Stern Rail BBQ Tips


Over the years, we have used a few different types of barbeques that attach to our boat’s stern rails. For a long time, we had a kettle type that burned charcoal or pre-packed charcoal bricks. Then we upgraded to the smallest rectangular Magma gas grill, which was plumbed into the boat’s propane system. And now we have a Magma kettle gas grill with its own small screw-on gas bottles.

The first trick of successful barbequing aboard a sailboat is to keep the fire lit in windy conditions. If the boat has a lot of cockpit canvas, this may not be a problem. But if it is, face the lid away from the wind while you open and close it. If you have a swim platform on the stern, remounting the grill to the lower stern rail and cooking from the transom works, too. On boats with an aft cockpit and both a dodger and a bimini, the gap between the canvas pieces will create a kind of Venturi and really increase the breeze. If you have an insert for this canvas arrangement, zip it in and forget about the wind.

Because there is usually some wind when you are aboard, the grill will always have a windy side and a downwind side. One side will be hotter than the other, depending on the grill’s shape and how it is mounted. Experiment with various types of food to see how this affects cooking; choose the hot side for grilling meats and the cooler side for vegetables and breads.

A solid griddle, round or rectangular, works well afloat because it will inhibit the wind. It will also provide a good surface for fish or other flaky foods, or for grilling bacon and eggs in the morning. Also, a griddle keeps fat on chops and steaks from dripping into the grill and catching fire. If you’ve ever had a grill catch fire on the stern of your boat, you’ll know what I am talking about.

A grill tray that locks fish or vegetables inside a stainless cage that fits atop the grill is another accessory that will make grilling afloat more successful, although some of these have long handles that prevent you from closing the lid securely. Always use good quality stainless steel BBQ tools. Poor grade steel will rust on a boat in one season.

Cleaning up a greasy gas grill or a charcoal grill can be a messy business, but it’s necessary. In clean harbors, we will tie the grilling grate to a light line and drop it over the side to let the fish clean it, then rinse it off in the morning. Otherwise we just disassemble the grill and wash it with the evening dishes down below.

Grilling aboard is a great way to eat while cruising. We have even grilled at sea in calm conditions when we have fresh fish aboard. Check out a tasty chicken recipe for the grill below in our “For The Hungry Crew” section. And check out Magma grills and accessories at


Author: Blue Water Sailing