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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

How to light your BBQ in 20Kts of wind.
The author disclaims any expertise in sailing, barbequing or fire safety. Specifically, he declines responibility for anyone who may actually try anything vaguely resembling the methods described below.Fire is hot and can burn you. Use at your own risk. Not to be used as a personal floatation device. Not USCG Approved. Probably utter nonsense.

Lighting your on-board charcol BBQ

A propane gas BBQ's won't generate sufficient heat or will just blow out when the winds are up. They are otherwise wonderful: clean, easy to start and not likely to cover your transom with a sheen of charcoal dust. Unfortunately, you must use messy charcoal if you want a proper grill.. A quick BBQ jerk chicken sounds like the perfect end to a lovely day. The only thing standing between you and the sundowner treat is getting the BBQ lit. This task is complicated by the humidity and the 20 Kt winds blowing through the anchorage and your desire not to set your boat on fire. Large and repeated squirts of lighter fluid are often tried (but not recommended ) .To make the process easier and safer, use a chimney to start your charcoal fire as described below:

  1. Your charcoal must be kept in plastic sacks closed well with a tie to prevent them from getting too wet from the humidity to start well.
  2. Buy charcoal in the English islands. French charcoal is the real thing but difficult to start and burns very hot and fast when it is windy. Real charcoal can be bought from vendors on the beach who make it right there. I generally keep some along and use the American kind to start the real charcoal in a mix for a combination of high heat and ease of lighting.
  3. Get some French aluminum cubes for fire starting. They come in a small box and can be identified by the flames on the label. Do not bring charcoal starter on board. It is good for setting yourself, your boat or your dinghy on fire and will not work in a wind. Its sole purpose aboard is to light a distress fire when your boat is sinking anyway.
  4. Make a "chimney" of a large tin can. Remove the label and one end. Punch four holes with a can opener in the side around the bottom to serve as air inlets. I keep mine in an old charcoal bag to preserve the lazarette from the resulting rust.
  5. Remove the top grill and place the chimney in the bottom of your BBQ. Place two cubes inside near openings on the same side of the can.
  6. Pour briquettes from the charcoal bag into the can. Fill to the top.
  7. Position yourself around the BBQ to serve as a wind screen. In my case, this involves sitting on the coaming facing aft with my legs hanging down over the transom.
  8. Use a butane fire starter inserted into the opening with the cube and ignite the first cube. If you must use matches, move the can to a protected area such as the companionway. Set it on the rack you removed from the BBQ so as not to melt your sole. When the cube lights, move the whole chimney back to the BBQ.
  9. Rotate the can so that the cubes are upwind. Ignite the second cube. Rotate the can 45 degrees so that the openings with the burning cubes are close to the prevailing wind direction..
  10. Remain in the wind break position until you are sure that some of the charcoal is safely burning. At this point, the wind will simply accelerate the process so get busy preparing the eats. When you can see red when looking down into the can from above, the coals are ready.
  11. Disperse the hotter and colder briquettes around the fire pit. At this time, if you have something which needs to cook longer, you might add some briquettes. Slowing the fire can be done by controlling the vents on the grill and by spraying the coals with water. I generally try to run it hot to clean the grill and to sear any meats applied, then try to slow it by restricting air for the longer cooking.
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Favorite recipes:

Jerk chicken - dry or wet jerk rubs are available for the abundant supplies of chicken. Remove the fat and feed to the fish. Apply rub and sear the outside of the chicken. Turn, apply rub and sear. Slow fire and apply rub a second time. Cook until no red appears at the bone but before chicken becomes dry and tough.

Steam grilled fish - clean, wrap in foil with onions, lemon juice, pepper, and garlic, ginger or soy to taste.

Naan, pizza - this will be the subject of a later feature. Bread in the islands is often kind of bland and the ability to quickly make up a tasty bread without heating the whole cabin is a delight.

Pork loin - a nice break from chicken and fish, pork loin can be prepared with a jerk rub as above and the resulting left over meat serve as a base for a number of stir fries as well as dinner.

Plantain - place on the grill in its peel until soft. Serve for desert.

Onions, potatoes- use the left over coals to prepare the basics for the next meol. We often rub potatoes and onions with a little olive oil and pepper. Wrap in foil and just leave overnight on the cooling grill. Chop and use for a hearty breakfast.

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