I’m not much of a chef, a shame for a Frenchman, but I will need to cook for myself aboard. The obvious choice seemed to be a propane system… On a small boat however, that means securing a tank on deck. I did not want to break the lines of my nice classic looking sailboat! Propane is also heavier than air, so if you have a leak, the gas collects at the bottom of the boat and if there is a source of ignition, kaboum! No thanks. Alcohol was another option, with new stoves made by Origo. Alcohol is more expensive than kerosene and sometimes harder to find. It also doesn’t pack as much energy as kerosene. If you spill some and it catches on fire, you can’t see the flame very well. So kerosene seemed to be my best bet.
The only company that still makes pressure kerosene stoves that I know of is Taylor’s in Germany I believe, but at almost $1000 shipped, not something I could afford. Ebay to the rescue! I found a guy in Sweden selling an Optimus single-burner stove and asked him if he had a two-burner one… Score! $420 for a used model in good shape. Now, as you will learn, kerosene stoves do have their quirks, especially when it comes to lighting them!
I almost set my kitchen on fire! What I should have done is wait for the alcohol used to preheat the burners to burn to the end, bringing the burners to a sufficient temperature to vaporize the kerosene properly. That is why I was getting a big dirty flame and fuel leaking from the burner to the underside of the stove. With Dagny’s roof/deck being so low, I might have set the boat on fire had I tried it first inside. It was stupid to test the stove in the house…
Kerosene is used for heating in many parts of the world and available at most airports as Jet-A1 fuel. It also can be used in lamps, which is another reason I chose it. Its only issues are a slight smell and a bit of soot. It does not easily catch on fire unless hot. At 18,500 Btu/lb it really packs a punch.
Many of my choices are dictated by simplicity. With a pressure kerosene stove, there are no lines to run, big tanks to carry for a refill, and few moving parts to break. They can be temperamental, but the advantages outweigh the bit of maintenance required, in my opinion; we’ll see. They are safer than propane and alcohol, though not when you start them the way I did in the video!