Forums General Discussion Propane lesson learned. Check your system!

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    • #225762
      Rich Harris
      Participant

      Sometimes we have to share our trials to help others learn through us.

      Saturday evening Sept 5, my wife and I were at anchor in Deltaville VA nearing the end of two beautiful but hot weeks circumnavigating the southern half of the bay.
      I was grilling steaks outside on the grill and she was down below stir-frying veggies.
      When she finished, she went to switch off the propane solenoid and BOOM, It sounded like a muffled grenade going off. She immediately began screaming. The result was a trip on life flight to the burn unit at VCU MCV Hospital in Richmond. She suffered severe burns to her right arm and to a much lesser degree to her face. Over the last weeks she has dealt with skin grafts on about 80% of her right arm below the elbow. He road to recovery will be a long one.
      My message to you is to make sure your equipment is working properly and if it’s old, update it. Our 424 is 38 years old and the system had been replaced at least once. Again, I’m only posting this so it can be a lesson learned for all of us who DIY on our boats. I can build a boat from the ground up but one thing, one little thing caused this.
      I’ve already torn out the propane system and found the leak in the cabinet behind the stove. This winter I will replace the whole system from front to back to include automatic gas detectors that will shut off the gas if a leak is detected. While I began tearing it out, I realized now is the time for a complete galley gut and redo so on a better note, standby for updates and questions on that.

      Please just take this as a lesson for all of us to be careful no matter what we do on our boats. And if you haven’t done so, check your propane system regularly using the gauge that should be installed by the tanks.

      Rich
      Forget Knot.

    • #225763
      Bryan Bywalec
      Keymaster

      Scary stuff, thanks for sharing. I try and do a leak down test on the system once a month but obviously it only takes one time with a sudden leak to bring on disaster. Was it just coincidence that it ignited when she went to operate the solenoid? Was the source of ignition the stove itself?

      We recently installed a detector that alarms and shuts off the solenoid below the stove but I do worry about the line running through some spaces that are hard to inspect.

      Best wishes for a speedy recovery, thanks again for sharing. I see people get complacent with their propane systems and always good to be reminded that it, 120V power and gasoline are three very real dangers on a boat.

      – Bryan
      S/V Pelican

      -----
      Bryan Bywalec
      S/V Pelican, Hull 209
      Siren Engineering, LLC

    • #225765
      Rich Harris
      Participant

      Scary stuff, thanks for sharing. I try and do a leak down test on the system once a month but obviously it only takes one time with a sudden leak to bring on disaster. Was it just coincidence that it ignited when she went to operate the solenoid? Was the source of ignition the stove itself?

      We recently installed a detector that alarms and shuts off the solenoid below the stove but I do worry about the line running through some spaces that are hard to inspect.

      Best wishes for a speedy recovery, thanks again for sharing. I see people get complacent with their propane systems and always good to be reminded that it, 120V power and gasoline are three very real dangers on a boat.

      – Bryan
      S/V Pelican

      Bryan,
      Not a coincidence. The solenoid switch definitely caused it. The breech in the pipe was about 7 inches from the switch and the switch box was in less than pristine condition. The stove itself was off when it ignited. We’d been sailing for two solid weeks before without incident.

      The new replacement system will have sniffers and we’re relocating the control from the factory location left of the stove to the inboard side of the cabinet above the sink. This will put the operator a couple steps away from the stove and in a location that the hose won’t pass through.
      Rich

      • This reply was modified 12 months ago by Rich Harris.
    • #225767
      typhoontye
      Participant

      Sure sorry ya’ll are going through this Rich. Thank you for sharing. Could possibly prevent a similar mishap for any one of us…

      I need to check my own propane pipe routing to ensure it doesn’t pass near that switch…

      Best wishes for a rapid recovery.

      David
      Blue Moon

    • #225769
      rdugger
      Participant

      btw… Practical Sailor had an article this month on small propane bottle safety.
      The article is attached.
      I recently had a small propane bottle leak when it was removed from the gas grill. We couldn’t get it to stop..
      I have bought some of the recommended brass caps with gaskets..

      Attachments:
      1. Safety-Tips-for-Small-Propane-Bottles-Practical-Sailor.pdf

    • #225771
      rdugger
      Participant

      btw… Practical Sailor had an article this month on small propane bottle safety.
      The article is attached.
      I recently had a small propane bottle leak when it was removed from the gas grill. We couldn’t get it to stop..
      I have bought some of the recommended brass caps with gaskets..

      Rick
      Eclipse #73

      Attachments:
      1. Safety-Tips-for-Small-Propane-Bottles-Practical-Sailor-1.pdf

    • #225777
      Ben Frothingham
      Participant

      Thanks for sharing and I hope the recovery goes well. Last spring I completely revamped my propane system. I found the original installation to be less than ideal. There were numerous couplers in the original hard tubing, a second solenoid valve in the dish cupboard behind the stove top, and a poor control switch location behind the stove. I replaced it all with a single run of flexible propane hose with chafe protection at all bulkheads. I added a propane sniffer below the stove and a relocated the control panel to the nav station. I also checked the overboard tubing from the propane locker. I also took the opportunity to add a cabin heater and grill connection in the propane locker with individual gas valves. The cabin heater is mounted on the forward salon bulkhead, also with a full run flexible hose down the port side and inside the cabinets. I still need to add the sniffer below the heater. I took my aluminum tanks to be inspected and refilled, which was done with no problem. I’m a little concerned with age of these bottles – 1980’s I think – but they passed inspection. Any thoughts on the life expectancy for these tanks?? Be well and stay safe.
      Ben Frothingham on Papaya, Woods Hole, MA.

    • #225778
      Dunphyje
      Participant

      Ben,
      See attached pdf for DOT propane tank info..
      It contains the markings and the certification and re-certification info..
      John
      C/V Mela

      Attachments:
      1. DOT-propane_en_v3.pdf

    • #225780
      RichCarter
      Participant

      While checking your propane system, check the propane locker drain pipe. It’s copper tubing. If it’s blocked with debris, it can’t vent propane overboard. Checking this is especially important for those of us from colder climates. Water can collect in the pipe and freeze. As you know, water expands when freezing. This can crack the pipe and later allow rain water and gas to leak into the bilge. This has happened to me. I didn’t have a propane leak but I noticed water leaking from the drain pipe.

      Make it a point to flush the propane locker each spring to clear it of debris and verify that water doesn’t run into the bilge. Close the tank valves each fall when putting the boat in storage.

      I’m in the process of re-plumbing the propane locker. I’m putting in a propane connection for the gas grill. It’s a bit involved but I want to be rid of the green tanks. Parts include a gas valve for the Magma grill, a short rubber hose, quick connect fittings with shutoff valve, copper tubing, a new pressure regulator, and various flare fittings.

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