Monday, September 14, 2009

The Wood Stove

On Journeyman we have a woodstove, and it is a joy. Of course it extends the season, but in foggy Maine a little dry heat is often welcome in mid-summer. Last July my wife and I took a five day cruise and I think we had a small fire every night.

The stove is mounted on the bulkhead between the main cabin and the forward cabin. It is a proper job - the former owner's - with some stainless guarding, and a water collar on deck through which the stovepipe passes.

 I think it is a Cole Stove. It can be burned tight, with no fire showing, or with the fire visible behind a screen.

We burn charcoal briquettes. The stack has a rain cap and I take that off and put on another section so the stack is maybe 2 feet high. I tip the stack so it is pointed more or less downwind. I worry just a little about sparks and I think I should make a spark guard out of some bronze screening I have lying around, but I haven't put a hole in the furled main yet. (I don't use it under way.)

I start the fire with a paper towel and some lamp oil. Someone gave us fatwood kindling and I cut some up at home and I often use a piece or two of that too. The charcoal is messy and I keep it in a 2 gallon ziplock bag. Charcoal absorbs moisture and keeping it in a tight bag aids in getting the fire started.

I use 8 to 12 briquettes. I don't want to stuff the firebox because the set up really isn't made for lots of heat. As the fire burns down I add a few. Sometimes we gather and burn some spruce knots or hardwood chunks, mostly for the aroma and the dancing flames.

When it's windy the stove may smoke. Usually that stops when the stove warms up and if I make sure the stack is tipped downwind. Perhaps I should carry another stack section to get the top above the furled main and into clear air. I have heard of folks using very flexible metal steam pipe and pointing it right downwind, apparently curing the problem.

We are not fools about carbon monoxide poisoning but neither do we fret. If it is really chilly I may keep the forward hatch open a crack and the sliding hatch cover open a couple of inches, with the slides in. In warmer but still cool weather I may leave all the companionway slides out but pull the hatch and the cabin warms nicely.

On a cool October evening we invite friends for dinner on the boat. Anchored, we get dinner cooking, start a fire and watch the charcoal glowing behind its screen, with maybe a little spruce flaming as well. The cabin is lit only by the fire, an oil lamp and candles on the table.  I look around the anchorage, and step down into that warm cabin.

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