Saturday, May 08, 2010

Strike a Light!

The stove or cooker is an important piece of equipment aboard a cruising yacht. Without it the crew can only have uncooked meals which are not as nourishing as cooked ones. Nourishment is not just about having balanced meals containing necessary vitamins and health sustaining ingredients, but it is about having food in an easily digestible form, food which is presented in such a way as to give pleasure to the eater.

Therefore it is essential that the boat should be equipped with an efficient cooker, but no matter how good the cooker is, it will not work unless the fuel* that drives it can be ignited to produce constant flames for heating the food. If the stove is fitted with reliable spark ignition the cook does not need to worry when the ship’s matches have been reduced to pulp by dampness and the salty atmosphere. This pulpy degeneration of the gunpowder can be prevented by keeping the matches in waterproof containers, but a far better and more reliable way of producing a flame is to use a mechanical taper. These are like miniature flamethrowers, and they come in different shapes and sizes.

My old rusted taper eventually gave up the ghost after three season’s use, so the time was right for me to invest in a new one. For the grand sum of £1.99 I bought a replacement at an ironmonger’s store. My choice was from an offering of three, all roughly the same price, but I opted for the smallest and smartest which happened to be the cheapest. The trade name printed at the base by the wire loop used for hanging it on a hook, is ‘Maxim’. The taper has been cleverly made from painted metal to resemble a large matchstick. At the flame end there’s a nozzle housed in a red cooling chamber designed to give a good airflow for providing oxygen to the flame. At the other end of the ‘matchstick’ there’s a minute orifice where replacement lighter fuel can be injected. Almost halfway between the ends there’s an ergonomic striker knob which nicely fits the shape of the thumb so as to be just right for creating the spark that ignites the lighter fuel.

Time will tell, but I think I shall be very pleased with the performance of my ever ready match.

*I’m ignoring electricity as a power source for a cooker although today’s more efficient batteries and solar generators now make this a viable option, especially for the microwave type of cooker.

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