Microwave on Board?

 

Fast Meals While Cruising

Living and cruising long term on a boat requires some adjustments, as most boats have a fraction of the space available in a small home – and Magic Moments is a small boat. Think of it as living in a closet. Space is at such a premium that everything you own needs to do double or triple duty – a five gallon bucket might be key to cleaning your laundry while underway, carrying tools aloft to repair the masthead light, rinsing salt off the deck, dragging it overboard to slow the boat in stormy weather, or using it to bail the cockpit if you've been pooped by an unruly wave. I hold that same ‘double or triple duty' standard when considering the use of a microwave on board. My post about making bread in a pressure cooker touched on using the pressure cooker in a microwave; here are some further thoughts. Why consider using a microwave when gimballed burners have long been the norm on board cruising vessels?

The answer is somewhat convoluted, and goes something like this:

  • Picture of Chef Pepin, from wikimediaA microwave lets me cook quickly in the storage container (read: Zip Lock bag or Tupperware container), without having to mess up a lot of pots & pans or dishes. The associated reduction in water consumption for cleaning dishes is also noteworthy.
  • The microwave will heat just the food, and not the container it's in or the surrounding area. The boat isn't air conditioned, so this could be a good thing in tropical areas. There may be times I'd like more heat, but I'd like to control how much additional heat is added below decks. Similarly, any water vapor from cooking is limited by both the container and the microwave – also a good thing below decks. Using conventional gimballed burners to cook (or having any open flame below) adds moisture to the air, and can make life below unpleasant.
  • There is no risk of a fire or explosion otherwise associated with propane, butane, or alcohol stoves, nor is there any danger of putting something down on a hot burner. Power will come from two solar panels (240 watts each), run through MPPT controllers, and stored in lithium batteries (LiFePO4) – the subject of another post. Renewable, clean… you've all heard the marketing drill. What you may not have heard is that installing the system may qualify for an energy tax credit (yet another post).
  • The microwave can control the food being cooked while the boat rolls or pitches, without having to resort to gimbals and pot holders. If pushed, I can stuff old socks and tee shirts into the microwave to hold food being cooked in place while underway. Appetizing, eh?
  • I can use small zip-lock type plastic bags designed for steam sterilization of baby bottles to cook different foods simultaneously in the microwave or in the pressure cooker. At only 2.5 quarts, the pressure cooker is too small to stack internal dividers and cook different parts of an entire meal all at once. I can easily stack the sterilization bags in the microwave or pressure cooker though.
  • I can easily cook small, pre-packaged meals I've prepared and stored, and the nature of the beast makes using a microwave while underway quick and easy – very much a plus if the boat is dancing while I'm trying to put together a hot meal.
  • I can do a limited amount of searing of meats or reheating pizza (and keeping it crisp) in a microwave using a browning dish (you've got it, ‘nother post), but to truly grill something, I'll have to press the propane powered grill on the pushpit rail into service. Yeah, it's powered by propane <groan>, but at least the propane won't be stored or used in the cabin.
  • It's never really comfortable being on a sailboat in a thunderstorm with lightning providing a light show – but you can use the microwave as a Faraday cage to help protect some of your electronics.
Inverter Microwave
Click for information about inverter microwaves

The bottom line: I guess the microwave has a secure place on board (I'm eyeing the small Panasonic inverter microwave pictured to the left), but the question remains – where will it fit?

It's time to become re-acquainted with the use of CAD, and to realistically plan how all the pieces of the puzzle will come together by making an accurately scaled drawing of the interior of the boat, and seeing how all the pieces can best come together.

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