The stove I ordered for the minimal galley on my Tiki 26, Element II arrived Saturday. It is an Origo 3000, the ubiquitous non-pressurized alcohol boat stove made in Sweden and found on so many boats around Europe and North America. Marine alcohol stoves are criticized by many, and propane seems to be the fuel of choice for most modern cruising boats, but my reasons for choosing this type of stove are obvious when the focus of the boat and it’s intended use is taken into consideration.
First of all, there is simplicity. Simple, yet functional and efficient are the guiding themes of the Tiki 26 design in the first place, and something I want to adhere to in all systems and installations as much as possible. Sure, it would be even simpler to take a portable one-burner camp stove like I used on my sea kayaking trips and on my smaller Wharram cats, the Hitia 17 and the Tiki 21. But Element II will be going to sea, not just sailing from anchor to anchor in the course of a day. There will be a need to cook simple meals and make a pot of coffee or a cup of tea while underway, and this requires a dedicated stove mounted in a secure location out of the weather. The Origo 3000 is compact for a 2-burner stove and optional pot holders and gimbals are made for it that allow cooking in most any conditions. Camping stoves are fine at anchor, but I don’t want a stove with disposable propane bottles down below when it’s rough out. I’ve had too many leaks from these canisters in the past to trust them, and besides, all the camp type stoves I’ve used in the past quickly began to rust when used in the marine environment. The Origo 1500 one-burner stove I had on my Grampian 26 Intensity, however, is now 7 years old and still in great shape, thanks to the quality of the stainless steel used in its construction.
The great advantage of the Origo non-pressurized alcohol stoves is that they don’t use moving parts, or depend on secure seals or pressure pumps that have to be rebuilt often with everyday use. These stoves are as simple as it gets. Just keep the tanks filled with alcohol, open the burner valve when you’re ready to cook, and strike a match. It doesn’t get any simpler or more reliable than that. I especially like the fact that the stove is totally self-contained. No need for complex tank installations outside the cabin with hoses to the stove, as in propane, and no external parts or systems to worry about. If there is alcohol in the tank, the burner simply works, without fail. Another advantage of a self-contained stove like this is that just like the camp stoves; the Origo 3000 can be easily moved out into the cockpit or even taken ashore for cooking when the boat is not underway. I will probably do a lot of cooking in the cockpit under an awning or in a deck tent when I’m anchored someplace I want to stay awhile.
Cost is another factor in this choice. While the Origo stoves are more expensive than most camping stoves, they are still much less expensive than marine propane stoves and all the associated paraphernalia necessary for a safe installation. A two-burner model like the Origo 3000 falls somewhere in the middle of the price spectrum between the other two options. I got mine brand new from an EBay seller for about half the manufacturer’s retail price.
Safety is a topic much argued about among proponents of different types of marine stoves. I won’t get into this discussion, other than to say that cooking with any kind of stove on a boat requires common sense and a degree of caution. Propane can blow your boat and you with it to pieces. Spilled alcohol burns with an invisible flame and can spread before you know it is happening. James Wharram himself has stated that fire at sea is his biggest fear. It really is the one thing you have worry about most when your boat is as seaworthy as a Wharram. I’ll just say that I like alcohol because quantities of it can be safely carried in sealed containers down below, without the risk of explosion, and I don’t worry about it when the boat’s in a marina and I’m away from it for awhile.
Two other factors concerning alcohol are cost and cooking time, and these are both things I can’t do anything about, so I don’t worry about them. Denatured alcohol is ridiculously expensive, but if you shop around you can find large variations in price. The main thing is to stay away from places like West Marine, where it’s about double what I pay for it at a professional painter’s supply store. When factored into the overall picture, the cost of alcohol does not bother me, because I’m cruising on a simple boat that saves money in so many other ways, such as rarely needing to burn fuel for propulsion, and being able to avoid marinas by having so many anchoring and beaching opportunities due to shallow draft. I can set out with three or four gallons of alcohol and do all the cooking I want for many weeks.
And why should it matter if it takes a few extra minutes to cook a pot of rice or make a pot of coffee? When I’m on Element II I’ll be where I want to be and time isn’t going to matter. Using the Origo 1500 on Intensity I never seemed to notice that it took any longer to cook than on any other stove. Besides, while dinner’s on I’m usually busy doing something else anyway, like steering the boat or studying a chart.