The look of dismay on Dom’s face when he saw that Sumara had a Taylors paraffin cooker was rather alarming. I think he might have even exclaimed something unpublishable. Memories flooded back of him attempting to light the very same beast on Will Stirling’s yacht in Greenland. The burners needed to be pre-heated with both absolute precision timing and exact quantities of methylated spirit. If either was wrong the burner would erupt into a massive flare up followed by clouds of black smoke. Then everything had to cool down before a second attempt could be made. By that time, the opportunity of a tea break would have gone as all hands would be needed on deck to hoist the topsail. Of course, the whole procedure was made all the more painful because both Will and I could light the stove with little trouble, as if by magic. Mind you, I have been practicing for decades – and I am still learning.
A few years back I fitted some new Hanse burners to my cooker. They were German made and reputed to be very reliable but even I found them a struggle to light with the meths pre-heating method. I resolved the problem by buying a small gas blow torch. It took about 60 seconds plying the torch flame onto the burner and bingo a roaring clean blue flame. Using a blow torch slightly grated on me as one of the best excuses for owning a Taylors cooker is that you don’t like to have gas on board. Actually that might be the only excuse. Although it is just a small gas cylinder (plus a few spares) I am pretty certain it could cause a substantial explosion.
This year I found my blow torch to be faulty. It wouldn’t pump out any power so I changed the gas cylinder and the same thing happened. It is one thing having a gas blow torch on board, but quite another thing having a dodgy one. I have now reverted to using meths to preheat the burners and this time it seems to work fine. So I’ve now ditched the dodgy blow torch.
Moored alongside me in Dunstaffanage is a fine clinker yacht called Amulet. Amulet also has a Taylors cooker and we got chatting (maybe there should be a Taylors cooker owners club somewhere, I can just imagine the young vibrant crowd it would attract). Amulet’s owner had the brilliant wheeze of using a veterinary syringe to administer the exact quantity of meths. So I took his advice and bought one.
Vets syringes are big and made to last, they don’t worry about using a new syringe for each jab. The syringe is graduated up to 30 ml in 5 ml jumps. Using a syringe is a great idea because it saves bending down in the dark to see when the pre-heat tray is flooded. If you are just squirting the stuff from a squeezy bottle it often overflows. Spilt meths can cause a bit of extra onboard excitement. The chrome and glass syringes also look rather nice! I have repurposed a soup container to hold the meths so it is easy to fill the syringe.
He also mentioned that John Gardner (link in the links section) is selling tops for the pressure tank with a bicycle valve fitted so a small bike pump can be used to pressurise the tank rather than the pump supplied.
My original pump still works but it isn’t very effective. I’ll keep this new gizmo as a spare for the time being. By the way, with the new Hanse burners it seems best to keep the tank pressure rather low at around 15 psi.
I always keep a spare flexible fuel hose. These seem to last about six years and tend to burst mid-Atlantic. Eagle eyed readers will note there is a little barrel bolt fitted to the bottom of the cooker. It is wise to secure the cooker when sailing down wind or the rolly motion will cause unnecessary wear and tear on the fuel line. A few spare pads for the pre-heating trays are handy too.
I moved my Taylors pressure tank to the forepeak next to the Baby Blake. This freed up valuable space under the stove for storing cooking pots. I also had a shaped aluminium paraffin storage tank made which fits against the ceiling – you can’t say that, you deckhead! It will gravity feed paraffin to a small tap over the sink so that my oil lamps can easily be filled and paraffin can also be decanted (slowly) to transfer into the Taylors pressure tank. It means I can carry a years worth of fuel and need not worry about all the hassle of getting hold of the correct gas cylinders.
Paraffin is a great wood preservative. So if you find you have a leaky hose or minor spill, you can be assured it will be looking after your fine timber yacht.
That is jumping to the conclusion that only people mad enough to own a timber yacht will be mad enough to buy a Taylors cooker!