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.