There are a lot of opinions when it comes to the “right” or “best” way to heat water and food onboard. With the wide array of opinions out there, I’d like to get this disclaimer out right away – for our situation and for our cruising plans, this was the right choice for us. Our cruising plans include sailing around the world and while we are setting ourselves up financially to do so, we will be living aboard. The best I can offer as you do your research is to share why choosing a diesel stove for our purposes was the right move to make.

For context, the exact diesel stove we chose is the Dickinson Adriatic Diesel Cook Stove.

Multi-purpose: stove, heater, + water heater

By far the largest upside to getting a diesel stove was getting what has become essentially a 3 in 1 product. On our 36’ sailboat we knew space would be limited and there would be items we wanted, like a water heater, but wouldn’t want to use up valuable space installing. With this in mind, we knew that a diesel stove would also serve as a heater on cold evenings and there was even the option to add on a water heater attachment, which we’ve done. This allows us to send water once heated by the stove directly to our hot water tank where it can stay warm for a few days.. Because we liveaboard and light the stove almost daily, we have never not had hot water when we’ve wanted it so far. The ability for our diesel stove to be more than just a stove for us is huge and it’s definitely clear this was the right choice for us.  

Diesel is a fuel available worldwide

As previously mentioned, our cruising plans include sailing around the world and while propane is readily available where we are in Southern California, the same cannot be said for other areas around the world. This is the main reason we did not go with propane. Diesel however, is a fuel source we could rely on being able to get worldwide. Since reliability is something we valued highly when deciding what kind of stove to install, we knew that choosing a diesel stove would make the most sense.

It is worth mentioning that the quality of the diesel can affect the way the stove burns and this is something to keep in mind if you are operating a stove using diesel from an area you haven’t been before.

The galley was being reconstructed and reconfigured, so it was perfect timing to make this change.

Interior of sailboat under construction

Our hand was forced into reconstructing the galley when we began the restoration of our sailboat and found that rats had eaten through the insulation of the refrigerator. This combined with the formerly installed CNG stove made it pretty clear that we would have to make some changes to the galley area. Enter the perfect opportunity to install the stove of our choosing.

The installation process is not a plug-and-play kind of project. Rather, it’s quite extensive and requires specific safety features such as concrete and ceramic tiling around the entire stove area. Changing the current type of stove on any boat is not going to be an easy project as there are safety requirements for each type of fuel system, such as isolated propane lockers if you go that route. Given our entire galley was ripped out and being put back together, bit by bit, the timing made sense to make this change.

The heat from the stove dries out the boat

The heat from our diesel stove is a very dry heat and that’s something we love about it. A quick way for us to feel dry and fresh after a rainstorm is to run the stove for about an hour after the rain has stopped. It may just be in our heads, but it’s really a great feeling.

The downsides

Getting the oven to a high temperature takes a while.

And to think the days of making cookies aboard hadn’t even begun, and just like that, they’re over. On the occasion we have the stove running for more than an hour, it would be a possibility to use the oven, but anything shorter than that just results in disappointment. I once tried making a frozen pizza in the oven and decided to put it in prior to preheating (first mistake). The end result about an hour later was a soggy crust with half melted cheese on top and patience that had run thin on an empty stomach. My note to self at that time was exactly this: never expect speed from your diesel stove when you’re hungry.

It does not gimbal

The pains of this downside have yet to be experienced fully, as we are still in the final stages of restoration before we head out to sail the world. We considered this downside carefully when choosing a diesel stove and decided that not having easy access to warm food while underway would be worth it to stay warm and dry out the boat on cold or wet nights.

So far, still thrilled with this choice.