Installing a Wood Burning Stove: Part I

Many of my 88 days on the Inside Passage found me layered up in wool and foulies, but with one exception, being cold just wasn't a problem. What was a problem was keeping the cabin dry. Humans respire about a quart of water while sleeping, and Ripple has rudimentary rain protection in the cockpit, so inevitably a good deal of water comes into the cockpit via wet gear and crew.

Testimony regarding the virtues of wood burning stoves in boats is widespread, and the appeal of a cozy fire on a blustery day is self evident. Finding a suitable unit for Ripple rose to the top of my upgrade program. It is a complicated proposition.

Having  made the decision to go with a wood-burner, one still has a potentially vast array of options. My own were severely constrained by space availability. The Force 10 kerosene burner was designed into the boat, leaving the choice of reworking cabinet work or finding a stove to fit within the 12" by 13" by 16" space.

The stove I most coveted is the Sardine by Navigator Stove Works, an Orcas Island business with an avid following.  But the Sardine is both slightly larger than I could accommodate, and more costly than my budget would support. It is beautiful, though, an exquisite rendition of a classic design and wood-burning technology that reputedly qualifies it for energy efficiency tax rebates!

Another stove that I considered is the CubicMini, with a form factor about the same as the Sardine, but available at a fraction of the cost.  This is probably the stove I would have bought had I had the space... a door with a window in it is very appealing. The stove is made in Canada, and is a great value. Once again, I would have had to modify cabinetwork, and I didn't want to do so.

Dickinson offers a solid fuel stainless steel stove that would have fit, and I think it would have served the purpose, but is low on charm, reportedly has a poorly functioning damper, and is more than twice the cost of the Fatsco Pet.

The stove that I decided on is the Fatsco Pet, which is the smallest stove of the bunch, and comes with a heritage that extends back more than a century.  They were originally designed for the milk truck trade, to keep the drivers of these horse-drawn trucks warm on cold midwestern mornings.  It is also the least expensive, at $230 USD ($300 with the ash scoop and shipping).

The Pet is 9" tall and 6" in diameter.  At some point in its history it was reengineered from all-cast iron to cast iron and stainless steel, but its face retains its original old-timey look.  It uses 3" flue-pipe, rather than the 4" that the Sardine uses... an important space issue in my tiny cabin.

The low cost of the stove is welcome, of course, but you're not close to being done after that expenditure.

Stove, shipping, stainless steel ash shovel                      $ 300
Bronze deck iron                                                             $ 215
Stainless steel flue pipe, flue cap, butterfly damper       $ 250
Custom stainless steel heat shield                                   $ 250

A fire on board is high on every mariner's list of worst-case-scenarios, so starting one intentionally demands close attention to safety, and that starts with the installation.  If you're installing your own stove, some standard safety guidelines will help you get started. It is difficult in constrained spaces to achieve the recommended standoff distances to combustible surfaces, so one must improvise in a manner that will ensure safety.  In my case, this included a stainless-steel heat shield that extends from the base of the stove to the top of the flue. I think will give me the necessary protection,  will confirm my design decisions with surface temperature measurements when I do operational tests.


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