Friday, November 3, 2017

Hot meals aboard require some thinking in advance.

Cooking on board Long Steps

I expect to be heating food rather than being a chef afloat, but hot food no matter how simple can be a lifesaver when the weather is bad and the body is wet and cold. So I’ve been giving much thought not only to the food itself but to the method of heating. 
“Jetboil” has been suggested by quite a few people, but these are really only intended to heat fluids . I don’t drink coffee but a mug of tea is nice, as is hot chocolate but its hot food that I’m really wanting.
I’m happy to rip the top off a can, boil some pasta and tip the contents of the can in on top, I might even add some beef stock and potato flakes, or a packet of pea and ham soup.  Yes, when I’m really hungry I’ll eat stuff that normally I’d turn my head away from, there are times when a belly full of hot calories is a real treat no matter how prosaic it may taste, within reason of course. But then, "reason" is negotiable on a wet cold night when  the nearest Michelin four star restaurant is a long long way away.

So I needed a heat source, needed it mounted so it would be easily accessed, sheltered from the wind and spray, secure, and able to hold a pot securely.

All this in a small boat, one that is for the most part open to the elements.

My solution, after much thought, is to build a shelf on the inside of one of the big hatches at the forward end of the little cuddy, that’s B#3, and they give access to the big storage and bouyancy space up there under the “cabin” and into the bow.

On that shelf will go a little stove that I’ve bought by mail order from Aliexpress,
My friend Paul Mullings had bought one, the product looked very good, and it cost so little that if it doesn’t work I could toss it in the trash( unlike the Jetboil which here in NZ, even by mail order, is horrendously expensive).
It arrived on Saturday, 8 days after ordering it, all the way from China. Good service, and I know that if I tried to send a parcel that size back to China by post it would cost more than the stove and postage coming the other way.

It uses the ubiqitous 220 gram propane cartridges, around here we can get five of those for under five bucks, the stove in Spook, my 18 footer, uses those and I get around three days of cuppateas, full hot thermoses and an evening hot meal out of each one.  Say three dollars worth for a weeks cruising. I can live with that.

I’ve tried it out, it boiled 500ml ( a little less than 1/8th US gallon or two medium sized coffee mugs full) in 2 mins 40 seconds. To give you an idea a popular brand of Methylated spirits (acohol) stove took 4 mins 35, my Optimus white spirits (white gas or Coleman fuel) stove took 2 mins 15 seconds so its pretty reasonable in terms of heat output.
I’ve found it very controllable, it has a piezo lighter so the barbeque lighter or matches aren’t needed, it has feet that can  be drilled and bolted to the shelf, and wide arms that can take the modification that I’m planning.

Keeping the pot on the stove when the boat is bouncing around is an issue, so I’m planning to go to an Opportunity shop to find an old aluminium pot just big enough to take my cooking pot or the mini frying pan I use, cutting the bottom out and slotting the remaining ring over the stove arms, securing it with bolts or pop rivets and cutting a slot where I want the frying pan handle to rest.  That aly ring “fiddle” will be deep enough to retain my pot in quite rough conditions and with the lid on the pot, I’m hoping to keep the food in the pot rather than on the cockpit sole.

I’ve baked bread on worse cookers than this.

I’ll report later on when I’ve got it all set up.

Oh yes, pancakes with maple syrup!  Mmmmm!


  1. It appears your link for the stove doesnt exist.

    1. I tried googling the Tomshoo 2800w from that link and here it is:

  2. Hi John,
    All last summer, I used a cooker based on a cast aluminium 18cm saucepan, fastened down, with a Maxie alcohol burner mounted inside and with two crossbars through it, 3cm below the top, on which to rest my kettle, 16cm saucepan and pressure cooker. This setup works well both as a fiddle rail and in directing the heat more towards the pan or kettle.

  3. Hi John,
    There's this sailor, Roger Barnes, he's a big dinghy enthusiast and he made a video about his cruising dinghy:
    At 5:45 he shows his portable stove in a blue metal box and it's made so nice I want such a thing myself. So I thought maybe that video could be helpful.