Monday, October 31, 2016

TMS Camp Stove, a follow up

TMS camp stove

Okay, so going into a second season with this beast, I thought a bit of a follow up report on our little woodstove would be appropriate.

As you'll remember from the original post. . .you DID read the original post, right?  Okay, good.  This little cheapie Chinese woodstove was something we got as an experiment to see if wood heating was more economical and less odor filled than our admittedly-effective kerosene heater.

We used the thing throughout the rather cool spring, sat stuff on it like a giant trivet through the rather hot summer, and now that we're into the fall are beginning our first real winter with the thing I thought some observations were in order:

First, the bad:  The stove is cheaply made (we knew this).  One of the biggest problems is the thin, non-removable wire rack inside, which warps from the heat, making ash removal with the provided ash rake nearly impossible.  Really, we're contemplating getting an ash vacuum for the thing as trying to coax the ashes out is a real chore. We are using rather more wood than I'd anticipated, though by no means a massive amount. The door does not seal well, giving you limited control of the airflow, and the stove is extremely sensitive to chimney height for developing a draw.  Our first iteration backwinded badly, filling the place with smoke.  Extending the chimney another two feet cured this entirely, though.

All of that being said, the stove does work.  The dampers provide a decent if imperfect control of air flow, and with very little wood we can turn the place into a sauna.  It took a bit of practice, making sure we built the fire to the rear of the stove to keep smoke out of the room and to be able to bank and extend the fire.  As it is, with a careful build, the ash bed is still pumping out a bit of heat after about four hours, which is far more than we'd anticipated.  We do use the stovetop for some cooking chores, mostly boiling water and keeping stuff warm, and it's handy for that, and we've done some rather successful baking on it using our little stovetop oven, which--remarkably--fits.  The stove being below our pot rack also helps keep our cast iron cookware (which we use almost exclusively) dry and rust free.

You have to be a bit careful establishing a draw, but we've taken to using paper lunch bags. . .the kind you used to take to school as a kid . . .and filling them with paper, woodchips, and kindling to get the thing to start more easily.  In the mornings we toss one of the bags to the back of the stove, light it, and then put on some thin wood to get the fire going. . .(more on this later). . it works. . .mostly.

One of the pleasant surprises of using wood heat has been the effect on condensation.  Last winter and spring, if we didn't run our little dehumidifier, we could get rainstorms in the kitchen, and, occasionally, water would build up under the insulation above the bed, making for some rude surprises in the middle of the night.  The wood stove seems to be keeping the humidity at bay.  We've seen none of the condensation we've seen in earlier years, despite some pretty cool nights, and that's been a major plus.

All in all, I'm anticipating the little stove will work well though this winter and will probably be replaced by a more expensive, better sealed and better constructed version come the new iteration of the boat next spring.  For the price, it's pretty hard to beat, and the hot water on demand in the evenings has been a nice plus.  For a small boat or cabin, or for casual use, you should seriously consider what this small investment can do for your comfort level.

Happy fall


Monday, October 24, 2016

And a new fire pit. . . .

The Marina's new marble fire ring:  first fire.
You may recall one of our earlier posts (including some rather scary video) was of the installation of a fire pit here at the marina (see here).  Well the thing worked just fine, and was covered with some lovely ceramic work. . . until some pack of drunks (we never figured out who did this) made a fire in the thing that was so hot it exploded the bricks, shattered the tile, and cracked the concrete.  We (and the Marina staff) were unamused.  So the poor thing sat there most of the summer covered over.  Tom searched around and managed to find a company up in PA that recycles marble countertops into fire rings.  So we bulldozed the old one and assembled the new one in a better spot and, last evening, lit our first fire of the season.

Fall is in full swing here, with a couple of days of chilly temps and wind.  The woodstove is working well and we'll be doing a followup on that shortly, but today the temps were back up into the high 60's, and the sun was out.  I've come to love this time of year.  Our pair of beggar ducks have come by the boat wanting to be fed so often, the cat no longer cares.

Yeah, they're ducks.  So what?  Where's my cat food?
The trees are going into full color, the crab are still running but the oysters are in and wonderful, bald eagles have replaced the Ospreys patroling the river, and we're having a lovely time here on the water.

More stuff at Life, Art, Water, check it out.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Gas One Dual Fuel Stove Followup

So I thought, having lived with this thing a bit, that we might do an update on our assessment of this little stove.

First of all, we have moved from butane to propane and back a couple of times, as our stocks of the above gasses were used up.  Despite propane being a bit less energy dense than the butane, we've seen no perceptible difference in the heat, including during sustained high heat uses like roasting coffeebeans.  As the mornings have gotten chillier, we've seen none of the reluctance in the propane that we see in the butane cylinders below 50 degrees F, which is a rather nice plus in the morning coffee and tea department.

We are getting slightly more use at slightly less cost from the propane as opposed to the butane. The difference winds up being about a buck per two cylinders of propane (16 oz).  Such difference would be more than wiped out if we were having them shipped as the propane bottles are appreciably heavier.

We have yet to adapt the system to a larger propane bottle that could be refilled, though that is obviously possible.  We may be trying that in a month or so and will give you a full report.

Changing the system from propane to butane is simple and not at all onerous.  The thermocouple safety device took a bit to get used to, but once we did, it proved no problem.

In general, we're pleased with the little stove.  The ability to use multiple fuel sources, coupled with our woodstove, gives us a lot of options and it would be a boon to long distance cruisers.  Stay tuned, more on this later.

The fall has hit here in full force and we're now in the grips of a lovely Indian Summer her on the river, with cool nights and warm days and the trees changing color.  We're close to decanting another batch of hard cider.  It's gonna be a lovely fall.

New stuff over at Life, Art, Water.  Check it out.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Why we live here, the sequel

So today it was "knock knock" Ahoy the Boat, and one of our slipmates, who is a diver, stopped by saying they had just come from diving off Kent Island and would we like some fresh oysters?

Is that even a question?  Hells yes.

So here we are eating away at some four dozen of the freshest raw oysters I've ever had.

Life in a beautiful place with good and generous friends is EXTREEEEEMLY low on the suckage scale, Just Sayin'.

enjoy the fall....and if you ever have the chance to live on a boat, the proper answer is: "yes, thank you, I'd love to."


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Gas One Dual Fuel Portable Stove

Since beginning this enterprise afloat some three years ago, we've used a little butane catering burner as one of our primary cooking tools .  The little stoves work really well, have a high heat output, are self igniting, and in general, are very low hassle items.  They are not, however, without their drawbacks:  Butane cans can be rather hard to find (unless you have an asian market near) and pricy if you're getting them from a big box store or marina (we've seen them as high as $7.00 a can, which is absurd).  While the Butane burns hot, it doesn't like low temperatures.  Below 50 degrees it really doesn't want to work very well, and then, of course, there is the disposal of the cans issue.

So I was intrigued when I noticed on them interwebs that Gas One made a dual fuel (butane and propane) version of the stove.  As our old stovetop, after over four years of use in a variety of circustances (including camping, vending, and here on the boat) was getting rather rusty and battered looking, I picked one of them up for about $40.  Like it's predecessor, the stove is pretty solidly made, and sports a large pot ring, which is good because, as noted, we cook a LOT.

The Gas One dual fuel. 

The new stove is a pretty simple setup and is virtually identical to the original Gas One butane stove, with a single exception.  The nipple around the fitting where the butane can usually pugs in is threaded to take a hose adapter.  The hose, about 24" of it, has the adapter on one end and a regulator on the other.  To use it, you pop out the butane can, screw in the hose, screw a propane bottle into the regulator on the other end, and cook.
Here's the normal Butane bottle position.
The dual fuel stove comes with this hose adapter, which is quite solidly made.

The hose itself is rather stiff, and we had a bit of a wrestling match to get it to not coil back up over the stove itself, but once we did, it rather settled down.  Doing the installation is pretty simple, though do be careful because the little metal tongue that slots into the butane cylinder can be sharpish.  Once installed, you start the stove like normal.
The hose threads through an opening in the rear of the stove and screws into the gas manifold.

BTW this iteration of the stove has something it's needed:  a thermocouple to keep gas from flowing if there's no flame.  If you're used to the older ones, it might take a moment to accustom yourself to holding the starter on for a ten count before releasing (otherwise known as "why isn't this burning?") in order to keep the gas flowing.

We had a couple of hesitations regarding the propane unit.  Propane is less energy dense than butane, so we thought it might burn appreciably cooler.  Plus the hose and bottle takes up counterspace that we didn't really want to lose.  Fortunately, these proved needless worries.  The stove worked fine from the get-go, happily cooking meals and roasting coffee (which is a moderately long and high temp process) without complaint.  As the mornings are starting to get cool here (and the propane is far less temperature sensitive than the butane) it was nice to have a stove up at full power for morning coffee.  Plus, of course, the 16.7oz bottles last longer.

Fortunately, our oven fits perfectly as well.
I'm pretty confident, having used their nearly identical stove for years, that the Gas One Dual Fuel will work just fine.  What we've yet to determine is if the Propane, which is somewhat easier to find locally (though a bear if you want them shipped) is more economical or easier to deal with than the butane, with which we've had few problems. One nice thing is that this little stove does seem to have the capability to be tied into a larger, refillable bottle. We'll do a follow up review after we've had a month or so experience with the thing.  Also as we move into cooler weather, we'll also have our woodstove as a cooking source, and, of course, we've still got our kero stove as backup.  We'll see.

Now the rains have stopped for a bit, we're enjoying the clear, cool, beautiful weather of early fall here on the Middle River  It's some of the best boating and outside time of the year.  Get out there and enjoy.

Hey, Morgainne has new stuff over at Life, Art, Water  and I've book sales going on on Kindle and at Wild Shore Press.  Check em out, if you'd be so kind.

More Later, enjoy the Fall


Monday, October 3, 2016

. . . .and yet MORE Winter Prep

Pulled and painted the woodstove yesterday and stripped and reseated all the tile thereunder.
It looks like giving this thing a coat of high heat paint is gonna be a yearly thing.
Now that we're apparently done with our week of pounding rain (at least, until the current hurricane comes up the coast) we're pushing to get the last few necessary things done before the cool sets in.  I've got some more floatation to put under the bow, and there are two very small leaks where the new side membrane is overlapped by the roof membrane I need to address.  We're thinking that our revisions will make for a more comfortable winter, and, given the woodstove, a less expensive one.
Will have a review of our new dual-fuel cooktop shortly.
So, today we'll finish tidying up the stove area, putting in some trim and reseating the chimney, give the new float some antifouling paint and bail out the puddleduck, and then take some time to enjoy the finally nice fall weather.

You as well.  Get out there and appreciate.  Good for the soul.

Hey, new stuff at Life, Art, Water.  Check it out.