As fishers we spend a lot of hours on boats; a simple snapper mission can mean up to seven hours confined within that small nautical space, and a day’s game fishing can easily mean 10 hours afloat. So, it stands to reason that adding a few creature-comforts is worth some investment, suggests Pete McGregor.
The thing that finally led me to include a cooker on my boat was my love of hot coffee. I had tried and tested the usual method – the use of a thermos flask – and found it to be totally unsatisfactory. Glass flasks, while keeping the libation commendably hot, proved too vulnerable in the rough-and-tumble environment of a smallish boat. The alternative, a stainless-steel flask, proved incapable of keeping my coffee satisfactorily hot. In fact, after trying several very expensive brands, I found the results tepid (at best).
If I was going to enjoy a piping hot coffee (and even better on those early starts, a slap-up Kiwi breakfast), I needed to invest in a cooker. However, the issue on a small(ish) boat (mine is a 5.95m Surtees 580 game fisher) is that space is limited and, always in the background but never forgotten, safety is a major consideration.
Let’s look at some of the options worth considering. I have chosen to concentrate on portable cookers that are suitable for small day boats, as larger boats will usually have built-in manufacturer-supplied units.
If you have the space to store it, a stainless steel Kiwi Sizzler barbecue is a great option.
There are two popular brands of barbeque that have dimensions compact enough to make them suitable to use while sitting on your bait board (which is a nice safe position). One advantage of these compact cookers is that they can serve double duty as your home barbeque, and they have the added advantage of being able to be stored away out of the weather when not in use, prolonging their working life and good looks. Despite their compact dimensions, they can easily cook for a family of four or more. For onboard use, a small 2kg gas bottle is probably the go. There is also the option to buy an alloy gas bottle, but the price is generally prohibitive.
The Kiwi Sizzler: These units are made of marine-grade stainless steel, so will stand up to the salty atmosphere on board well. They are compact, fitting easily onto a bait board, but the manufacturers also supply a conversion kit so that the unit can sit in a rod holder for more versatile positioning. The barbecue has either a hinged lid of solid stainless or there is the option to add a handy viewing window. In breezy conditions a lid is essential. The Kiwi Sizzler has an automatic igniter and a cast iron cooking surface featuring both a hot plate and an open grill. I have had one of these for several years now and am entirely happy with its performance, though I mainly use it at home. I stow it in a combination garden seat/storage box, and it remains in mint condition, despite my home’s proximity to the sea (which has reduced two previous barbecues into rusty heaps of scrap). I also like the useful clip that locks the lid closed during transit. It works well on the boat too (usually for family outings) but would be space intrusive to leave on my boat all the time.
The see-through lid on the Kiwi Sizzler helps speedy cooking.
Weber: These immensely popular units come in a range of sizes and again feature a lid and a cast iron grill cooking surface. Their smaller models fit on the bait board easily. Consumer Magazine recently gave these cookers top marks. I’m not sure how well they would stand up to permanent onboard life though, as they do not supply a marine-grade stainless steel model. However, as mentioned above, they will probably only be used on the boat for special days out, so this shouldn’t be a major issue.
The weber barbecue.
These fall into two categories: those fuelled by high-pressure LPG, and butane cookers.
High-Pressure Gas Compact Stoves: There is a multitude of brands out there, priced anywhere from $100.00 and up, offering a choice of dual or treble burners. Usually, they incorporate a fold-up wind deflector that protects the back and sides, and the twin burner ones are fine for use on the bait board. They fold down to the size of a briefcase for easy storage under a bunk. These cookers are also very efficient, with piezo ignition, and they produce 12000BTU heat output, so can cook quickly. They have a 3/8” connector to BSP-LH gas cylinders, which are available in a variety of sizes, with the 2kg one ($30 to $40) probably the most suitable for onboard use and storage. The connectors are different from a regular LPG gas bottle as the high-pressure stoves do not require a regulator. This can make them a bit of an issue at refill time as they require a converter. The stoves have powder-coated paint finishes which last pretty well.
High-pressure gas cookers come in a variety of sizes.
Butane Cookers: These are very compact, usually single burner, stoves but are also available as duel burners if you have the space. They usually come in a plastic carry case which makes them easy to store under a bunk. They are the cheapest cooker option, starting at just $35.00 for a single burner unit. These cookers use butane fuel, which comes in small, inexpensive, disposable cylinders – similar in size to an aerosol fly spray can. You simply insert the can into a compartment built into the cooker and then discard it after use. The gas and the cooker fit inside the plastic storage case and spare cans are very space efficient. The disadvantage of these cookers is that butane is not as efficient as LPG in cold conditions, so it can take longer to cook.
A butane gas cooker is ideal for cooking on board, in this case paired with a purpose-built Offshore 650HT 'galley'.
I have been using these cookers for several years now and find them excellent for small boat usage. I use it either on the bait board or, more commonly, sitting on top of my live bait tank where the step-through sides and drop-down boarding plate combine to protect from any wind. I have been very happy with the performance. They don’t last forever when stored on the boat, as they corrode quickly, which results in me having to replace them more often than other products. However, I now keep a replacement cooker in a click-clack container big enough to hold a spare butane canister, and it is still looking good after three seasons aboard.
There are also cookers that fit directly on top of a large butane or LPG gas cylinder, but I consider these dangerous in a boating environment as they are potentially unstable.
There are a couple of brands of portable ovens available, such as the Travel Buddy (retail $280.00), that run off the 12-volt battery on your boat via a cigarette lighter socket and can be used for reheating pies and sausage rolls. They can reach a temperature of 170 degrees Celsius and have a timer that can be set up to two hours.
Scallops done in garlic and butter, fresh from the sea.
Go buy yourself a Boaties Frypan. They are $40 well spent, having a solid base and a non-stick surface that makes cooking anything easy and the clean-up is also a breeze.
Another great option is a Campmaster Whistling Kettle (retail $19.95), which is a great way to brew a cup of coffee on board and they last for ages in the harsh conditions. A small coffee flask is ideal, as a milk container (though I now mostly use condensed milk, which is available in a toothpaste-like tube – very convenient and can be left in the boat).
Sugar, tea bags and coffee can be stored on board in click-clack containers, and I keep a small stainless steel picnic knife and fork set in there too. I find that insulated mugs with lids work best. Don’t forget salt and pepper! The twisty-style shakers keep the salt and pepper dry while making dispensing easy. The less you have to use spoons to serve condiments, coffee or sugar on a windy day, the better.
I have just recently purchased a jug that operates using power from the cigarette lighter. It seems pretty good and heats a couple of mugs of water reasonably quickly. I plan to test this out long-term over the coming season.
It is important to ensure that any cooker used on your boat is well isolated from fuel containers and well ventilated.
On the night before your outing, pre-cook and mash some potatoes. The next morning, add the mashed potatoes to a couple of eggs and a couple of Hellers pre-cooked sausages in your boaties frypan and you will have a totally scrummy breakfast for champions – yum! My mouth is watering as I write this! I might go and make myself brunch on the boat – not much else I can do in this weather.
Fried up mashed potato is the basic ingredient of an excellent early morning breakfast on lake Okataina.
September 2022 - Pete McGregor
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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