Diesel do nicely

I won’t lie; hooking up the diesel stove was a long and tricky process that wasn’t over even when we thought it was over, nor the two times after that we thought it was over. We almost got blown up once and gassed twice to boot. And more than once the bottle of meths we keep to light it has started to look like the only way of keeping warm. But finally it’s up and running and it looks like this:

A warm blue flame burns in the diesel stove

Even just getting it lit the first time seemed impossible. To even get to that point we had to re-route the flue which came up behind the old wheelhouse – now conveniently placed under a walkway which we nearly cut through but ended up putting a cartoon-style kink in the chimney instead. We had to trace back the old stove’s diesel line only to discover it came up right next to the hot flue – and the batteries! So instead we installed a pump in the engine room (and of course, the pump is 12 volts and our DC system is 24 volts so there’s a bodged-up voltage dropper feeding it) and ran new pipework. Which leaked time and time again and I spent a very frustrating New Year’s Eve trying to replace a foot long stretch of pipe that had kinked. But now the occasional satisfied clonk of the pump indicates that diesel is dripping into the pan.

Let me explain how diesel stoves work, in the hope of saving some other diesel neophyte’s arm hair. Liquid diesel doesn’t burn so it has to be persuaded to evaporate in a wide pan at the bottom of the stove. To do this you pour in a bit of pure alcohol and light it. The alcohol burns for a minute or two and warms the pan up to the point where the diesel vaporises and starts to burn on its own. After a few more minutes the diesel is keeping everything warm enough and the stove self-sustains. Once the stove is warm enough a temperature probe opens a valve in the regulator to let diesel drip feed into the pan – before this point you have to hold down a lever to bypass the valve and let diesel in at maximum flow. In normal use the stove uses hardly any diesel so this lever can let rather a lot of diesel into the pan before the stove is self-sustaining. Working out how long to hold it down for is an art, not a science. Once the stove is lit, air for the flame is supplied using a tilting hatch at the back with a little counterweight to keep it not too open, not too closed. Too open and too much air gets in, the flame burns bright yellow and deposits soot everywhere. Too little and the diesel can’t burn properly and the stove becomes unsustainable.

What you definitely don’t want to do is leave the regulator open and hold the lever down to check for leaks, then try to light the stove with whatever you find in your plumbing kit with a ‘highly flammable’ warning label on it. And you especially don’t want to do all this with the hatch wide open, because the combined effect is to massively overlight the stove, fill the room with smoke and cause a huge roaring cone of flame to threaten to blow the whole thing to smithereens. Instead, soak up any excess diesel with a kitchen towel, use methylated spirit (not white spirit!) and expect to have to turn the stove off, wait for it to cool down, and readjust the hatch several times before the flame burns properly. And expect the cat to act stoned from the smoke. Although the level of camp when we tried to wrap my niece’s Christmas present can’t be attributed to the same.

I'm spitting feathers here

So with the stove keeping us warm (when we remember to keep the diesel tank topped up) the captain’s cabin is feeling quite the cosy home. Except for the old shelf which was exactly at head-cracking height above the sofa. The old owners weren’t exactly beanpoles but surely they must have found it as uncomfortable as we did?

Shelving BEFORE

A couple of brackets and a few minutes work with my second-favourite toy, the power saw, plus a quick run to B&Q for a spirit level, and we’d saved our skulls and created a Bosco-proof top shelf for precious things.

Shelving AFTER

However if you’ve never seen a cat look miserable, I recommend you take down the shelf that lets him run up and down in front of the windows getting the only view of the outside world that he can because he’s too much of a wimp to go outside. He looked so unhappy that I dug out another bracket and made a kitty perch:

Shelving CAT

I need to tidy up the edges and varnish where I’ve cut, but finally we can watch telly without causing irreparable curvature of the spine. Ha, I made it sound like we have time to watch telly.

- posted by James O'Brien on 18 January 2008, 00:24 in