Cooking on a Small Boat

Living permanently on a small, 22-foot sailboat designed to maybe sleep someone for one or two nights over a weekend presents a unique set of problems. It’s very similar to camping out every day. Feeding one’s self is challenging.

Back in 1992 I bought a Kaiser 26. Hull #24 of only 26 ever built.

It came equipped with a single-burner gimbaled “Sea Swing” stove similar to this. It operated off of those ubiquitous, green, 1-pound propane bottles which gave it a pendulum-like weight.

But I wanted more than a single burner and the cost of those bottles quickly adds up since they only give you a half-dozen hours of cooking time each. So I bought a two-burner propane stove top something like this and two 5 lb refillable propane tanks. They look like mini 20 pounders. Each one lasted me about 3 months and I cooked every day.

Now there are people who are going to say that propane is dangerous and shouldn’t be used in small confined spaces such as a boat. Remember, these are people who drive around every day with 20 or more gallons of a highly combustible fluid slung beneath the rear of their cars and trucks without giving it a second thought. Knowing the potential danger of propane I took precautions every time I used the stove. First, the bottles were kept in the open air of the cockpit. When it was time to cook I’d attach the hose to the stove. When the cooking was done I’d turn off the gas at the bottle and let whatever gas was in the lines burn off before removing the line from the stove. I did this EVERY time.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and I’m now on a 22-foot boat. I bought a Coleman two burner propane camp stove like this…

The first couple of years I used those stupid little pounders, but then I bought a 20 pound tank and learned how to refill the little ones. It was a real pain in the pooper, too. But it was cheaper than buying new bottles every month. Another downside was how much of my very limited space the thing gobbled up…It’s 22″ long and almost 14 inches deep.

So, after a a couple of years I purchased a Gas One single-burner unit.

As you can see, it’s just a hair over half the size which freed up a bunch of valuable space. While it works with either butane or propane I don’t use the butane. Those tiny bottles are about triple the price of the propane one-pounders and only last half as long. Plus, butane doesn’t burn as hot as propane. I do have two butane cans, though, in case something fizzles on the propane.

I ran this off a 20-pound tank for quite a while. But age and advancing COPD made manhandling the weight difficult so I dropped down to an 11-pound tank. It lasts me about 4 or 5 months before needing a refill.

Cutting down to a single burner had a learning curve. I did a lot of online searches for one-pot meals. I also discovered that if you’re cooking stuff like spaghetti you can get it rolling along and then take the pot off the burner. Don’t drain it. The pasta will continue to cook in the hot water while you prepare your sauce.

A year or so into using this new stove the pressure regulator on the hose broke rendering it impossible to use the unit.

I was able to buy a new hose through Amazon and got it in a couple of days. In the meantime I was able to continue cooking using the butane spares.

When the regulator crapped out on the new piece after about a year I couldn’t buy a replacement. “Unavailable” Amazon says.

So I bought a different dual fuel single burner stove.

You can see It has that same kind of hose/regulator. What I DON’T LIKE about the new unit is hooking up to the propane. As you can see the Gas One has a hole in the back of the unit through with you can thread the hose. The Kohree, for some grossly STUPID reason doesn’t have that…You have to leave the cover open.

At first I hooked the hose up to the Gas One unit and stored the Kohree away. But the Gas One burner has run its course, apparently, and isn’t working properly. Runs for a bit and then cuts off. So I’m using the Kohree. Except for the cover part I like it a lot. I’m going to have to dig out my small hack saw and modify things so I can keep the cover closed.

That’s what life is like here in The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in Central Florida.

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