Bum Oven

March 2017

The igniter in the oven had long since stopped working, so I have had to use a long tipped butane lighter to get the oven lit for the past couple of weeks. One day everything worked fine, the next the flame went out as soon as I stopped depressing the thermostat knob. Uh Oh. Trying to be an optimist, I tried it again the next day with the same result.

I purchased my Seaward Princess three burner stove and oven in the fall of 2014 to replace the old forced alcohol stove that came with Rubigale.  Shortly after, I realized that the oven wouldn’t stay lit for long after I started it. I discovered through trial and error (mostly staring at the burner with a flashlight after I lit it and sniffing for propane) that leaving it open for 15 or 20 seconds after lighting it seemed to solve that problem.

I called the dealer Sure Marine about it, and found that this was apparently now a known problem with the Princess (these are very popular stoves for RVs and boats), but to fix it, I’d have to bring the stove in. Given the hefty bill I had paid to get it installed and the tight fit, I decided that holding the door open for 15 seconds wasn’t a terrible hardship and I’d deal with it.

A few months later I found that two of the three burners on the stove wouldn’t light right away using the ignitor, so again I switched to using the butane lighter. I had been on many boats where the ignition didn’t work, so I thought this a normal stove failure after awhile like many grills. One day while tinkering with the stove I discovered that if you take the ignition switch knob off, there’s a AA battery in there! I replaced that, and that pop pop pop sound and spark was on amphetamines compared with what I had become used to.

The two burners still didn’t light right away, and through experimentation I learned that if  I didn’t have a pot on those burners, they would light with the switch. If I waited long enough with a pot on there, it usually involved a big WHOMPH sound and a little scream from me. Maybe the smell of singed hair once. A friend with the same stove said his lights better with a pot on it – so you might need to experiment if this is happening with yours.

The next problem was that the oven no longer lit with the ignition switch. Since I was used to being disappointed with the automatic ignitors, and had the butane lighter right there, I just started using that. I did consult the dealer and it was suggested that I clean out the jet which sounded like a long and involved process so I continued to use the lighter for several months.

Last weekend I was craving biscuits.  The oven worked the day before, but on this day each time I stopped holding the thermostat knob down, the burner went off.  Trying to be optimistic, I decided to just let the oven think about it, and I would try again the following day. Not surprisingly, there was no difference the second day. I called Sure Marine and later received a very detailed email from them with photos of the internal organs of my stove/oven. I understood very little of what I read…I am a veterinarian, not an electrician. So, I did the only thing I could think of and procrastinated.

Eventually the craving for baked goods won out and I disassembled the top of the stove and stared at a lot of copper wires and matched up some of the photos the dealer had sent. I got out the voltmeter. I had no idea what to do. The instructions were not meant for the novice. I wasn’t sure what to attach the voltmeter to, or exactly which thing corresponded to the description in the instructions.

Stove Top Off

I started with the electromagnet which seemed to be the easiest fix. I had no idea how this system worked, and I had the solenoid on thinking I would need to test voltage with it on. As I started to loosen the nut holding in the magnet, I heard the hiss of gas and smelled propane. Solenoid OFF!!!!

Electromagnets for the oven, right, and burner, left

Not a stellar start, but had two hours before the dealer closed and so I put on my grown up pants and continued. I still didn’t actually know what I was supposed to test with the voltmeter, so I moved on. I extracted the electromagnet and took it to the dealer and asked them to test it. SHAZAM!! It was bad.

Graham at Sure Marine was kind enough to show me what was happening. A couple in the store came up close behind me and asked if they could watch. It was a riveting demonstration. Graham hooked a wire with a thermocoupler at one end and the connector on the other to the top of the magnet (the red end of the wire below). Using a butane torch, he heated the thermocoupler while pushing in the spring on the bottom of the magnet. On mine, the spring unsprung. On the new one, it stayed compressed.

The Offender – Bad Electromagnet

I am a visual learner, and I now understood much more of what was happening. Of course if the flame comes out, you don’t want propane flowing. If the sensor isn’t kept hot (and he demonstrated this by removing the flames for just 2 or 3 seconds), the spring unsprings. The heat sends electricity to the magnet. So if I had flame (I did) and it was heating the sensor (it was), and the thermocoupler worked (didn’t know), and it still unsprung, the electromagnet was bad. His test took my thermocoupler out of the equation which was wonderful news because the access to this would require un-mounting the stove and disassembling a side panel.

Thermocoupler in the Oven

I was ecstatic! I did ask about the voltmeter test, and I would have needed to be an octopus to do this by myself for the oven. I happily paid $18 for my electromagnet and rushed home to put everything back together. I did a few test runs and the oven worked fine. The insides received a good scrub and everything was reassembled.

This was a great visual lesson for me and thanks to Sure Marine for their assistance!

The Magic of Coca-Cola – It Does WHAT?

Apparently Coke really is magical – and not just in a “I want to teach the world to sing” kind of way.

My New Cleaner

My New Cleaner

For the second time, I discovered what happens when I accidentally flip the heater switch instead of the stove switch. What happens is that the diesel pump sends diesel to the heater, but since it’s not lit, it just drips out. The area around the heater is tiled, but it can only hold so much before leaking around the wood trim and onto my settee cushion, and in this case down below into a drawer that contained my camera backpack. Fortunately the camera hadn’t been put away – for once I’m thankful for my procrastination.

The foam was toast – there was just no way it was ever going to smell like anything but diesel. But the cover was something I thought was salvageable. So I tried the following in a bucket:
-Bilge Cleaner (meant for breaking up oils and fuel right?) It smells like pine-sol, but I thought it would be a good start. Nope.
-Oxyclean and dish soap (Mrs. Meyers). Nope
-Vinegar and Baking soda – this combo can fix anything! Nope.

The cover smelled better, and the diesel sheen was gone from the bucket water, but it was not good enough to bring inside. So I went on a search for something else. I checked google, and I put a query on a sailing forum. There are some pretty kooky answers out there, but one of them was something that never crossed my mind. Coca-Cola. Some of the recipes recommended Dawn dishwashing detergent as well. According to this website, Coca-Cola is a miracle cleaner!  Just check out some of the things it’s supposed to help:

~diesel spills
~oil stains on the driveway
~cleans grout
~takes rust off
~skunk smell (the spray is oil based)
~blood stains
~unclogs drains

At this point, I had nothing to lose, so I bought 2 liters of Coke and poured it in a bucket and added some water and some Dawn. I didn’t have a plunger, so I agitated it with a bilge pump handle and let it sit for a few hours. I was most concerned about staining the fabric, and was happy that when I poured it out that everything wasn’t brown. I did a few more rinses to get the soap out and lessen the chances that things would be sticky and left the cover in the cockpit to dry. The next day I was shocked – the diesel smell was gone! At the same time, I had soaked my camera bag in Dawn alone (I had forgotten about it when I bought the Coke and didn’t buy enough). The bag still smells like diesel.

My Washing Machine

My Washing Machine

I tried to figure out what it might be about the Coke that worked when the other things didn’t. The things I am pretty sure did not get the smell out are carbonated water, caramel color, caffeine and high fructose corn syrup. That leaves phosphoric acid. So I did a little research on that and found that it was a dispersing agent which helps to separate particles, and in particular is used with oil spills, so theoretically any soda that contains phosphoric acid should work. It’s also used in different forms as a rust inhibitor. That’s about as far into chemistry as I ever want to go, but it looks like another trip to the store is in order to buy more Coke. I may even try soaking a few old tools that were left on the boat when I bought it that are rusted past the point of being usable.

Ain’t science weird?

Ideas for Quick and Easy Meals in a Small Galley and Reheating Without a Microwave

When moving onto a boat there are a variety of things one must get used to. Limited space is an obvious change, and this also applies to the amount of storage in your refrigerator and freezer. For many, including myself, there is no room in the galley for a microwave and no way to use one without shore power, so reheating left overs becomes a new challenge. Limited counter space makes simplifying meals and using less dishes attractive. I can’t claim to be a foodie or a culinary genius, but I have found a few ways to adapt.

I have a small Nova Kool fridge for boats or RVs. It mounts into the wall and has 3.5 cubic feet of storage. There’s a tiny freezer like you would expect in a dorm fridge, but as you can see, there isn’t alot of space. Frozen vegetables are out because one package takes up almost the entire freezer space. I rarely need ice cubes, but if I do, I use a small flexible tray and just refill it each time. Mostly this space is used for meat and the rest of the refrigerator is used for deli meats, eggs, sodas, cheese and other dairy products and occasionally salad vegetables (although these usually keep pretty well behind the settee against the hull here in the Pacific Northwest).


Half Carton

Homemade Half Cartons

Although I know this isn’t a new discovery, I did happen on it by accident. I noticed that in the grocery store that were were some half cartons of eggs which looked like they would fit nicely in the fridge, and I go through eggs pretty quickly. I also noticed that the pre-made half cartons cost almost as much as a full carton of eggs, so I decided to make my own. I cut the carton in half (be sure to remove the middle eggs first!) and they stack nicely in the space beside the freezer. Since I’m not using an icebox or stacking things on top, this system works well. I save my half cartons to fill the next time without having to repeat the process every time. A stack of three (18 eggs) works well in the space that I have. If you are using an icebox or a top loading refrigerator where things could fall onto the cartons, I’d recommend the hard plastic type egg holders. Honestly I could keep the eggs in the area against the hull in a rigid  container if pressed for space. If going on a quick overnight with multiple people, we’ve also pre scrambled eggs in a ziplock which can fit pretty much anywhere in the fridge (thanks Cassie!)


Meat in the Freezer

Meat in the Freezer

A good Southern breakfast usually includes bacon and/or sausage – but honestly, who wants to deal with the splatter and the grease and the clean-up? I am a lazy cook and a lazier dishwasher (I like to blame on this on my tiny sinks, but it could be the lack of a dishwasher). I buy the pre-cooked “microwave ready” bacon. Yes, per package these cost more than a package of raw bacon, but I suspect by the time the fat and grease are cooked out of the raw bacon, on a weight-by-weight basis the difference is much smaller. Count the resources used to clean those greasy pans and for me, it’s worth it. Now if you want thick sliced bacon, you may want to try lining a baking pan with foil and baking bacon at your oven’s top temperature (around 400F0) on an oven rack.  You can throw out the foil with the grease when it cools and solidifies, and just wash the rack (not as bad as pans and splatter). My favorite pre-cooked bacon is made by Hormel because they come in a ziplock bag which I re-use for other items. The other brands are fine, I just like the re-use potential. I take the bags out of the boxes, crush the boxes and recycle them, so I can almost halve the space. I also buy the Jimmy Dean pre-cooked sausage which comes in two vacuum packed 4 piece units per box or a bag of 20 which are a bit thinner.  Again, I ditch the boxes to the recycle bin and whittle down the space.  If I’m not going to use all 4 sausages, I put the remainder in the zip locks I have left from the bacon, and the thickness of the zip locks holds up well to the freezer.

Save Almost Half the Space

Save Almost Half the Space

As long as we are talking about meat and saving space, Hormel also makes some fully cooked meat entrees like Beef Roast with Au Jus as well as Pork, Chicken and Turkey products (look for the $1.00 coupon inside the cardboard cover).  The packaging is a little bulky and I think they could do better with this, especially the plastic tray.  My solution for space is to discard the packaging (recycle of course) and move the meat to ziplock (from the bacon if I have it because the zip locks are thicker) and put these in the freezer as well.  They cook well on the stovetop as well as a short period of time in a slow cooker with some roasted garlic cloves or other precooked veggies and some broth if you want a quick stew – the meat really just needs to be reheated.  I’ve used this in beef stroganoff, as a beef side with vegetables, or on a roast beef sandwich.  Most recently I added a little to vegetable beef soup (there’s hardly any beef in there!) and it really made a difference. I’m a big fan of this product.  The trays are sturdy and do stack, so they could be used for other things – I’ve put left over rice or pasta in them and covered with aluminum foil or used them to marinate other meat.


I don’t do the potato-based meals often because of the space they take up, but if you were making yours from fresh potatoes which are easy to store, you could have them all the time. When I do use them, I like to buy O’Brien-style potatoes, which already have onions and peppers in them and are partially cooked.

I throw these in a baking pan with some meat (usually sausage or ham, but it could be anything) and diced, roasted garlic cloves after coating the pan with a smear of butter or a non-stick spray. Near the end of the cooking time, I add some shredded cheese and cover with tinfoil until it’s melted. It’s a twist on the old tinfoil camping recipe; I’ve used the tinfoil packets on a boat grill as well before I had my propane stove and it worked very well – just open the packet at the end and sprinkle the cheese and close it up for a minute and you have a very yummy breakfast. O’Brien potatoes also work well in a variety of casserole type dishes or as a last minute addition to a stew since they don’t need to cook long.


Breakfast Poppers

Breakfast Poppers

I have been a fan of canned biscuits since childhood, but I never need all the biscuits in the can and they don’t hold up well after opening.  If you can quickly transfer the unused biscuits (still in the can for their shape) into a ziplock and suck out all the air you can, they still work the following day.  They won’t rise as high or be as flakey, but they are definitely usable. You can also convert these left overs into a desert like Monkey Bread, appetizer cups like  Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried TomatoCheesy Florentine, or Mini Beef Pot Pies to be heated up later on. Recently I made breakfast poppers by splitting the biscuits into two pieces and stretching them out, filling them with sausage, bacon and hot pepper shredded cheese, closing them up and baking them in a muffin pan until the biscuits were done. These were shared with a few friends on a raft-up and they went over great.  You really don’t need the muffin pan, but it gave them a cute shape.



Reheating in a Steamer Pan

How to heat/reheat things without a microwave took a while for me to figure out. For creamy rice and pasta dishes, I put these either in a small foil bread pan that’s covered with foil (see photo) or just in a tin foil packet, and place this in a steamer basket with the lid on the pot. The creamy, steamy goodness remains with no crusty, dried out pieces, and again – no cleanup.

This one may sound a little kooky, but I heat a can of soup in the can in a pot of boiling water.  Just remove the lid (and the label!), place it in water that comes about halfway up the can, and put a top on the pot if you are able too.   The soup gets cooked right in the can and just needs a little stirring here and there to heat throughout.  I’ve used this with potato, cream of broccoli, vegetable beef and tomato soups. Once the soup is heated, pour it into your bowl, rinse out the can, toss in recycling – no soupy pot to wash.  Save the water in the pot for the next use or use the hot water to rinse dishes.

Again, I’m clearly a pretty simple cook, making small meals on a budget, and I don’t want a lot of cleanup. My next galley goal is learning to use my crockpot more so dinner will be ready when I sign off work and there will be less temptation to head out to a restaurant.  If you have other space saving, simple, or cheap meal ideas that don’t require a lot of kitchen gadgets, I’d love to hear them.  Email me at tiny@tinysails.com and I can share your recipes or ideas.

As seen in Three Sheets NW and Pacific Northwest Boater