There we were, our first night out of the marina with our new-to-us boat. I’d planned a special dinner, including a rice salad. Little did I know that we’d picked one of the rolly-est anchorages we’d be in any time over the next six years. But I did quickly learn the value of pot restraints!
Actually, when I had initially explored what the previous owners had left in the galley, I’d come across these funny little metal arms with screws on one end. It had finally dawned on me that they fit on the stove to hold pans in place. On previous charters, I’d used the stove gimbal, but never pot restraints.
That first night at anchor on Que Tal, as I put the pan of rice on the burner and watched it slide across to the other burner, it hit me that I’d better dig those pot restraints out . . . quickly! From then on, I never took them off until the day we “prettied up” the boat in preparation for selling her.
In the photo, you can see the pot restraint holding the tea kettle in place. I haven’t yet put one around the pot with the clams — but I’m about to!
Virtually any stove designed for use in a boat comes (originally) with pot restraints, also known as pot holders, pan holders or pot/pan clamps. These are the first half of the equation for keeping your cooking on the stove and not on the floor or worse – spilling hot food on the cook (the other half — the stove gimbals — I talk about in a separate article).
Pot restraints are generally metal bars that screw into each side of the stove and “hug” a pan on a burner. You loosen the knob a little to swing the bars into the correct position, then tighten the knob back down so that the pot doesn’t slide with the motion of the boat. Other brands have different mechanisms, but these are the most common. These aren’t just for use underway – they’re also great in rolly anchorages or those with lots of passing traffic. And I’ve even needed them in marinas a few times when there was a good norther blowing and we were heeled right at the dock!
Unless you spend almost all your time at a very sheltered marina, I highly recommend leaving your pot restraints in place and using them all the time if you have a monohull – if you always use them, you won’t forget when conditions are marginal. And you never know when a fishing boat or JetSki is going to go roaring past you, even in a glassy calm anchorage.
Even though we now live on a catamaran, I still use my pot restraints periodically, both underway and in rolly anchorages.
I generally refrain from saying that you “need” a particular item, but these are an exception. They are truly a safety item. Without them, every pan on the stove is a potential major burn on the cook if it slides while hot. Boiling water or hot oil can be spilled right down the front of anyone in the galley.
Unfortunately, pot restraints can be hard to find and expensive ($40 or more) if the ones that originally came with the stove have been lost. However, the cost is slight compared to the pain and healing time — not to mention the doctor bills literally being more expensive — of spilling a pot of boiling pasta or chili down your legs.
The best place for finding them is boater swap meets, boating consignment shops and places that pull parts from wrecked and abandoned boats. Depending on the brand, you may also find new ones by Googling “[brand] pot holder” or “boat pot holder” – just “pot holder” or “pot restraint” gets too many of the wrong thing. You could also check with the manufacturer of your stove.
NOTE: The restraints that came with my stove were always fine for the cruising we did. However, I’ve heard reports of pans flying out of the typical types of restraints when a boat hard on the wind “fell off a wave” – not so much a rolling action, but a sudden drop and stop – or when the back of the stove, swinging on its gimbals, hit the side of the boat hard. If you expect to encounter such conditions (and think you’d be trying to cook in them), you may want to engineer more sturdy pot restraints specific to your boat.
Additionally, if conditions are rough, it pays to use deep pans that are filled less than half full so that food can’t slosh out. At such times, I use my pressure cooker without putting the pressure weights on, simply because I can lock the lid and have even more protection against spills and burns. Even if the pan falls to the floor, the hot food inside doesn’t spill — although you still have a hot pan rolling around that you need to corral!
If you’ve never been in a rolly anchorage or on a passage where it’s blowing over 10, you may never have seen a need for pot restraints. But just like having non-skid on all your plates and putting drinks in drink holders, pot restraints are a necessity when cruising.