI”’ has a double burner version, i have just taken the similar one off Inanda and i won a secondhand single burner Origo on Ebay last week.  The single burner stove will be going on the little counter top just inside the companionway aboard Inanda.



My intention with this post isn’t to explain my growing stove collection although i do have to admit to owning more camping and bushcraft related stoves than i can ever remember buying but rather to talk about these alcohol stoves and something i just found out about them.

As a long time mountaineer, climber, hiker and bushcrafter i never really liked the popular alcohol/meths stoves for example the well known Trangia.   I do remember having one at some point and quickly gave it away and then forgot about alcohol stoves completely until i bought the Liberty which had one when i took her over.  Most of my boats have either had fixed or portable LPG stoves and their attendant gas systems. Somewhere i have at least 4 camping gaz cylinders from the Frances, as it happens we quite like to have a simple gas hob when we are camping in France because, predictably, camping gaz is easily available in French supermarkets where for instance Calor gas isn’t.   It’s undeniable that LPG systems on boats can be dangerous even though they are commonly fitted.  I don’t personally know of many boat owners who have regular pressure/safety checks done for example and been aboard some boats with a distinct gassy smell.    I know of several gas explosions and fires aboard boats related to gas faults and user stupidity….i don’t know of any alcohol-fuel boat fires.

For the last 2 years i have been getting used to cooking with the Origo stove and methylated spirits aboard the Hunter liberty and generally really come to like it.  I didn’t think it would be a ‘powerful’ enough stove, for example to fast stir-fry really hot but that doesn’t seem to be the case, in fact it has worked fine.  The one side i haven’t liked is that the stove, or more correctly the fuel, tends to give me a headache at night if i have the hatches shut and secondly it really blackens the pans.  I don’t worry over much about the blackenned pans because i am used to that with open fires and bushcraft but the headache was literally a headache when i had the boat shut down completely in the cold weather delivery trip this spring.

One thing that concerned me with going abroad with the Liberty was the availability to find suitable fuel.   In one French boat store (chandlery) i even took a bottle with me and they didn’t understand what it was and clearly didn’t stock it.  As it happens i always kept a good month’s supply on board so it wasn’t critical.   I did later find out in France that they use a different fuel called ‘alcool brule’ which is a different alcohol and seemed to work just as well and is commonly available in supermarkets.

Aboard Inanda i have taken out the double burner Origo stove and i am going to fit the single burner stove when i go back next time.  I will probably then sell the spare double burner hob and use that cash for something else.  While i was in Ipswich though i had an interesting talk with a bloke in Fox’s chandlery when i went to get some cordage for Inanda.  I asked if they stocked meths as it’s used as a priming fuel for the pansy stove anyway and i thought that i might use the original Origo stove if i ran out of gas. What the bloke told me was that they tend to sell a bio-ethanol fuel for Origo stoves now as it burns cleaner so i bought some of that to try it out.    From my memory of basic chemistry the first 2 alcohols : ethyl and methyl are both combustible. I think the next one in the group isn’t combustible.  Ethyl alcohol is obviously the same stuff as drinking alcohol although i suspect that the bio-ethanol has most likely been doctored in some way as to make it unpalatable.  Methyl-alcohol (meths) is of course toxic…..interestingly when i worked in intensive care many years back i dealt with a couple of deliberate cases of meths-drinkers, the technique of washing the meths out of the body is to replace it with ethyl-alcohol.  I don’t quite remember the physiological mechanism but the technique is basically to keep the (unconscious) patient at a high blood-alcohol level for several days and then dry them out.  The latter stage was never pretty !.

Anyway and back to boating……Inanda is getting a single burner Origo stove and today’s job at home is to clean up her old one and get that onto Ebay.

Lastly today….while i was in the chandlery getting cordage i did ask for the Imray local small chart pack as i really like the ones i have for this coast.  Apparently there have been so many changes to mud/sand banks , river entrances and the like that Imray have recalled all the old ones and are doing a complete reprint of the set.   That does mean that i will be getting an up to date set of charts.   Having a chat with some of the locals it does sound as though the ‘diffiicult’ entrances and river-mouth bars such as the ones into the Deben and Alde have changed a lot in the gales this winter and are still changing again …..just hope the charts are in-date for long enough when i get them.

For sale on Ebay today.



Today’s sea story….actually a true boatyard story.

Many years ago my first introduction to boats and boatyards was when i got a temporary job as a labourer at Dickies boatyard in Bangor.  In my new job i now work with a bloke who used to run the climbers hotel : the Pen-Y-Gywrd in the Llanberis pass and he says that Dickies no longer exists.  Anyway and back then it was a proper boatyard with slipways, boat storage, some big sheds and a team of boatbuilders.

I wasn’t there for the actual incident but was told about it by the boat-owner that i went on to sail and race with for many years after i had left the yard and was at the same time doing my nurse training….notice the order of priorities there !.  John….who was a consultant gynaecologist told me that he was working on his boat in the yard when another boat owner across the way put his ladder up, climbed up into the cockpit, put the key in his engine ignition and …….BOOM.  The whole boat must have been full of an explosive gas-air mixture and the whole lot went up.

Yachting world photograph and not the actual incident but even so.


John said he looked up to see the body doing a carwheel in the air and then landing next to the boat…..before running over to see what he could do.  The job he gave me was to scrub the blood off the fenders he had used, i don’t know how, in his efforts at first aid. I seem to remember asking John if the casualty had needed gynaecological intervention (i was a cheeky bugger in those days) …he said no although on a serious note there was little he could do.  The casualty was definitely in the local ICU for a while until they worked out that his stomach shouldn’t actually be in his chest…..not a good look getting blown up in a boat gas/air explosion.

Kind-of introduces my first aid series in the blog coming next.

1 Comment

  1. Look on the bright side stoves don’t cost as much as boats to run 🙂 so having 3 should not be that bad !
    Definitely to be avoided gas / Air in an enclosed space.


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