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Some Good Sailboat Gear
Don Grilling Lobster
~ Don Grilling Lobster ~
Good Sailboat Gear
Some Good Gear
Magma Marine Grill
I was excited to find a Magma kettle barbecue tucked deep in a locker on our boat. I cleaned it up and hung it off the back rail – used it once or twice before we knocked it off into the water during a difficult docking situation. Don was going to leave it on the ocean floor until I pointed the cost out to him. So he salvaged it from the murky depths, I cleaned it up again, bought a new bracket and found a less intrusive place to hang it.

But contrary to masculine biology, Don was not feeling the love for the grill. Each time I suggested he fire it up – the mumbling would start about how it was impossible to light in any kind of wind, the lid was always dangling and banging around, the gas in the bottle never lasted very long, the only setting that worked on the valve was high and off, and the thing wobbled and turned like every bolt on it was loose. "We should have just left it at the bottom of the bay!"

Shortly after a paroxysm such as this we attended the Miami Boat Show. After a long day of wandering around this enormous expo, we were dragging our tired tails down the vendor aisles – right past the Magma booth. Don had no intention of stopping there – he already had a grill he despised, but something drew me to the shiny new barbeques.

"Look – these grills have a hinge on their lid!" was all it took to bring the sales rep over. We lamented to him about our grilling woes, to which he stated "You have the grill designed for sailing." He found our model, and wedged the large washer opposite the lid handle onto the side of the grill. "AAAAHHHH!!!" we both exclaimed as he explained how, if we set the back of the lid facing the breeze, we are able to protect the flame. Turning the valve to be in line with the air flow also made it possible to control the air feeding the flame. All that wobbling was designed so we could rotate the kettle with regard to our tack and the direction of the wind.

We also learned that leaving the disposable propane bottle hanging from the valve, as we saw everyone else do, would surely release the gas into the air when not in use. Leaving the valve on the grill would also degrade it very quickly. It was made to be easily removed, and he suggested bagging it with some silicone packets to keep it dry. The rep was even kind enough to give us a brand new valve – a pricy replacement part we were very surprised to be offered.

We didn't have a book for the grill, and I was unable to find any of this information on Magma's website. Once the rep showed us all these hidden built in features, we discovered that the grill was in fact very well engineered. Don has now sufficiently bonded with our Magma, and is happy to grab the lighter and the tongs any chance he gets.

Don's Tuna Catch
~ Don's Tuna Catch ~
Update
As you may surmise by the multiple years listed above, we've gone through a lot of these grills. And we've gone through a lot of parts as well, essentially replacing all the guts at a cost that makes one question the validity of the investment and endeavor – because swapping the old with the new is a grimy job indeed.

Though we've keep the grill protected in a Sunbrella bag – the entire kettle and all it's various parts rust and disintegrate at an unbelievable rate. This causes the innards to seize up so that part replacement is oft times impossible.

We now are experienced enough sailors to know that the idea of grilling while underway is ridiculous. And at anchor, the boat will naturally be pointing into the wind most often. So the various 'wobbly' features pointed out by the salesman as being By Design do us no good. The lack of any tangible information from Magma makes me question the integrity of these 'feature' claims anyway.

We disposed of the cheap regulator as well as the waste of the disposable gas cans, and rigged the grill to connect directly to the larger propane system, which was a very nice upgrade. This regulator also gets stored out of the elements, and I don't believe we've had to replace it once (knock on wood!)

But the materials used by Magma are of the lowest quality, and I've witnessed them continue to degrade over the years. While I was working at West Marine in Marathon, my employee's discount allowed us to replace the entire unit for a fraction of its retail value. Rather than have Don fight with removing the burner, and deal with the greasy fire pan, diffuser plate, and rack, we were driven to consign the whole unit as waste. Fortunately the elements would turn it to dust soon enough. But when I left my job to go cruising, plunking down $200 on a grill that we knew would barely last 2 years was a hard nugget to swallow. I'd also like to note here that, while employed at this chandlery, a Magma grill, or its Kuuma knock-off would be returned, on average, 3 times a week.

Tails Off the Barbie
~ Tails Off the Barbie ~

It was a real eye-opener when a dock-mate saw me giving our current kettle a good scrubbing, and offered up some spare parts he had stowed away. While cruising many years back, he'd replace his Magma with a European model of grill, and after 20 years was still very pleased with it. But like every thrifty sailor, he'd kept the spare parts to his old grill onboard. The weighty, warm silver alloy of the now, 2 decades old diffuser, burner, and plate he donated to me was noticeably superior. The shift in materials was undeniable as I compared these to their inferior counterparts that I'd recently stocked in our stores.

In summary, I'll continue to promote having a barbeque onboard. There's something primal about cooking outside over an open flame, and when your backyard is an open ocean, who wouldn't want to be the Grill Master?! In the very least, it's a wonderful way to cook when the cabin is already uncomfortably warm.

But I can't be as forgiving about Magma's business decision to use rapid-rusting materials in their expensive grills, as I was regarding our umbrellas corrosion issues. Unlike Pro-Techt's Mantis,® these grills are specifically advertised, and premium-priced for the marine environment. Unfortunately for us, Magma doesn't appear to have ANY competition in the U.S. so our mitts are tied, and their ability to continue offering over-valued, substandard cookware continues to burn us boaters.

For now, both of us grumble as we witness rust holes growing through the kettle, and grease flares flying from the one clear quadrant left in the seized-on burner. The decomposed diffuser means requests for a nice sear on a rare steak will get you a scoffing sneer with a well-done eye-roll.

Additional Update
Allured after seeing one used on a friends boat, we foolishly purchased the Magma grill light (model A10-141), advertised to clip "directly to the grill's lid handle for perfect illumination of the entire grilling surface." I'd have forgone the exorbitant $30 price tag had it not been obtained with the aforementioned employee discount. Two or three uses required a battery change, and in removing the 9V – the entire wire harness broke off from the flashlight.
Once again we'd been duped by more Magma crap!
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