Even in the best of times plumbing is a curse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You can’t expect that fitting to mate with this fitting, pal. That’s an NPT while this is an NPR with a twist.” (I made that last bit up, so don’t try this at home.)
So it’s never going to mate, Mate, and it’s always going to leak and blow your butt to kingdom come! So you’ve got Imperial, which sounds rich; metric, which is boring and involves counting teeny tiny little increments; and then you’ve got US stuff which as far as I can tell somebody just made up a long time ago. As if that isn’t bad enough I give you LPG tank fittings. I’ve been chasing the correct fittings halfway around the world. It got so bad in OZ that I had to make a beeline to a marina in Gladstone because Escape Velocity’s propane system, which admittedly was about as Rube Goldberg as it gets, started to leak and I simply could not stem the flow with the bits I had on board. In my defense I’d like to say that Australia makes some of your more bizarre propane tanks without regard to any US standardized dimension or design. So a lot of in the field adjustment was necessary just to connect the gas fitting (which we’ll call a POL) to the tank. Of course those Aussie jokesters use backwards internal threads while the US uses a POL with external threads with a modicum of reverse compatibility. You should have seen the look I got from that hardware store kid when he showed me that you just stick it inside and it’ll screw right in. “How long you been down here, Mate?”
Now, Yours Truly has insisted on having three 20lb propane tanks aboard. One to show, one to go, and an extra one to reach for when everything else goes pear shaped. Things go pear shaped with alarming regularity out here. EV has a nice molded-in fiberglass LPG tank compartment right beneath your feet as you steer the boat. Have I mentioned that your humble skipper lost the discussion with the powers that be about why the hell do we need three 20lb propane tanks on board when we have never needed the extra tank? Yes, but I’d call that sound weight management.
So after 750nm we pulled into Debut, Indonesia, dropped anchor, and unexpectedly ran out of propane. That’s a concern because, of course, Indonesia uses a tank fitting that is unique in all the world and they don’t want you buying an Indonesian adaptor, which would make it an Indonesian to Aussie POL and it is illegal for them to fill Aussie or US type tanks regardless even if you’d had the foresight or eyesight to read the fine print and found a rare Indo adaptor. Just don’t look for one here.
So where was I? Oh yes. Up to the bow locker to lug the only other 20lb tank back to the propane compartment, and this is a full one judging by its weight. Out of the hole with the spent tank and in goes…it doesn’t fit! It will not go down into the compartment, which means you can’t stand or really even sit comfortably at the wheel and steer! After ruminating over my options and measuring this fat boy tank I realized that a 41 1/2″ tank will not go into a 40″ compartment. Luckily another boat volunteered their bespoke Aussie POL to Aussie POL assembly with a nice stainless reinforced hose to connect them.
We will decant the gas from the tank that doesn’t fit to the tank that does.
After prying Fatboy out of the compartment I suspended the donor tank upside down from our jib halyard and our empty tank was placed in a trug filled with water and covered with wet towels to keep a temperature differential. I will say that a lot of gurgling and sloshing commenced, sounding for all the world like a terribly upset stomach, as soon as the valves were opened. That might have been my stomach. I rigged a fish scale, yes I have a fish scale, to Fatboy and watched as it got lighter and lighter so I knew the LPG was going somewhere. We gave it four hours and the tank felt kinda full so I lowered it right down into the compartment and Bob’s your uncle.
Now we’re cookin’ with gas!
Of course that only solves today’s problem and we will need propane in about three months and only have one usable tank. But kicking the can down the road is a kind of victory, but with a twist.