What Do You Do About Sea Ice?
No, this is not a treatise on climate change, this is a solution to the problem of how to keep ice aboard your boat. Because regardless of boat size, sailors always seem to be thirsty. And, except in winter, that means they want cold drinks.
Cutting to the chase – you want to find the best silicone ice trays for your boat.
With the small space allowed for refrigeration on a modest sized sailboat, many things we’re used to buying in bulk and tossing in the freezer go by the wayside when we spend time at sea. Ice cream, family size packs of ground beef or chicken breasts, ice packs for boo-boos, we learn to live without those. But one thing that absolutely doesn’t go by the wayside for 90% of sailors, is the cold drink.
Whether racing or cruising, a tall glass of iced tea, a cold beer, the frosty margarita rocks, the dark and stormy, the gin and tonic, and the Cuba Libre’ will always be sought after at the end of a long day under sail.
Non-Ice Ways to Be Cool
Sometimes that longed for chill can be hard to come by, especially for those bent on crossing oceans or exploring remote islands in small craft. There’s just so little space. Cruisers have been known to tow the beer in a net bag, getting whatever cool they can out of the ocean water. And some give up refrigeration entirely, either out of necessity, or because maintaining the system just becomes more trouble than its worth.
Refrigeration Makes Cool a Little Easier, But Still Not a Slam Dunk
When you’re using a block of ice to keep the meat and veggies cool, then getting a cube for your gin and tonic means hacking off a corner with an ice pick.
Most boats these days have what it takes to keep the drinks cold. Solar panels and wind generators make refrigeration possible even for long voyages. Ice though? For small vessels that can still be a challenge.
If your small galley has an electric refrigerator rather than an ice box, then chances are the freezer compartment is absolutely minuscule. That’s certainly the case with mine. I’ve detailed the dimensions of my refrigerator and freezer in my article about my galley’s design. Yours is probably similar.
You want that precious supply of ice, but you also want it to take up the smallest possible foot print, because you need to keep a pound of butter and a pound of bacon in there too.
Standard ice trays don’t fit in most boat freezers. Either they’re too bulky to stack, or too wide, or too long. Taking up valuable freezer space with over size ice trays is something no galley cook wants. And having the end of a too long tray hanging out of the freezer is taxing. Not only is it a waste of space, but it gets in the way, you bump it and spill it all the time, you have to work around it and avoid it. I tried using a standard grocery store tray that stuck out two cubes past the front of my freezer compartment. It lasted maybe a week before I sent it off to the thrift store.
We muddled through without ice for a while, as I searched for non-standard size ice cube trays. We were under way along the ICW at the time and had no car. I kept checking the housewares sections of all the stores within walking distance of our anchorages. It took three states, but I finally found the answer: silicone.
Finding the Best Silicone Ice Trays for Boats
Metal and plastic ice cube trays are standardized. They don’t come in sizes. Or at least they’re not stocked in most stores. But for some reason, silicone ice trays come in a bazillion shapes, sizes, and colors. You can find tiny cubes, one inch cubes, two inch cubes, ball shapes, cone shapes, hearts and flowers shapes.
The best silicone ice trays for boats have cubes of one inch or smaller. Mine are three cubes wide and five cubes long and easily stack two high in my little freezer. The ones with beveled bottoms make cubes that pop out easier. Here are three good options.
Caring for Silicone Ice Trays
If you avoid setting the trays on dirty counter etc, you should never need to wash them, just a rinse before refilling should suffice. But if you do want to wash them they go right in with the dishwater, no special treatment needed.
As with any other plastic item, don’t let these vital tools fall overboard. Once a plastic or silicone item is in the ocean, lake or river it instantly turns from insanely useful necessity to plastic pollution, which is devastating sea life around the world. So take care of the ocean, take care of your silicones and plastics, and they’ll take care of you.