Installing a propane gas stove
My wife Kathy and I have sailed our 1972 Sparkman & Stevens, Tartan 34, Endeavour, all around the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Bermuda. One upgrade we had long wanted to add is a propane stove.
Stoves back in 1972 were usually pressurized, two burner alcohol-fired models. Sometimes they had an oven underneath. Our Tartan 34 had an oven, but it was hard to start and even harder to keep going, particularly in a seaway. The alcohol tank was about 12 inches long and six inches in diameter with a hand pressure pump on top. It occupied a compartment next to the stove and wasted a lot of space and on a 34-foot boat space is everything.
At the time we were devotees of Don Street. He said propane was not available in remote parts of the world and that pressurized kerosene was the right choice. So out came the alcohol stove and oven and in went the beautiful, expensive, English-made Taylor two burner kerosene stove with oven, all of which used the legendary optimus burners.
Our switch to propane came soon after we discovered it was possible to fill a propane tank just about anywhere if you have the right fittings. None of the older boats provide space for propane tanks; especially a sealed space that vented overboard. Propane must be treated with respect. It is dangerous stuff and must be vented and plumbed properly.
A propane range top and oven replaced the kerosene-fired unit Dick and Kathy de Grasse previously had installed on their Tartan 34, Endeavour.
We bought a 10-pound propane tank and tried fitting it in every conceivable space we could find, knowing we needed two 10-pound tanks to live aboard. (We later discovered a 10-pound tank lasts about six weeks with two people). Twenty-pound tanks were just too big to fit anywhere. If we emptied our valuable starboard-side aft lazerette we could squeeze in two 10-pound tanks. But how to seal the compartment and vent it overboard? That idea was soon discarded and we thought about hanging them off the stern hand rail. That was ugly and the plumbing would be hung in the air.
For some reason, I measured the space between the after cockpit seat back and the stern teak rail and discovered that two 10-pound tanks could sit upright on the deck one on either side of the backstay. I could plumb the starboard-side tank to the starboard-side stove with the port-side tank as a spare. The venting problem was solved; I wouldn’t need a sealed compartment!
The new problem was how to keep the tanks from falling overboard and how to cover them. I went to my local wood worker and had him make two three-quarter-inch thick round teak bases that would accept the tank. The groove in the round base was about 3/8-inch deep. The tanks would sit in the base. I glued (3M 5200) the bases to the deck and drilled four holes through the deck to accept quarter-inch stainless steel eye bolts. I made up two 3/8-inch shock cords for each tank which would go across the top of the tanks to the eye bolts to hold them unto the bases. After more than 10 years of cruising the tanks have withstood wind and seas.
Plumbing the starboard tank required buying the best quality propane 12-volt relay hose and fittings. I installed an L-bracket on the deck next to the starboard-side tank and mounted the tank relay and pressure gauge. When I ran the hose through the boat to the stove I also ran wire for the 12-volt propane relay next to the tank. The lighted switch was mounted in the galley next to the new Tasco stove, which was equipped with two top burners and an oven. When the switch is off — at all times unless the stove is in use — no gas flows through the hose. The tank is left on to the relay. Fortunately, the space provided on Endeavour for the original gimbaled alcohol stove accommodated the new Tasco stove with the addition of small spacers. I did line the stove compartment with 1/16-inch stainless steel — more to keep the space behind and under the stove clean rather than to prevent fires. Any older boat with space enough for 10-pound tanks on the aft deck can install a propane gas system. Look around for stoves to fit the original space. We’ve replaced one burner in the Tasco stove over many years of living aboard.
Dick de Grasse and wife Kathy live aboard Endeavour in the winter and at Islesboro, Maine, in the summer.