Number 205 / December 2008

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Of course there are problems with campfires. There are problems with burning wood in general and, in those parts of the world where it is the main fuel, these are matters of life and death; consequently a lot of effort has been put into improving the efficiency of wood burning stoves. A minor offshoot of all this work has been the development of improved wood stoves for camping. There is a lot about this on the internet including many designs for home construction. To someone of a tinkering disposition the lure of anything involving fire is hard to resist but I controlled myself and bought a ready made stove from WoodGas-Stove.com.

It was surprisingly cheap and a portion of the profits goes towards supplying improved stoves in the third world. The web-site is most interesting and explains how the stove works. 'Woodgas' refers to the fact that it burns the wood gas or smoke which represents a substantial part of the potential heat in the wood and which in a normal fire tends to escape, to blacken your pans and make your eyes water. An odd feature of the stove is that, in order to burn this gas efficiently, it has a battery driven blower but it does not use much battery... you get about ten hours from a pair of AAs.

Does it work? I think it works well enough to be our main camping stove but it does not do quite what I wanted it to. When we went on our Scottish trip in the spring we were worried about whether we would find enough dry firewood so we took a carrier bag full of offcuts just in case. This worked so well that we hardly bothered to gather firewood and even so we did not use the whole bag. For the Bala meet I had neglected to replenish the cheating bag and was obliged to go and find fuel. It was a bit damp, cutting it into short lengths was a nuisance and it did not burn anywhere near as well as gunwale offcuts, so I think the key to happy use of the stove may be to prepare the fuel in advance of the trip; it's not as bad as taking expensive fossil fuel in a tin.

When you burn wood gas what you are left with is charcoal, which will also burn in the stove, but if you extinguish it (not by pouring water in the stove as it will get in the fan) you can grind it up and scatter it about. It will do no harm and will not turn into CO2 so it can be your very own bit of, totally insignificant, carbon sequestration.


Sailing Without Pain Or Strain (JanP)

Does the thought of how to get your boat on the water spoil your day out? Worse still, do you risk backache every time you load or unload it? Does it even make you think twice about going? How do you store your canoe? Could better storage be the answer? Could one of these solutions help? If you're not as young and fit as you used to be, this (left) isn't what you want to be doing... Sail in company and co-operate with a friend and lift only half the weight of your canoe. Better still, sail with a group and quarter the weight.

Sliding system
If you prefer to sail alone or your friends live too far away, try loading your canoe onto your car with well padded roof bars to avoid damage to your gunwales, or better still a roller bar at the back. Lift the bow up onto the back bar. From the stern, lift and slide the canoe into position on top of both bars.

Canoe trailers
Store four canoes, with rigs and equipment, permanently on a trailer ready to hitch up and go

(right). Keep sails (on their masts) in bags to protect them from sun and rain. Keep rudders and leeboards in padded bags (fleece will do the job) to prevent damage, along with tillers, paddles etc. Stow everything in the trailer under the canoes. Build a lidded box for the purpose, which will also take enough camping gear for a long sailing trip. Other alternatives (below left and centre).

On overseas trips where a ferry crossing is involved, it can be expensive to tow a trailer. For our trip to Sweden in 2002 (below right), we packed camping gear and food for two weeks, two

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