Don’t Take Gas for Granted
Gas is heavier than air.
Boats make perfect reservoirs for heavy gas to settle in.
Used correctly gas is no threat.
Used carelessly gas can be lethal.
Burnt gas produces Carbon Monoxide.
Boating folks are in the main clued-up about gas and the attendant risks, however in case of doubt it is worth restating the facts and offer some useful advice.For many boaters in the Norther Hemisphere the Winter months are an opportunity to haul your boat out of the water, scrape the hull/s and tidy up the paintwork, replace sails or strip and overhaul the motor and reseal the decking etc.
We urge boaters, especially new to the game boaters, to check out their galley and the entire system of pipework. Bottled gas is used widely for heating, lighting and cooking, even on new boats it is worth checking that the seals are tight and not likely to leak.
PS. Please, don’t be the person who goes looking for a gas leak with a naked flame – it will find you before you find it!
On boats, the Liquefied Petroleum Gases in common use are, ‘commercial butane’, and ‘commercial propane’. They exist as gases at normal temperatures but become a liquid under moderate pressure.
Propane turns into gas at a lower temperature than butane, so the storage pressure for liquid propane is slightly higher than butane.
What does that mean? The gas in cannisters is liquified having been through a refrigeration process. Gasses are taken below their boiling point into a liquid state, that way a quantity of liquified gas can be kept in a small container, when restored to a gas during use it will provide a usable product in surprisingly largequantities. The containers in which gases are stored need to be kept cool. Should the container reach a critical temperature the gas inside could expand beyond the capacity of the container to contain it, in short it can explode. For this reason gas containers on board a boat, or anywhere else for that matter, must be kept cool and as far as is practicable from any naked flames.
Smokers beware!It is not unknown for gas containers to leak and because the gas is heavier than air it will descend to the lowest level available to it, the bilges, the engine space,the cabin where it will collect. Any naked flame, cigarette, or spark has the potential to ignite the collected gas.
It is not our intention to encourage people to go gas free, although some boatingfolks reduce the consumption of gas to a minimum. However, if you have a refrigerator on board chances are its gas operated.Rather than abandon gas on your boat think positive and mitigate the risks by managing the gas installation and carry out regular maintenance.
Always buy your gas supplies from a regular dealer/supplier who keeps the cannisters in good condition and takes professional view of handling gas.Conduct or employ professionals to maintain the gas system and appliances.
Always follow the manufacturers guidance and use purpose made retaining devices. Do not leave gas containers in full sun or store close to heat generating equipment. Store the container/s in the coolest darkest part of the boat secured to avoid it/them moving about with the rock and roll of the boat.Gas bottles need to be stored upright in a locker of their own where possible with a means of drainage to atmosphere, and the drain must be checked often to prevent blockages. (Flushed through if necessary). Some boats are not fitted with a purpose-built gas bottle locker, ask you supplier for guidance, or check with your Boat Chandlers, they may be able to provide a suitable solution.
Some boats may carry spare bottles, they too need to be stored safely. NB. Skippers of boats sailing cold waters may opt for deck mounted bottles that would vent to atmosphere safely, however, the galley and pipework still need to be properly maintained and kept in good working order – leak free.
Finally. Any cooking or heating system of the kind discussed will produce carbon monoxide (CO), this gas is tasteless and invisible. Carbon monoxide must be vented away from your boat, caravan, home etc.
This silent killer cannot be underestimated. Appliance failure, inadequate ventilation, poor maintenance can lead to CO poisoning.Regular inspection, installation of a CO detector and alarm and proper use will reduce the risks substantially.
Stay safe and enjoy your sailing!