Monday, September 26, 2011

They call me the fireman

Cooking devices don't get much simpler than the Origo non-pressurized alcohol stove. You pour the denatured alcohol into the cans and light it on fire. The fire is contained in a recessed metal pan with a grill on top. Seems safe enough, right?

Fire hazard

I only stay at the boat once a week, so the problem I have with my stove is that if I fill up the canisters with alcohol, it evaporates away before I get the chance to use it again. That loss of alcohol means it costs me $15 each time I want to use the stove UNLESS, I pour in JUST ENOUGH alcohol to get my meal cooked and my coffee boiled, so that none goes to waste.

Being a frugal sailor isn't always being a safe sailor. I slightly underestimated the amount of alcohol I needed Saturday morning, and the burner under my coffee quit just before it started percolating. I thought, "no biggie, the coffee will be a little late," and moved it over the other burner once I had finished flipping pancakes. However, after I moved it, that burner also started petering out.

I now had one supposedly dead canister and one barely lit canister. I thought, I'll just add a bit more alcohol to the dead one (because only a FOOL would pour more fuel into the lit one), and light it back up to finish the coffee.

I'd been pouring for a second or two when there was a sudden flash. There were flames all over the galley counters. I stepped back and realized there were flames shooting out of the alcohol container in my hand. I promptly threw it out of the hatch and heard a loud sizzle as it hit the water. The plastic dish rack was also aflame and melting quickly, so I grabbed it and tossed it overboard as well. I then doused the remaining flames burning on the surface of the countertop with water.

The worst of the damage was a dozen little burned spots on the new upholstery beside the galley and having the entire front half of my hair singed. The lessons learned were:
a) Don't be cheap with the alcohol when filling the stove.
b) If a burner goes out while making coffee, just deal with not having coffee and try again tomorrow.

Never ever pour denatured alcohol into a hot origo stove, and always have water or a fire extinguisher on-hand in the galley!
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