The Complete Propane Appliance System

With the numerous horror stories concerning propane explosions and fires that have been reported in the boating press, the timid might be frightened away.


Propane and peace of mind can go hand in hand, if you install a quality system and follow a few simple rules.

Propane has many fine qualities that go a long way toward making it an ideal fuel. It is readily available almost anywhere, it is inexpensive, it is easily stored and transported, it burns with a hot, clean flame, and many different propane-burning appliances are available.

Of course, everything on a boat is a compromise, and so it is with propane. It has two nasty traits that must be dealt with: Propane is heavier than air, which allows the gas to collect in the bilge in the event of a leak; and propane is explosive when it collects in such places. With the numerous horror stories concerning propane explosions and fires that have been reported in the boating press, the timid might be frightened away. But fear not; using today’s technology, modern appliances, safety devices, proper materials and techniques, and most importantly, common sense, it is possible and practical to design and install a system that minimizes the risks of an accident and makes the odds entirely acceptable.

I have four propane burning appliances on my Allegra 24: (1) a three-burner range with oven; (2) a hot-water heater; (3) a catalytic cabin heater; and (4) a Mongolian barbecue, which is a compact, highquality grill just the right size for two people (Photo 1). These appliances make life aboard convenient, comfortable and enjoyable.

The second step was to establish an open and friendly relationship with a competent, reliable propane dealer. I selected a dealer that had been in business for many years and that not only sold propane, but sold, installed, and serviced appliances in homes, farms, businesses, and recreational vehicles. When I outlined my requirements, he readily understood my special needs and had the knowledge, tools, and supplies to help me. Together we assembled a system that will be as foolproof as is reasonably possible. And, the system cost me less money than if I had purchased identical items through marine outlets.

– Luwaine Deloy Blotter

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The Complete Propane Appliance System

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at