Together with pot restraints, stove gimbals are an important safety feature of any marine stove. The first time I used the gimbal — on our first charter — I felt like a true “cruiser.” In the years since then, it’s become common place to use a swinging stove.
The gimbal is the second half of keeping your pans on the stove or level in the oven. Basically, it’s a pivot point running fore and aft that lets your stove/oven stay level, even when the boat is heeled or rolling.
Generally, gimbaled stoves have a latch that keeps the stove from swinging when it’s not in use or not needed. These are usually some form of barrel latch that you slide to release. Once released, the stove will swing with the motion of the boat. While I use my pot restraints all the time, I don’t always release the gimbal latch — if conditions are calm, particularly in anchorages, it’s easier to have a stove that stays in one place.
In using a gimbaled stove, there are two important points:
- Most gimbal systems will let the stove swing 20 to 30 degrees, at which point it will crash against the back wall. If it hits with any force, pans are likely to fly off the stove onto the floor or onto the cook. While pot restraints keep pans from sliding, a sudden crash can bounce the pot right out of the restraints. It’s also not good for the stove to crash into the hull.
- The gimbal is simply a balance point — if the weight on both sides isn’t equal, the stove will tilt towards the heavier side and won’t keep the cooking surface flat.
Thus, if conditions are rough, you need to check the swing of the stove before using it. Release the latch and watch the stove swing for several minutes, preferably through the worst movement the boat is experiencing. If the stove crashes into the wall , forget about cooking and find something cold to eat.
Second, you’ll have to equalize the weight on both sides of the pivot point. For example, if you want to cook something on a front burner, fill the teakettle or a saucepan with water and set it on an unlit back burner (using its pot restraints). Adjust the amount of water until the stove is approximately level. This will also help keep the back of the stove from hitting the hull since the bottom of the stove won’t be jutting out to the back.
When you are finished cooking, latch the stove again so that if conditions worsen the stove won’t hit the hull.
One more tip for cooking in rough weather: a pressure cooker makes a good pan to use since you can latch the lid, even if you don’t use the weights and pressure cook. Food is far less likely to slosh out with the lid latched and — heaven forbid — if the pan does fly off the stove, there’s less chance that the (hot) contents will be flung everywhere.
Kate Bird on Facebook says
We were hove to during a storm and I left a pan of spaghetti sauce on the stove top while we held on waiting for things to calm down. Those gimbles kept the pan from coming off the stove and spilling during that gale – it was amazing, I was sure I’d have to clean up a big mess.
Alex Kimball on Facebook says
Use them every day? Got to when we sail do much.
Patty Alderson on Facebook says
When offshore, all the time. In an anchorage, really depends on the conditions or traffic…
Claudia Davis Reshetiloff on Facebook says
ha! I just took a picture on our last passage of the stove at a 45′ angle to the rest of the galley and food cooking on it….I think some people back home will be surprised…
The Boat Galley on Facebook says
Claudia – That’s a great boat if it can swing that far — someone was really thinking when they planned the galley! Mine could MAYBE go 30 degrees . . .
Anne Dunlop on Facebook says
Everytime we go sailing – otherwise the contents of the oven fall out and all my pans go flying!!
Gretchen Hannsz Witzgall on Facebook says
Last season when we went to the Bahamas whenever we were under way the stove was gimballed. I baked a homemade pizza underway in the middle of the Gulfstream 200 miles offshore on our way back from Abaco direct to Beaufort, N.C. – It was a bit of a struggle but I was determined – I love our Force10 – not sure what her full degree of gimball is at full capacity of gimball but she gets the job done.
Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious) says
Carolyn makes many good points.
Her point on weight balance is well taken. Two burner cookers are obviously much easier to keep balanced than three or four. The weighted kettle idea is a good one.
The other consideration not mentioned is the oven door type. Some ovens have a door that slides down and under the cooker which is great from a balance perspective. Others, like my Eno, just open and tip the oven forward. Accordingly when using the oven at sea I latch the gimbal before opening the door to avoid a lap or floor full of lasagna or pizza.
Carolyn Shearlock says
Good point on the oven door, Dave! Thanks
Don’t forget to have a good way to secure the stove in case of a knockdown, throwing it on the galley deck and rupturing the gas line. Not all stoves have something to prevent the stove from sliding out of its V-bracket mountings. Jt
My stove gimballed sideways –but not fore and aft. Many times I had to quickly save a pot at a huge bow or stern wave… Have potholders ready, have pots twice as deep as you need, don’t use glass (esp. pie pans) and don’t fill pots more than halfway.
Tim Berry says
Eric Hendricks says
always on gimbals if away from the dock.
Skylar Walker says
more great advice
Claire Camden says
How do I remouve a gimbal stove off of my boat? It’s a C&C 30.
Carolyn Shearlock says
Most have a latch on the horizontal pivot that you can release. The good news: if you no longer have the owner’s manual for your stove to find out how to release it, you can almost always find it online by Googling on the make and model of stove. If you don’t find it that way and the stove was original to your boat, ask in the C&C Owner’s Group — someone else is sure to have done it. Just be sure to state what stove or at least the year of your boat as not all boats are identical.
Jim Yancy says
About to go on first off shore three day run. 1979 Catalina 27 had old alcohol 2 burner which is now gone. we have used a little butane 2 burner dockside.
question : we want just boil water for quick drinks or add to meals.
Is there a gimbal mount water pot / burner thingy out there?
Carolyn Shearlock says
I know there is, because I’ve seen it on production boats at shows. I don’t know who makes them, though. I’m at the Annapolis show right now, and I’ll try to find info.
If it is just a little alcohol stove, you could make a ‘basket’ and let the whole thing swing from the roof. Lots of movement that way so you could also make a bracket that comes off the wall somewhere lower down where the movement is less and let it swing from there.
Be sure to put some bungees on it to dampen the swing.
Tim Palmer says
The Forespar Mini Galley is what you describe