Small Stove Update: Seaward Stoves Unseat Top Picks
Deciding on a galley stove comes down to matching your needs with a quality product.
Following our reviews last year of single-burner stoves (July 2006) and two-burner stoves (September 2006), Seaward Products sent us three products for a small stoves update. The late comers were a propane-fired, two-burner drop-in and two single-burner, butane cookers (one portable and the other a drop-in). Testers [compared their performances to the top picks of our 2006 tests.
In the single-burner category, our Best Choice last year was the Force 10 Seacook, a propane, sea-swing-style stove that we preferred for its ruggedness, seaworthiness, and ease of use. The downside of the Seacook is that the American Boat and Yacht Council safety standards limit it to use outside the cabin. For limited galley cooking, we recommended the alcohol-burning Origo 1500. Itís a slow cooker, but we found that itís more seaworthy than most butane-fired portable stoves. For daysailors looking to spend less than $100, we picked the Kenyon Express II, a portable butane stove with a carrying case that garnered
Practical SailorBudget Buy honors.
In the two-burner group, our 2006 favorite was the Force 10 drop-in cooktop. It beat out three other double-burners because it was a durable, fast cooker that met all ABYC safety standards and cost just a few bucks more than its competitors.
We followed the same test protocol as the original tests (see "How We Tested,"). However, those tests varied slightly, so we conducted the update accordingly: Single-burner stoves were boil-tested outside, while the two-burners were boil-tested indoors.
Seaward Princess Bright Spark (BS 100)
This portable cooker closely resembles two of the stoves we tested for the July 2006 issue&emdash;the Mr. Bar-B-Q Chef Master and the Kenyon Express II&emdash;right down to the 7.8-ounce butane cartridges and flimsy plastic carrying case. However, the Princess has a major advantage over its cousins: It is loaded with safety features.
For starters, it has a flame-failure device (FFD)&emdash;if the flame is blown out, the fuel flow is stopped&emdash;which is required to meet ABYC safety standards for stoves used in a galley. It also has a high-pressure sensor that ejects the fuel canister if it reaches a dangerous pressure level. The Bright Spark was the only portable stove tested with these safety devices, and itís the only portable not limited to cockpit use. We tested the Bright Sparkís FFD, and found that it consistently ceased fuel flow about 6 seconds after the flame was extinguished.
The Bright Spark, like the Kenyon, has a high-temperature shutoff, which stops fuel flow once the canister reaches a certain temperature. Both also have locking mechanisms for the fuel canister that prevent the stove from operating when the burner grate is inverted, and both meet the ABYC requirement for a two-step ignition process. The Force 10 Seacook does not have any of these safety features, hence ABYCís suggestion to use it only on deck.
What the Seacook lacks in safety features, it makes up for in marine-friendliness. Unlike the Seaward and the Kenyon, the bucket-style Seacook has an adjustable pot holder, larger spill pan, and is gimballed, all features we prefer. The Kenyon and Bright Sparkís burner grates and spill pan set-up are identical, and both have optional halo-style pot holders. Testers do not like this style potholder as it cannot work with smaller pots; however, it does meet the ABYC standard for securing cookware underway. Both portable stoves also have hardware for fixed mounting, but neither has a gimballing option.
The Bright Spark has a leg up on the Kenyon in the construction department. Its body is stainless steel where the Kenyon is aluminum. The Force 10, however, has both beat in ruggedness and construction quality, with heavy-duty hardware and quality welds. The Bright Spark grate and burner are alloy, but the Seacook is all stainless. All are easily stowed and take up little storage space.
For daysailing or short weekend cruises, the Seaward Princess Bright Spark is our Best Choice among one-burners. It is more expensive than the $40 Express II, but it has more safety features, and you canít put a price on safety. For offshore trips or an auxiliary cooker, we still recommend the Force 10 Seacook.
One-Burner Drop-In (1203)
Of the stoves tested for the July 2006 issue, the Seaward Princess single-burner drop-in stove most closely compares to the alcohol-fueled Origo 1500. Neither is portable, but both offer another alternative for those not inclined to deal with propane on a boat. The Origo, however, can be gimballed or fixed-mounted, but the Seaward drop-in can only be fixed-mounted. It is mounted with tape and a metal slide bracket rather than screwed into the countertop. This makes installation easy and reduces rattle.
The Seaward comes with a butcher-
block cutting board cover (also available in stainless), a feature testers liked and one that the other test stoves lacked. The cutting board has rubber feet to reduce rattle underway.
The drop-in has the same safety features and burner grate as the Bright Spark. Its control knob, however, falls short of the smooth design of the other stoves tested. Itís a thumb-turned wheel rather than a knob, and so, although it turns easily, in our opinion, itís difficult to set to an exact temperature&emdash;a common problem among butane stoves.
The drop-in has the same optional halo-style pot holder as the Bright Spark, a drawback compared to the Origoís adjustable, front-mounted pot holders. The Seaward does offer a larger spill area than the Origo, however.
The Seaward Princess drop-in is an attractive option for those looking for a full-time galley stove who do not want the hassles of a slow-burning alcohol burner. Itís held back by its non-adjustable pot holder, lack of gimballing, and most importantly, its price. At $268, itís more than twice the cost of the other single-burner butane stoves and doesnít offer the portability. For a fixed galley stove on a weekender, weíd go for the Bright Spark, and get creative with our mounting to keep it from devouring counter space. (Thatís the main advantage of the drop-inís cutting-board top.)
Two-burner drop-in (2423)
The Seaward two-burner drop-in is a quality propane stove with all the seaworthy features that galley use requires. But the same is true of the Force 10 two-burner drop-in tested for the July 2006 issue. The matchup is almost too close to call.
Both are gimballed; have easily adjustable, front-mounted pot holders; automatic, multi-step ignition; deep spill pans; and sea rails. They also both racked up Excellent ratings in every category and have only a $5 price difference.
One thing testers did not like about the Seaward two-burner was its gimbal-locking mechanism. It locks only on the left, back side of the stove. We prefer two brass locks located near the front of the stove. With locks at the back, users would have to reach over a flame to disengage/engage the lock while the stove is being used&emdash;something we donít recommend. The Force 10 has two locks, but both are located at the back of the stove.
The Seaward and the Force 10 both have coated, ceramic burner caps. The Seawardís have no way to be secured. This makes cleaning easier, but it also means they will rattle and could go flying in a heavy seaway. The burner grates are meant to keep them in place, but weíd like to see a locking feature added.
Both also have adequate spill pans. However, the Seaward has no back lip so that large spills flow down the back of the cooktop and into a second spill pan located beneath the stove. The cooktop can be removed from the drop-in casing for easy cleaning.
One advantage of the Seaward is that both of its burners measure 8 inches. The Force 10 has one 2-inch and one 4-inch burner. Another Seaward bonus feature is its butcher-block cutting board cover. This results in no lost counter space despite having a permanently mounted stove.
Testers like both the Seaward and the Force 10 double-burners, and picking a winner between the two was tough work. In the end, the Seawardís large burners, cutting-board cover, and overflow spill pan earned it our Best Choice designation among two-burners.
Deciding on a galley stove comes down to matching your needs with a quality product. Daysailors will be satisfied with Seaward Princess Bright Spark, while offshore cruisers looking for a single-burner would do well to go for the rugged, durable Force 10 Seacook. For those whose galley needs are more involved, we suggest the Seaward two-burner.