The Resourceful Sailor Explores Adding an Additional Propane Tank to a Small Boat
How would I safely carry more propane aboard Sampaguita, a 1985 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20? From the factory, she came with an alcohol stove. A previous owner retrofitted her with a Force 10 propane stove and the popular 1.4-gallon Worthington aluminum tank and rail mount assembly on the stern pulpit. This upgrade suited me. It fit well and kept the tank outboard, which was a good solution for a boat too small for a proper propane locker. It can provide fuel for about three weeks of cooking, plenty adequate for Pacific Northwest coastal cruising. However, space and safety restricted extra tank storage, so running out was always inconvenient. Additionally, I wanted to increase capacity in preparation for distance cruising. I needed to come up with a solution.
The problem was half-solved when a friend gave me an excellent condition 2.4-gallon aluminum Manchester tank that just needed a new valve and certification. This tank would nearly triple my capacity, but storage was still a problem. The transom-hung outboard engine negated the possibility of a similar second rail-mount assembly. At first, I thought I would tie the Manchester to the rail next to the existing tank using some clever marlinspike technique. However, once I tried it, I realized it was too heavy and oddly shaped to be practical. While standing back and looking, it occurred to me, “What if I put the Manchester on the rail-mounted bracket and tied the Worthington to the rail instead?” It would require trimming the aluminum bracket to accommodate the bigger Manchester tank, but the Worthington was more right-sized for lashing to the rail.
I reasoned the first-generation rail-mounted bracket (subsequent generations have had significant design improvements) was a good candidate for modification. The single strap was long gone from UV degradation, and the paint was chipped and peeling from years of service. Eyeing how the Manchester tank would fit, I made a trapezoidal pattern and traced it onto each side of the bracket. I would cut along the lines, allowing room for the bigger tank to fit more snugly into it. I judged that the removal of the material would have minimal effect on the strength of the aluminum under its operating conditions.
I cut along these lines with a hacksaw, though a bandsaw may have provided a cleaner result. Once satisfied with the fit, I filed the edges down, then progressively sanded them to round and smooth them. I considered painting it for a moment but determined it would neither beautify nor protect it. I would use three lines to hold the tank onto the bracket, two more than the original design.
I lashed the Worthington next to the Manchester. First, using a line, I wrapped a coil tightly around the rail. This coil would provide more girth and chafe protection where receiving the Worthington handle. With another line, I lashed the tank securely to the wrapped rail. I short-spliced a loop to slide around the bottom of the tank from a 5/8-in three-strand nylon rope. I used this as a connection point to secure the lower end of the tank. My boat-side connection options were such that I found it required two opposing forces to keep the tank stationary and secure. I used some polyester line for this. I also added a piece of round foam in a rubber sleeve (bicycle inner tube), threaded with a strap, and fastened it around the tank as a chafe guard on the bottom of the Worthington, where it sits against the transom. This marlinspike seamanship may seem unsophisticated, but the security is easily comparable to the bracket.
The regulator was previously attached to the handle of the Worthington tank. It required removal when the tank needed filling, which was inconvenient. I modified this by drilling two holes in the rail-mounted bracket for relocation. (Newer generations of the rail mount assembly already have this.) The setup allows the two tanks to share the same regulator, requiring no new fittings or plumbing. Moving the pigtail from one tank to the other is all that is necessary.
The Resourceful Sailor has no desire to lecture on the dangers of propane, its safe use, and proper installations. ABYC has guidelines to follow, and there are professionals you can hire. The RS recognizes it is not very “yacht-like” but might argue it is “salty.” Besides modification of an outdated and aging bracket, it was non-destructive and very affordable, using simple hand tools and small stuff from the ditty bag. As aesthetic improvements present themselves, they will be applied.
In the meantime, there is a working answer to carrying two months of propane fuel aboard Sampaguita. The setup has worked well in the Puget Sound and Inside Passage of the Pacific Northwest. Offshore sailing may require some adjustments. Remember, keep your solutions safe and prudent, and have a blast.
Excellent article, until those last three words; presumably, a droll irony was intended.
Lee, Thanks for reading……right to the very end. As my mother would often say….”famous last words!”
Whoa, there’s a lot happening back on your stern rail and transom! As always, you present a clever & practical solution re-using and re-purposing stuff; I really enjoy reading your articles. However, I’ll still stick with my (non-pressurized) Origo alcohol stove TYVM! BTW, where do you hang your swim-step/ladder when needed? I’d love to see an article about that.