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Thread: Sailboat Propane Explosion

  1. #1
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    Default Sailboat Propane Explosion

    This happened yesterday here at Wrightsville Beach, NC.

    http://www.wect.com/story/34499580/m...-banks-channel


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    It separated the cabin from the deck.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    betting there were no/non working safety controls. Propane doesn't have to be dangerous. It's just like everything, go on the cheap and risk the worst.
    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...58#post3996158

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Even with all the safety devises and precautions, I still consider propane to be akin to sleeping with a loaded and cocked gun under ones pillow. For that reason, I am set up for CNG as the gas is lighter than air and if it leaks it disperses up and out of the cabin.
    Jay

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    That is why I absolutely will not have anything to do with LPG on board.
    Ratus ratus bilgeous snipeous!

    You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
    Mahatma Gandhi

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    I love these LPG disccsuions ... been around fuels most my life.

    Can you "see" a alcohol flame when cooking in daytime?

    Your alcohol stove never flared up?

    You never used a propane torch or naphtha to "just fire up" the diesel heater or stove? (pre heat)

    Ever try to re-lite a diesel or kero burner while still very hot? ( still pumping out vapor when hot )

    To boom or not to boom. = "I can afford a boat but can't afford to equip it properly?"
    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...58#post3996158

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Quote Originally Posted by Canoeyawl View Post
    pretty obvious/oblivious how safety minded that boat owner is/was
    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...58#post3996158

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Good to have a detachable trunk to reduce blast pressure.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    I saw that happen to my next door neighbor's house. A small hand held propane torch on the workbench, leaking a bit over the day, he came home from work, hit the garage door opener in his car and woompf! The house lifted and shifted on it's foundation.
    (I was about 12 years old and home from school sick in bed with the flu or something, but just happened to be looking out the window at that moment. It left an impression...)

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    One might think if the dude is running a seagull, he might still cook with a primus.
    Like I do.

  12. #12
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    Default

    One way to eliminate polyestermites.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Just judging from the look of the condition of maintenance on that boat, in general, leads one to believe the owner was not too concerned about keeping his boat or gear in shipshape condition.
    Jay

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Not sure I like the cabin-to deck connection to be the 'weak link" in the chain of construction.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Metho can flare up, but I've never seen it do that. I still think it's safer than LPG.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    It happened here some years ago. Here is part of a report about the explosion aboard Chanticleer, a Bristol 32 cruising sailboat. (Kira is the name of the dog the couple had aboard.)

    As a precaution, propane tanks are usually contained inside a box that vents outside the boat. That was the case with Chanticleer: the tank was contained in a box under a seat cushion in the cockpit. A hole in the bottom of the locker allowed leaking gas to flow overboard above the waterline. But a previous owner of Chanticleer had modified the design, leaving the regulator outside the box. From this point, leaking gas could only drop into the bilge. NOTE: This was not an ABYC compliant LPG installation

    On a rainy April evening in Boothbay Harbor that’s what the leaking propane began to do. At first, the fuel collected in a pocket just above the keel. When that filled, the propane spread under the floorboards, expanding forward and aft. Gradually, the propane level rose. When the bilge was filled, propane seeped into the lower cabinets, mingling with tools, engine parts and emergency supplies. “I had emergency electrical kits, filters, nuts, bolts, lots of hardware,” Baker said. There were dishes, silverware, glassware,” he said. Had Baker or Plamondon gotten down on all fours, they might have smelled the propane, since an unpleasant scent is added to the otherwise colorless and odorless gas. They would have known something was wrong. Instead, as the propane rose around their feet, they busied themselves with preparing supper, oblivious to the danger. All the gas needed was a spark or flame to set it off.

    By suppertime, a cold rain drummed overhead. Below deck, it was cozy. By the tiny coal stove, it was warm enough for bare feet and a T-shirt. Plamondon was at the two-burner cookstove, tossing veggies and chicken into the heavy-duty wok. Baker put on a favorite Willy Nelson CD, “The Healing Hands of Time,” then opened the hatches to let out the smoke that the wind kept blowing back down the stack into the cabin from the coal stove. “Finally, I got it regulated,” he said. “We were just vegging out. I had just mixed a Sundowner – rum and orange juice.” In the next moment, Plamondon was slammed violently backward“I remember flying backward through the air and landing on my back and butt,” she said. “I remember Kira’s blood-curdling yelping.”

    Somewhere on the boat, the swelling cloud of propane had found a spark, exploding in an instant of extreme violence. The flash shocked their pupils closed. Suddenly, all was dark. “I just felt the tremendous devastation of the blast,” Baker said. “Stuff was flying everywhere. I couldn’t find Kira. I thought it was the middle of the night. I was scrambling around, feeling for her.” Plamondon was thrown against a bulkhead door.“Everything was dark,” she said. “(Phil) screamed at me to get out of the boat, but there were no more stairs.”

    She turned to exit forward, but the door was jammed closed from debris piled up from the blast. She turned again to exit toward the cockpit and saw a ball of fire on top of the engine, where the stairs would have been. “No way could I jump that,” she said. “But I did. I don’t know how, but I did it.” Baker reached for a fire extinguisher, but the bulkhead where it had been mounted was gone. “I thought if I got the fire out, we’d have an easier time getting off the boat,” he said. Somehow, he managed to get out of the cabin with Kira.

    About a hundred yards away, dockmaster Peter Chase was aboard his boat at the Tugboat Inn Marina. “I heard an explosion. It shuddered my boat. It almost reminded me of someone touching off a cannon,” he said. “I went up on deck and looked around.”

    By then, they had managed to climb off the boat into the dinghy, carrying the lifeless body of Kira. “It was pouring rain, freezing rain, and we were barefoot,” said Baker. In the boat, he got a better look at Plamondon, who had taken the worst of the blast. Her face was blackened and her hair singed short. Her eyebrows were burned off. Her eyelashes were singed together. Her jeans were torn. Her hand was bleeding. She thought she had a broken leg. In his lap, Baker felt Kira’s crispy fur and saw her staring eyes. “Kira’s dead,” he said. “I had lost the boat, Kira was dead, Debi was crying,” said Baker. “It was awful.” Then, he felt Kira’s tiny chest move. Miraculously, Chanticleer’s trio of passengers, now huddled in the rain in the tiny dinghy, had all survived.

    Chanticleer was not so fortunate. Having absorbed most of the force of the blast, her hull was declared a total loss. The blast cracked apart the fiberglass deck in several spots. Stuck in the jagged fissures were the remains of the meal that never got eaten: pieces of broccoli and red pepper. The deck was separated from the hull along the starboard rail. The wood around the cockpit was splintered. Below deck, it looked like someone had ransacked the place. Drawers and contents were scattered about. Baker said he would receive a $35,000 insurance settlement, most of which will go to the bank. Safety experts say he is lucky to be around to collect any of it.

    “They were very fortunate to have survived,” said Jeff Ciampa, a marine safety inspector for the Coast Guard. Baker and Plomondon are convinced that opening the hatch shortly before the explosion to let the smoke out gave the force of the explosion somewhere to go.

    There was very little fire damage to the boat, probably because the propane mixture was rich enough to detonate, but too lean to ignite, said Steve Dixon, an investigator from the Maine State Fire Marshal’s office. Dixon said the source of ignition appears to have been the open flame on the galley stove. Initially, it was thought to be a spark below deck somewhere in the boat’s 12-volt electrical system. “We are 100 percent sure it wasn’t that,” said Dixon. “Both the bilge pump and the water pump are protected.”

    Plamondon’s first- and second-degree burns have healed. What she thought had been a broken leg was a bruise that turned her lower leg black and blue for several weeks. A penny-sized puncture wound in the back of her hand –possibly from the handle of the wok – eventually healed. She later had surgery to remove a piece of glass from her hand. The shard had come from a lead crystal glass that Baker had given her earlier as a gift.

    Baker was convinced that the boat he had worked so hard on was salvageable. “I went up to see it. I thought I could rescue it if I had two years. I drove up to Boothbay. It was very discouraging. I’d forgotten how bad it was. I had to abandon the idea.”

    But neither Baker nor Plamondon has abandoned cruising. And neither thinks twice about using propane again, though Baker said next time he’ll install a propane sensor in the bilge. Since the accident, they have spent their weekends boat hunting."
    Last edited by rbgarr; 02-15-2017 at 04:29 PM.
    "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

    -Mark Twain

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    I'll stick to metho (alcohol), too. For us. the upsides of gas are not worth the downsides.

    Yes, I had a flareup once or twice in 4 years of living aboard. I tipped the saucepan onto the stove. End of fire, end of story. Yes, I can see the flame; if I somehow missed it, I may get a burnt hand which is better than a blown up boat.

    Others may differ, but I don't want to be concerned about a possible loose connection blowing the boat up; same reason that I don't have a petrol inboard.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    31 years with primus burners ,, 1000's of meals.. Yes they can be a pain as a result of poor fuel... But Jet A is available anywhere in the world there is an airstrip.
    No potential for explosions. LPG .no thank you ..

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    I also had an experience with a propane explosion. I still bear the evidence of skin grafts. One can read about it here:

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...r-WOW!!!/page7

    scroll to post 345

    Perhaps some here could learn from my mistakes.

    JD
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    I hate to hear of burns or loss from something like this , but in this country I've heard of perhaps 5 or 6 in 30 years. Every one of them was from some driver error. How many boats are out there and have gas , I don't think it would even register.Its the default method of cooking in hundreds of thousands of vessels at any one time.
    Perhaps because of our climate our boats aren't as shut up as in colder areas, but it just should not be an issue on any relatively modern installation.
    Gas locker venting the bottle , heat sensor probe on each element( whatever you call those things) solenoid switch at the cooker , solenoid on the regulator that defaults to off on loss of current, sniffers in the bilge .
    Seems to mitigate as much risk as can be mitigated without eating cold food to me.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Hi Jay,
    I just acquired my first CNG equipped vessel. Where do you keep your fuel cannister? Mine's under a settee and seems tremendously unsafe!

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Quote Originally Posted by len hornick View Post
    31 years with primus burners ,, 1000's of meals.. Yes they can be a pain as a result of poor fuel... But Jet A is available anywhere in the world there is an airstrip.
    No potential for explosions. LPG .no thank you ..

    Or paint thinner

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Quote Originally Posted by John B View Post
    Seems to mitigate as much risk as can be mitigated without eating cold food to me.
    But is it safer than (say) metho with safeguards?

    I'm not saying that people can't choose their own risks or safeguards, just that some of us prefer to avoid some of them.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    The Shipmate stove on our Drake had primus burners. I had to cannibalize one during a cruise. Later, I filled the hole with an Origo burner. This has been a total success, and it is pretty much the only burner we cook with now.

    No pressure, no pumps, no valves, no gaskets, no tank, no lines, no regulator.

    True, it does not give a roaring flame, but I still often manage to burn my food.

    And there is zero chance of a BOOM.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    Even with all the safety devises and precautions, I still consider propane to be akin to sleeping with a loaded and cocked gun under ones pillow. For that reason, I am set up for CNG as the gas is lighter than air and if it leaks it disperses up and out of the cabin.
    Jay
    I think you missed the part where you install a steel cylinder pressurized to 3600 psi in your boat. Said cylinder will have to be inspected every two years and any little tiny bit of corrosion will mandate replacement. The same after any shock loading of the vessels hull. And it's not actually safer, an explosion can still occur after a leak. You have to have positive spark proof ventilation capable to change the whole air volume in minutes to inhibit that.
    If LPG is a loaded and cocked gun under your pillow then CNG is a big armed bomb under your bed.
    Other disadvantages of CNG are its lower caloric value (your tank needs to be three times the size of an equivalent LPG tank) and the limited availability of recharge stations.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris249 View Post
    But is it safer than (say) metho with safeguards?

    I'm not saying that people can't choose their own risks or safeguards, just that some of us prefer to avoid some of them.
    I don't know about cooking with meths but I agree with what you say, I respect choice .
    The only reason I post to threads like these is that they need a reality check sometimes. The fact is that lpg is the most common method of cooking fuel now and it is extremely seldom that it goes wrong , and that is inevitably due to misuse or foolishness.
    A common one here ( happened a couple of times) Dad unhooks the stove for maintenance, puts it back in but doesn't put the hose on. Kid or wife arrives and makes a cup of tea.Boom. Hard to imagine ignoring a sniffer if it was fitted ( as it shoud be)

    Don't start me on domestic lpg heaters though. That happens for sure.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Sailboat Propane Explosion

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    Hi Jay,
    I just acquired my first CNG equipped vessel. Where do you keep your fuel cannister? Mine's under a settee and seems tremendously unsafe!
    Mine are to go under one of the cockpit seats that is well ventalated. I have two bottles, one is an extra to insure not running out of gas off shore. The project is not finished as yet.
    Jay

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