When Cruisers Own a Home
Barbara's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Start to Her Birthday

Propane, Rolling Round My Brain


Sixteen years of living aboard and we just got bitch-slapped by our boat.

La Luna, we love you.

We don’t totally agree about the timing, as in when she started dinging us. I feel it was only a two-day challenge, P7270075but EW thinks we may have been bombarded for a week. At right is our lovely queen berth in the master stateroom. We love our center queen in the stern. EW sleeps on the left side of the bed (your right as you look at this photo) and I on the right. Always. For over 30 years. I think that started when we … never mind, that would be a TMI moment.

EW felt a bit under the weather, intestinally, last week. He now thinks that was the first symptom and maybe he’s right. The propane locker is located near his head.  (That red bolster pillow is pointing to the locker.) Of course, there is a vent in the locker and we’ve had no issues for 16 years. We have carbon monoxide “bitches” in galley and master stateroom. They have been known to cry “Car-Bon Mo-NOX-ide! Car-Bon Mo-NOX-ide!” or “Fire! Fire!” depending on the moment. We have a hard-wired propane sensor under the stove in the galley. We thought we were covered.

Think again!

The other day, EW had to change propane tanks. (For you who don’t boat or camp, we have permanent tanks that get refilled. They have been inspected and have new valves and EW is meticulous about making sure they are safe when he changes them.) A day or so later, I smelled “something” in the master stateroom. It was a little something, more like a small dead animal than propane. Hey! I cook with propane daily. I know the smell. (One would think.)

When it persisted, I checked for the fictitious dead rodent, and then mentioned the smell to EW the next evening as we crawled into bed. “Hmmm. That may be propane. Don’t make coffee until I check it in the morning.”

Hmm? That blasé answer may have been sponsored by propane hazed minds. We hadn’t slept well the prior night (or 2) and I was feeling logy. EW, who sleeps closest to the propane locker was feeling worse but thought it was an intestinal thing.

The next morning, EW arose and immediately checked the propane locker and swore. There was a leak at the regulator. It was easily repaired, I made coffee and we went on with our day. Now, depending on which of us is right, we had slept next to the leak for 3-7 days.

Flipping big oops!

I’d been invited to take a trip on the Black Raven that day so I could take photos and videos of EW being a pirate, but I just felt too icky and sleepy. In fact, I took a two-hour nap instead and still slept for 8 hours that night. (I’m normally a 6-7 hour a night person with very few naps.)

At that point, “duh!” I looked up propane poisoning.


Not good.

Here’s the thing, for over 30 years of boating, any discussion/article about propane safety that I’ve seen and heard has dealt with the possibility of propane leaking into the bilge and exploding. That’s a bad thing. That’s why we have a propane sensor below the stove. We’ve had issues (hey, things happen) and the sensor actually prevents propane from flowing if it detects a leak, making it difficult to blow up the boat.  We’re careful and always turn off the propane—not just the burner—when we aren’t using the stove. In fact, we have a rule of turning off the propane before turning off the burner so we bleed the line every single time.

We are safety conscious—but we blew it. (Pun intended.)

After it was fixed, Stew also had a great night’s sleep. In fact, he slept until 10:00 AM on the 3rd. Now, we’re both rested, lively, and back to normal. We are also lucky and not stupid. This week I’m buying a propane sensor for the master stateroom where the carbon-monoxide bitch is useless.

I’m looking for one that is battery operated and doesn’t talk. Two electronic bitches on the boat are plenty.


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Don Andrews

Glad that turned out OK and you guys are safe.


OMG!! Glad you are ok!! I once had butane poisoning and almost died. My body is now super sensitive to sensing issues like leaks.

Bob Ganley

You had a problem, you diagnosed it, and you fixed it. All's well that ends well!


We are very cautions, well education, and down right persnickety about safety and yet, we also had a near disaster involving gas poisoning. Blinding headaches and quick dashes to the rail yielded enough fresh air to, in hind site, likely save our lives. It happens so gradually. By the way, we have found that household detectors do not hold up in marine conditions. Don’t get too frugal. Glad you two are ok!!

Vicky Reynard

We are glad to read the safe ending! Awesome friends like you are one of a kind! Stay vigilant!

Cathy Klein

Yikes is right. So glad you are both ok.


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