I tell ya what…

Aboard Sundowner we carry two propane tanks. Each is 17lbs and each will last us about 2.5-3.5 months depending on how carefully we husband its use.

So far we’ve refilled one tank in Cuba and one tank in Mexico. We expected to refill a tank here on the island of La Providencia. But alas… Not all worked out.

Before we left Mexico we had started using the propane bottle filled in Cuba. Although it was really odd. The stove made a strange hissing sound. The color of the flame was a little off. The odor wasn’t quite right. The dear only knows what the Cubans actually pumped into our bottle but I’m convinced it probably isn’t “propane”. It might be butane or something of the sort.

Well when we got to the island, the same day, the stove just quit. The system wasn’t stopped up but no gas… The tank was still mostly full. The fiberglass tanks I have let me see the actual level inside and it still had at least a half tank, maybe more. So I switched tanks and we took the bottle to try and have it purged and filled. No dice. On the island here they only exchange bottles that are shipped to and from San Andreas. So here we are stuck in paradise with exactly one working bottle… And of course we’re the type to park it for months at a time.

Now it wouldn’t have been so bad if Dani and I had not gone on a mad cooking spree in the beginning. Dani baked bread for many people which uses the oven and a lot of propane. I made roux and gumbos and cooked for people. That takes hours on the stove. Tick tock, how long until we run out. Eventually the situation dawned on us when we decided we loved this place and would be sticking it out for quite some time. We were in danger of running out!

Since then the cooking has been miserly. We eat sushi which helps but still and all, we do cook. And rarely eat ashore. There is a kettle of water boiled daily for coffee, tea, and washing, etc. We started using the pressure cooker for everything. We tried to make it last. But this morning, Dani handed me a tepid cup of some fluid said to be coffee and with a guilty look confessed, “The day has come, the propane is empty.”

Now… I had some backup plans. I could buy one of the island propane bottles and connect it to a cheap one burner stove, but I was still gravely unsatisfied by my mostly full Cuban flame juice sitting there mocking me. I researched the problem. Back when SV Tango was here I spoke to Steve about the perplexing problems. And thus began my education on OPD valves.

TECHNICAL: OPD valves (Overfill Protection Device) are standard on all modern tanks and they are not the same as the old ones. In fact the modern valves actually serve four different functions at once. One interesting function is that they shut down when too much flow leaves the bottle at once!

So armed with this and a great hope we might have turned on too much gas at once… I reinstalled ole Cuba fuego. Now. The trick was to open the wheel valve very very slowly. If you just twist it right open the valve shut down and you have to take out the fitting and start all over. But by very slowly twisting the valve open I heard the distinctive WOOSH and the pressure gauge shot up. Viola. We have stinky Cuban fire on the stove again.

I made Dani make a new cup of coffee to be sure its all working. It is. And so we’ll hopefully be able to make it to San Blas for our scheduled refill.

As a scary side note… I thought of getting one of the bottles here then manually purging and gravity filling our bottle. I would NEVER recommend this as it is a seriously dangerous en devour. But lack of coffee will drive a man to do strange things. Luckily I didn’t have to resort to it.

And all you commenters out there… I know the dangers involved, I did a great deal of grave research before contemplating the attempt. I have enough “old women” in my life giving me flack about spear fishing dangers these days so please go easy on your ole pal Tate? Thanks.