Can Opener

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2010 • all rights reserved

What's the best can opener on a boat? Here's my preference!On a boat, a can opener is one of those things that just needs to work.  Most cruisers use more canned goods, particularly when away from towns, due to limited refrigerator space.  And if you’re hungry, your food is in a can, your can opener’s broken and town is a day or two away . . . well, it won’t be a pretty picture.

What's the best can opener on a boat? Here's my preference!Swing-A-Way Can Opener

  • After trying several other can openers in our first few months of cruising — with disastrous results — my preferred can opener is that old classic, the original Swing-A-Way shown here.

Don’t get a look-alike or the “Junior Swing-A-Way” (smaller size).  They just don’t work as well, as you really don’t save much money, as the original Swing-A-Way is generally less than $10.  It comes in a variety of colors, too.

The salt air environment can be hard on can openers, and I’ve seen a number of cruisers recommending expensive all-stainless models that cut the lip and all off the can.  I don’t doubt that those openers do a good job — but I really don’t think they’re any better for the extra money.  I know, usually I think that all-stainless products are the way to go.  But the Swing-A-Way has worked well for me.

What's the best can opener on a boat? Here's my preference!After 5 years aboard Que Tal, and now two years off the boat, here’s a photo of the cutting blade of my Swing-A-Way.  There’s some rust on the steel, but it doesn’t cause any problem in using it.  I literally just used it to open a can of tuna for lunch, and it worked just as easily as the day I bought it.  The handles are comfortable and easy to squeeze together, and the turning knob is easy to grip and turns easily.  It cuts all around without missed spots.  (UPDATE:  After 9 years with it, I finally had to replace this can opener due to someone using it as a hammer (!) — and I got another Swing-A-Way as shown in the top photo.)

A couple of years ago, we took a two-month camping trip through National Parks and I bought a look-alike can opener to go in our camping gear — it was what the store had and I’d sort of forgotten my experience when we’d first moved aboard Que Tal.  The first time I used it, I realized I’d made a mistake.

When we next went to a supermarket, I saw the Junior Swing-A-Way and figured that it would be just like the one at home, but smaller.  I soon learned that being smaller meant that it didn’t have as much leverage to close the handles and initially pierce the can, and the cutting blade was smaller and didn’t work as smoothly.  You guessed it — I finally bought the original Swing-A-Way and became, literally, a “happy camper”!

You can get these at most grocery stores, and on Amazon too:

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  1. I grew up with a cabinet-mounted classic Swing-a-Way in my mother’s kitchen. I think she still has it.

    My sister gave me a Leifheit can opener back in the mid-80s some time. It has survived six years aboard and looks better than the picture above. Two years ago I bought a Kuhn-Rikon opener that doesn’t leave a sharp edge. I have found the KR to not only be a bit safer but to be easier to use than it’s predecessor. I haven’t been able to divest myself of my sister’s gift but the KR is now my opener of choice.

  2. Cherielynne on Facebook says:

    Works every time!

  3. Gloria Rooney says:

    I have successfully used the exact same model on our boat over the last several years. At home I also have a manual can opener, but it is a Tupperware Product that requires a bit of a knack to properly engage it. Its great when I can figure it out, but the boat one can’t be beat for simplicity and leverage. It is beginning to show a bit of rust, so I may have to buy another sometime soon.

  4. You kidding, that’s a good one for the home too!

  5. Yep, I’ve had one for years . . . back to when I was a kid!

  6. Ann Snider on Facebook says:

    You can never beat the Swing-A-Way!! That’s what I have at home too. Forget an electric – it’s a waste of space. I just buy a new manual every 10 years or so (that means we’re on our third since we’re married 27 years – LOL).

  7. Best can opener ever made, bar none!

  8. LaMarr Harding says:

    I have several quality can openers, I just keep losing them. Never had that problem with the cabinet mouned one over the sink.

  9. Ha, I remember the ‘real’ Swing-A-Way at my Mama’s house, mounted on the cabinet. It was there as long as I can remember, I bet it was at least 40 years old. She moved out to a nursing home and left it there, probably is still working…

    we’re using husband’s inherited “safety can” brand can opener on the boat. mainly because it does the dull edge thing. I guess it’s a few years old, too, he got it when he moved out of his parents’ house

  10. Another great article; I need to find one up here in frozen Canada. While a rusty can opener may function as well as when new, the rust provides a safe haven for the growth of some nasty little bugs that can cause mild to severe food poisoning. Ever had the 24 hour flu? Most likely mild food poisoning. Go ahead, fork out $10 for a new Swing-A-Way and make sure that can of tuna stays down.

  11. Pampered chef naked the best opener…it leaves no sharp edges on either the lid or the can

  12. This is timely as I am loiking for a new can opener. Wilk look for one of these, thanks

  13. I also got a good ten years from my Swing-A-Way. When it retired, I ended up buying a Junior because it was all I could find at the time. After three or four years, it is already troublesome. I would happily buy a new full size one if I could find one!

  14. I was in St. Thomas, USVI at the time. Now I’m in Grenada 🙂

  15. Problem these days with swing away is they are now made in China and substandard to the USA made ones- If u find the ones made in USA grab them they are worth gold just about – I happened upon 4 in the past year and am guarding 🙂

  16. I love my Swing Away. I have one on the boat and one at home. I’d buy another any day.

  17. Brim Stone says:

    Military P-51. Smaller than a stick of gum, all stainless, cost a buck a piece.

  18. Thank you for this! I am in desperate need of a new can opener and this one fits the bill perfectly! We can always count on the Boat Galley to have the inside info on what works and what doesn’t.
    Dani SV Sundowner

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