Something Shiny and New

Several somethings, really. For several years we’ve had a couple of items that have been vexing us. We’ve finally addressed them.

Dinghy Engine

Our main dinghy engine is a work horse. A two stroke Yahama 15 HP, it’s the de facto engine for cruising boats outside the U.S. It’s reliable, low maintenance, tough, not heavy for it’s power, and it has served us well for years.

When you live on a boat, your dinghy is your car. Unless you are tied to the dock, it is your lifeline to food, services, supplies, parts, entertainment, and just stopping that “I haven’t been off the boat for three days and I need to go NOW” sensation.

Not having a dinghy is like not having a car when you live in the country and there’s no public transportation. You will literally be stuck on the boat (in your house). Unlike a car, you just can’t get a loaner when you go to the shop. Nobody will rent you one of these.

If your engine fails, you can row your dinghy. In theory at least. Rowing an inflatable RIB is an exercise in futility in anything but calm water. With a current, you’ll be doing well just to be rowing in place. The big, fluffy, squishy hull form just doesn’t lend itself to tracking well in the water while rowing with relatively flimsy, undersized oars in oarlocks that are flexible and don’t hold well. It’s not something you want to experience, or rely on much beyond getting you back to the boat if the engine stalls less than a couple of hundred yards away.

Which brings us to the Shiny New Thing.

We’ve cruised with two dinghies, the main RIB (an AB Lammina 3.1) and a Portland Pudgy for the kids. The Pudgy has a sailing rig, and it rows pretty well. But that’s not something you want to try and do into the 2-4 knot currents you get in place like Brisbane, or that we saw in Opua, NZ and other places.

For years we’ve discussed getting an engine for the Pudgy, as a backup, in case the main dinghy was stolen, damaged, or the engine failed. And we finally dif.

The requirements for the new engine were a few. As small and light as possible – the Pudgy is only rated for a 2HP engine. It needed a long shaft, to fit the Pudgy’s high transom. We wanted a two stroke so we could easily store it without draining the oil reservoir before putting it on it’s side. And of course…cheaper is always better.

A number of options were explored, from Chinese knockoffs of Yamaha standards setters, air cooled Honda four strokes (expensive, loud, and four stroke), things that looked like weed whackers with propellers on them (loud, dirty, but very, very cheap) and other possibilities. The major problem is the Long Shaft. Most outbaords have a 15″ shaft, and this works for most boats. The Pudgy…not so much, since it has a higher transom. This severely limited the engine choices, since almost no outboard manufacturers offer their smallest engines in a 20″ Long Shaft option. The smallest Yamaha with a 20″ shaft is a 5HP which is too big, too powerful, and too expensive. The annoying thing is that a Long Shaft engine is the same engine, except it has a a five inch spacer stuck between above the lower unit, and a 5″ longer shaft inside it.

We ended up with a Tohatsu 3.5HP long shaft to stroke. It is an identical engine to their 2HP model, with different carburetor jets and exhaust. But the 2HP is not available in a Long Shaft; even though they could offer it in a 20″ (same engine, same parts as the 3.5HP), they don’t choose to. The Pudgy scoots along well with it, and it will happily drive the big RIB at hull speed (not fast!) around half throttle.

Ours looks just like this. Except it’s got a five inch spacer above the propeller. You can’t even find a picture of the Long Shaft version!


For four and a half years we’ve carried a grill around on the back of the boat, a Magma Catalina. We used to bring it in and stow it for passages to protect it. But it stopped working. The inside guts rusted out years ago and it stopped working. So we left it on the rail, and when we got an opportunity, got some parts for it.

One of these, installed just like there. We even had the optional tool tray. You can not cook that much food on this grill, BTW. Not even close.

Then I tried to fix it. The second I touched some of the internals that looked in place, they crumbled into rust dust. So now I had spare parts with no way to attach them, and no working grill.

I must confess, I never liked this grill. It didn’t heat evenly, temperature was tough to control, it did’t actually get very hot, and it was tough to clean. We have been through three grills since we’ve owned Evenstar. The best was a West Marine 180SS, now discontinued. The rail mounts on that gave way and it flipped over while I was cooking once, dropping several steaks, and more importantly, several key grill components, into Block Island’s Great Salt Pond. Since the grill was discontinued, I couldn’t replace the parts.

The next was a Dickinson Spitfire. People raved about Dickenson grills, so I tried one. Hated it. Tried it again. Hated it more. A grill must actually produce enough head to sear things. Gently warmed raw meat isn’t what I’m aiming for. That grill ended up in a marine consignment shop.

Enter the Magma Catalina. It worked OK for a while. Frustrating, but functional. Over time it deteriorated. It was also a single burner grill. Yeah, I know – it’s a boat grill. Before we moved on board I had an outrageous grilling rig with gas, charcoal, and a smoker, and did some pretty serious work for a Yankee. Even with indirect heat on the gas side of it. While nothing on a boat will compare to slow BBQ done over indirect heat with hickory wood chunks, at least with two burners you can turn one off and try some indirect heat cooking!

I dreamed of new grills. I looked at them in New Zealand, but prices were mad, and the one grill we liked the look of didn’t have any mounting hardware for boats. Why sell it in a marine store, then?

In Australia, there is a serious marine/RV grill maker, who makes the Galleymate marine grill. I found them online and was impressed by the web site and their claims. Not blowing out in up to forty (40!) knots of wind, easy to clean. High quality construction. And TWO BURNERS. But boy were they expensive. Then we saw one in a store.

What a contrast between the Magma, which is made with very thin steel, to this grill. It is SOLID as a rock, a heavy, strong design. Nothing flimsy and light, the steel has to be at least double that of the Magma.Well thought out, with nice features for cleaning and operation, and more cooking area. The mounting system also looks well engineered and stable, with a quick release for easy stowing.

We also checked the prices on the Magmas, which are imports here from the U.S. because the Galleymates seemed too expensive. And wouldn’t you know, they were almost double the cost of buying the grill stateside.

Suddenly, the Galleymate didn’t seem so expensive. Not when they were a couple of hundred bucks more for a grill that is several times the quality.

Note the split grate/solid cooking surface. Grilling on flat surfaces is an Aussie thing we’ve not figured yet.

So we labored over which one to get. Two models beckoned, the 1100 and it’s larger cousin, the 1500. The latter cost about $350AUD more, and had more cooking area. But of course it was larger, and harder to store. Eventually common sense and reason won out. 99.8% of the time we were grilling it would be for three of us; in to years it will be for two of us. So we went with smaller, less expensive, and easier to stow.

We’re still waiting for all the mounting hardware we need, but we can use it on the deck. Except I’m not allowed to play with it until we get to Sydney!

Oh yeah, this grill can take a rotisserie.

In the following video, the grill on the left (the big one…) is the one we ended up with. He talks specifically about our model about 7:00 into the video.

Did I mention we got a rotisserie with it?

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One Comment

  1. Abbi says:

    That’s a pretty impressive little grill, BJ. Of course since I’ve witnessed the Lamborghini of grills you owned in RI, I can see the lack of comparable amenities rolling through your mind! Can’t imagine who has banned you from playing with this until Sydney!! 😉

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