Friday, January 29, 2016

Mast pulpits and propane aboard Oceanus

Our Dickinson propane fireplace warms the boat up nicely on cold Northwet winter days.
Few things make living aboard a boat in the Northwet more comfortable than a fireplace and a good galley stove and oven, especially in the winter. And few things make a trip to the mast safer than mast pulpits. On my boat the two are related.

The oven is large enough for Virginia to make three loaves of her great wheat bread.
The old stove that came with Oceanus ran on propane and looked dangerous. It was not hooked up. When we moved it sawdust and chunks of rust came out of every opening. The oven door had no window and, worse, no way to lock it closed.

Another troubling thing was there was no evidence on Oceanus of a proper propane locker: one that was air tight except for the vent over the side as required by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and every good marine surveyor.

The propane locker for Oceanus is a deck box.
My solution was to buy a deck box for Oceanus to use as a propane locker. I chose a Trident Marine L-P Gas 20-pound Dual Chest Locker, (part number 1502-0020). Generally I'm happy with it after I upgraded the regulator. Why they put a cheap, single-stage regulator on an item that cost one whole boat buck... well, it kinda ticks me off. The only other thing we did was put a backing plate on the latch. Those are the bad parts. Otherwise, the box is well made and stout, no oil-canning when I stand on top of it.
The propane deckbox has room for smaller propane cylinders, windlass handle and other odds and ends in addition to the two 20-pound tanks.

I located it a little in front of the mast and bolted it through the deck at each corner using 3/8-inch bolts with big fender washers. I used UHMW plastic shims about an inch thick and slightly tapered to lift it off the crown of the deck. I then used a large hole saw to cut a hole in the bottom and a smaller one to cut a hole through the deck for a plastic through hull. The through hull was big enough that I could fit two hoses -- one for the new Dickenson Newport fire place, the other for the new Dickenson Mediterranean stove and oven -- and a 14-2 wire for the solenoid.

Here's how the propane box and the mast pulpits relate. I bolted one leg of my mast pulpits to the port and starboard sides of the deck box with good backing timbers and fender washers. The mast pulpits each have four legs, so that saved me eight holes in my deck.

Mast pulpits (granny bars) are harder to find than you would expect.
I feel lucky to have these mast pulpits (granny bars). We spent a lot of time looking for mast pulpits for Oceanus. I could find nothing on-line. We regularly checked places like Minnie's and Columbia Marine Exchange for used ones. We even contacted a couple of stainless steel fabricators, but none of them wanted the job.

Then, as I helped a dockmate with a project aboard his boat, I spotted eight stainless steel flanges bolted to his deck. I asked him what they were. "Oh, those go to some mast pulpits that were just too big for the boat," he said. "I took them off because they were always in the way."

He was right, they were too big for his 33-foot boat, but they are perfect for my 43-foot boat. It must be something like, "when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear." When you look long enough and are desperate enough, you will find what you are looking for.

When my dockmate retrieved them from his garage and brought them to the boat I couldn't believe my good luck: they were the most beautiful mast pulpits I ever saw. They had a gentle arc, four feet and a teak pin rail with four belaying pins on each pulpit. The pin rail looks nice and is handy. The mast pulpits also provide a great place to secure the eight polyethylene jerry jugs we carry aboard for fuel and water.

The deck box makes putting on the mains'l cover easy.
The mast pulpits and deck box make working around the mast easier and much more secure. The deck box is a great place to sit and admire the view or to stand on to reach the top of the mains'l when putting on its cover.

Back to propane. Once the deck box was in place with a way into the boat for the hoses and wires the rest was pretty easy. I got some help from my local RV place to tee off the line after the regulator so I could run a hose for both appliances. The tee must be made in the box because ABYC allows no connections inside the boat except to the appliance. Then it was just a matter of running the hoses for the fireplace and the galley stove and connecting the electronic shut off to power the solenoid in the box.

Everything worked well on the first try, except the flow seemed anemic. After looking at the cheap regulator that came with the deck box and comparing it with the ones at the RV place, I figured it must be under sized. Another $35 into the project for a two-stage regulator was chump change. The bigger regulator did the trick.

I can't remember the name and can't find the documentation for it. I remember it's made in Canada.
After doing all you can do to keep propane only where it should be, you still need a bilge sniffer. This warns you if propane is leaking into your bilge and pooling there waiting to blow you and your boat to kingdom come. We found this nice unit that's made in Canada.

A hand-held sniffer is essential.
We also bought a portable combustible gas sniffer to check all connections. Soap suds just doesn't cut it.

For more tips on staying safe with propane here's 10 tips from the good folks at Attainable Adventure Cruising.

On previous boats we had an alcohol stove and a kerosene stove. Virginia was not a fan of either of those fuels. If we were not planning to sail south we might have considered a diesel stove. We are well aware of the potential for explosion from propane, but if you like to cook on board, propane is the best option.

Weather Window Update

We are still waiting for a weather window to open so we can head south. Here are some photos of waves crashing on the rocks in front of a friend's house in Depoe Bay, Ore., this week. Maybe next week....
This wave hit the base of a 40-foot cliff and shot about 80 feet into the air.