Man there is nothing better than grilling up steaks after a long day sailing. Delicious! But it can end up being pricey. When you charter a boat, and want a barbecue, they charge you an extra $20-$25, which seems strange. They rent you a $75K yacht for $220/weekend day -- that's like 0.2% of the yacht's value. Then they tack on $25/day for a $150 barbecue -- 16% of the barbecue's value!
You don't need to be E.F. Hutton to see that an investment into your own marine barbecue will pay itself off pretty quickly. I bought one last month, it was about $200 with mounting hardware from West Marine, 17" across (a little bigger than most.) After I go sailing this weekend, it'll be half-way to paying for itself. (If I'd bought it 6 months ago, this venture would be well into the black.)
Adding to that expense is the charcoal -- Matchlight has tons of appeal on a boat, there are just too many bad things that might happen with a can of lighter fluid in a lazerette. I even saw one guy who set fire to his swim step, when he failed to notice some excess lighter fluid had dripped out of his barbecue, and then accidentally ignited it.
But the small bag of Matchlight is about $5 these days, and painfully, it's about 10%-15% more charcoal than you need for a marine barbecue. Worse yet, once you open the bag, Matchlight doesn't keep very well, particularly on a boat! Nothing sucks worse than a cold barbecue full of charcoal that won't light, next to a plate full of raw meat, when you're hungry!
To solve this problem, I buy the biggest bag of Matchlight, and a box of 1-gallon Ziploc bags. I divide-up the big bag of charcoal, putting exactly the right amount of charcoal to grill a meal in each Ziploc bag. I split-up the whole bag of charcoal all at once, to make sure all of the briquettes are inside plastic bags as soon as the original bag is opened.
(Note: you may be tempted, as was I, to put boxes of wooden matches into their own small Ziplocs, and stick one inside each Ziploc bag of Matchlight -- don't do it! After 4 or 5 months the matches become oily with fuel from the briquettes, and they just smear when you try to strike them.)
I then store all of the Ziploc bags of charcoal inside the original bag, to protect them from getting worn/torn, and to contain the mess. When I go sailing, I grab one or two of the Ziploc bags, which makes me and my grill ready for any action.
At this writing, the big bag of Matchlight plus Ziploc bags and a 10-pack of box matches costs about $12, and gives me about 8 to 10 meals worth of fire I can depend on -- EDIT: ORIGINALLY THIS BLOG SAID no matter how long it takes me to use them. That proved to be less than accurate, in practice this trick buys you a year, maybe two, to use the Matchlight. Try to remember to grab a free newspaper on your way down the dock, as an insurance policy.
(BTW, if you're ever stuck with stale Matchlight, try laying a piece of newspaper in the middle, and partially crushing 5-10 charcoals with pliers over the paper. Then light the edges of the paper. There will usually be some unevaporated fuel inside of the briquettes, that will catch if you crack them open, and the heat from the broken-and-lit ones should cause the fuel inside the rest to vaporize and burn.)