why can't they leave things alone?
I am a bit late writing this article: my phone has stopped working; apparently it needs ISO, whatever now, and thus is no longer supported. To add insult to injury, the word processing software I use to write with now needs a new licence.
Technology is becoming more of a form of legalised piracy to extort money than to help. I don’t ever remember my trusty old Olympia typewriter needing much more than a new ribbon and a clean!!
Which brings us neatly on to the latest corporate act of vandalism from a leading gas supplier, the removal of the smaller gas bottles. Ok I know that these have always been the most expensive way of using gas but like many boats of Dawntreader's age, it is what the builders designed the gas locker around. To convert to the new larger 5 kilo propane is going to require some careful thinking and considerable expense to make a new locker, let alone have a corgi registered gas supplier come and make the necessary connections. To the point that I am now considering alternatives to gas and removing it all. After all, when I first started boating, it was paraffin lamps and wick stoves.
The first thing to do is list all things I use gas for, which is cooker, water heater and Propex heater. The next is why do I use it - the only real answer is because it's there !! and lastly what are my alternatives?
Firstly, the humble microwave can do a mug of coffee in under two minutes and a baked potato in 6 where as a Vaness Flavel oven takes about the same time it took to grow it. The hot water system for the shower can soon be replaced by the can of hot water method; I have a solar one I use sometimes in the cockpit, supplemented by what is basically a modern tea urn that provides enough hot water to wash up with.
So the answer seems to be 'go electric'. But this is not as easy as it sounds, as even with on shore power in the marina, supply is limited. Basically, we need to do an energy audit – how much power does a microwave, small water heater etc use and find a generator that can cope.
The plan is to use DT's old engine bay and have a lightweight built in diesel generator, complete with fireproof filters and pipe work and exhaust to outside world that can run the appliances. But not only for domestic duty – it would have to provide enough power for electric outboard charging and replace the old Suzuki - if you like a sort of hybrid power system. Thus removing the need for yet another old dinosaur which is rapidly becoming obsolete. 5 litres of diesel is far cheaper than 5 kilos of gas and much more versatile.
Add into this a decent battery bank that can run a small invertor without causing a real headache and I think we are onto something. There are other alternatives, Kelly kettles are a must in life – I have had mine years, obviously you don’t use them inside the boat but on the towpath. Even half an old cardboard box can boil 3 litres of water in about 2 minutes – the surplus decanted into thermos flasks to use when required. A pan on top and you can have a bacon sandwich and hot water to wash up in. Spirit stoves or paraffin stoves are still available, as are baby Blake marine grade paraffin heaters, both of which are far more economical to run than gas.
What does worry me is that people will start to take risks with portable gas cartridge cookers and heaters of dubious quality and design. In the same way, being an engineer, cheap Chinese diesel heaters scare the hell out of me. Then there are those who will run generators under canopies, or even burn candles. I have known all of these go wrong, either gassing the occupant or burning boats down to the water line.
What I am certain of is I will not be carving up the boat trying to squeeze in a five-kilo bottle into lockers it simply won’t fit. Any more than I am upgrading my phone when I have a reasonably good laptop that does the same thing; and when that packs up it will be time for the typewriter!!
If we all turned our backs on some of these corporations and their continuous need to change things to make us buy so called newer and better, they would soon learn to leave things alone.