I am actively searching for a new sailboat. Actually, more honestly, I have found several new boats, and I am trying to decide amongst them. And at least one of these would require some focused repairs.
There are some great benefits if I pick a boat which is in need of some yard work. The biggest of these is being able to make some changes to the boat to make it better suit my intended use – which is mostly solo cruising off the west coast of Canada. If you have a boat in good working order you immediately splash it and go sailing. If you have one in need of repairs, well, you start working on it first.
The PNW of the USA, and the left coast of Canada, are cold water sailing. That may not seem like much of a thing, but if you get off a mile or three from shore it is always around 10°C/50°F, and a 20 kt breeze makes it feel more like 6°C/43°. Throw in a nice, typical mizzle or light rain and you are reasonably miserably cold.
So one thing I want, and have only rarely had, is a heater below decks. I have researched this reasonably extensively, and I know what I want: a heater with external air supply and exhaust, a fan to blow some warmth around, and a fuel supply which will not accumulate in the bilge if the supply springs a leak. There are only a couple of options I know of which meet the first requirement, and only one fuel which meets the last one: natural gas, which is lighter than air.
Unfortunately, I have (sort of) been talked out of the natural gas option by Mr Bruce Styles of Eco Fuel Systems, Inc. He believes he is the only supplier of retail CNG for small galley tanks on the coast. The portable high-pressure tanks he offers are certified for 2250 psi, while CNG fueling stations are pressurized to 3600 psi, so even a converter system will not allow the tanks to be refilled safely at the rare stations offering CNG.
On another hand, I do not see why I could not use the same tanks as they use on automobiles. They are darned expensive, but so are the so-called “galley tanks”. The real problem is moving the tanks around, which I do not want to do, but I have not discovered a CNG service on the docks in BC yet. Even the lightest tanks are probably not really easy to move about.
(Small digression: what is up with boats not converting to CNG/LNG? A typical high-speed cruiser is burning about 5-8 gallons of fuel per hour, and fuel here is about $3.50, while CNG is about 70% as powerful but roughly $1 per gge (gasoline gallon equivalent). The conversion kit is not very expensive, and even though the tankage is huge – nearly twice the volume per GGE in small tank sizes, a lot closer to the same in large tanks – the cost comes out to 40%, and less if you are buying larger volumes.)
Anyway, putting this in the back of my mind, and probably planning a propane install. CNG and LPG are nearly interchangeable as fuels, except that CNG floats away while LPG sinks and concentrates. And LPG is readily available most places I want to sail, while CNG is not.