Thursday, 21 July 2011

John’s Toys – 1 A way of cutting gas costs onboard.

For a long time I have been teased mercilessly about the number of gadgets and gizmos I have got on board, and how Freya Frey is the heaviest HT ever to remain afloat.  (“Really?” you say.)  I thought I would write a little series for anyone with a slightly geeky technophile outlook listing some of the additional things we carry which have proved particularly valuable, so this is really for the lads rather than the girls.
One of the concerns we had was the cost of French gas.  It really isn’t a problem for British boats which only come over here for a short time, but when you are planning to be away for as long as we are, it becomes an important consideration.  It is pretty much impossible to get UK gas cylinders filled in France, and the supposedly universally-available Camping Gaz (we have yet to see their refillable cylinders for sale anywhere!) practically requires a mortgage, costing almost £9/kilo. In addition, you cannot take gas cylinders on public transport, so the cost of a taxi fare may have to be added to the price of the cylinder.   With all this in mind we filled our aluminium cylinders with autogas at £1.60/Kg before we left, which gives us a stock of 22Kg of propane for cooking, which should last several months.  However, that isn’t quite enough to last us until the spring (especially at the rate Wendy consumes tea!) and although we have the Camping Gaz cylinder as a backup, I reckoned we would not have enough to get to Spain.
Remembering how we cooked on the first boat, I had an idea of how to get round this problem by using a Coleman unleaded stove.  (“What?” I hear you say).  This is a single burner camping stove, basically a modern version of the trusty Primus which as the name suggests, runs on ordinary unleaded petrol.  Pound for pound and calorie for calorie, petrol is much cheaper than the cheapest bottled gas, is universally available, easy to carry and easy to store.  So we bought a Coleman.  Now, each morning, I put the kettle on the Coleman to make a pot of tea and fill the big thermos flask with boiling water.  We use this during the day, bringing the water back to the boil with the gas stove.  When the flask is empty we reboil the kettle on the Coleman, and if we need a bowlful of hot water for washing up, out comes the Coleman again.  It is using around a litre of petrol a week, which is equivalent to around 750g of gas – a very worthwhile saving, and far better than using Camping Gaz! 

The stove is compact, very powerful (nearly twice as powerful as the burners on our gas hob!) so it raises boiling water almost as quickly as a domestic electric kettle.  It is very stable, so can be used on deck or in the cockpit (a big plus on a hot day!) or even on a beach, and it is completely independent of the gas system, so provides a backup in case we have a regulator failure.   

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