Store propane cylinders safely on deck

Dave Osmolski

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Summer’s here! Now’s the time to get in the boat, visit your favorite cove and drop the hook. Before long, you’ll get out the propane grill and throw a couple of steaks on while you enjoy a glass of wine with the sunset.

Propane grills that attach to a boat rail or a fixture inserted into a fishing rod holder are popular and provide additional enjoyment on day trips and cruises; however, their use raises the question of how to store the steel propane cylinders that fuel the grill.

America’s Boating Course, Seamanship and a number of sources teach us that carrying propane cylinders belowdecks or in storage lockers is an invitation to disaster. Heavier-than-air propane can collect in the bilge, which could cause a disastrous explosion. Propane cylinders should always be stored on deck in open air, but how should we secure them?

You could probably hold a cylinder in a modified fire extinguisher mount, but someone might mistake the cylinder for a fire extinguisher, wasting precious seconds in an emergency. On my boat, I solved this problem by making a removable cylinder holder from readily available materials.

There are two styles of portable propane containers: tall, narrow cylinders usually associated with propane torches used for soldering and short cylinders that have a larger diameter. Both types fit inside standard-diameter PVC pipe available at most hardware stores. The narrow cylinders fit in 3-inch PVC pipe, and the shorter cylinders fit in 4-inch PVC pipe.

I made a holder for tall cylinders, which I use with both my gas grill and propane torch. I cut a piece of 3-inch diameter PVC pipe 11 inches long. A half inch from one end, I drilled two quarter-inch holes on either side of the pipe. I ran a 4¼-inch piece of  ¼″-20 UNC all-thread or threaded rod through the holes and put a ¼″-20 UNC Nylok™ nut on each end to secure it. The rod keeps the steel cylinder from bouncing against the deck. The constant movement of the cylinder in its containment could wear a nasty mark in teak or gelcoat.

I used a hook-and-loop strap to lash the tubing to the upright of my T-top. Now the propane is above deck and out in the open, and it won’t create a hazardous situation that could spoil my cruise.

David H. Osmolski of Charlotte Power Squadron/27 has been repairing boats since high school when his first boat, a canvas-covered canoe with cedar ribs, leaked in gallons per minute and required constant repair.