Cooking at sea, an article with Sheryl Shard, co-author of the book “Sail Away! A Guide to Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising”.
Cooking at Sea
One of the things Paul and I love about cruising is that we have more time to prepare and enjoy delicious meals than when we’re rushing around during our busy lives ashore. We love to shop in foreign markets, experiment with new foods, and entertain friends aboard our Classic 37 sailboat, Two-Step. When on passages, however, food preparation takes on a different meaning and significance.
Good nutritious meals are important to maintaining our health and energy at sea, not to mention our sense of well-being when spending weeks in isolation on an ocean crossing. But the physical challenges of passage-making sometimes make meal preparation an energy-depleting exercise. In rough weather it can be downright dangerous. More injuries at sea are caused by working in the galley than in any other way – burns from hot spills, cuts from knives or rough edges of cans, bruises and worse from lost footing while juggling pots and pans in rough weather.
During 10 years of international cruising, Paul and I have developed a set of guidelines that has made cooking at sea easy, safe and pleasurable:
Top 10 tips for Cooking at Sea
1. Prepare meals ahead of time: Before leaving on a passage, we try to prepare as many meals as possible before we leave the dock. It takes a few days for your body to adjust to around-the-clock watch routines so make everything easy. Like many long-distance sailors, Paul is especially susceptible to seasickness during the first 3 days of a passage so we plan light, easily digestible foods.
2. Store everything you need for meal preparation near the galley: If everything is close at hand, you will do a better job of preparing good meals since it will be less tiring than running here and there on a pitching boat. You will also be less likely to fall or injure yourself.
3.Know what you’ve got and where it is: Don’t waste your time and energy digging through lockers unnecessarily. Keep a good inventory list so you know exactly what you’ve got and where it is.
4. Top everything up before you leave the dock: Running out of dish detergent, having to change a toilet paper roll or finding the flour canister empty can bring me to tears if a storm is raging. Topping everything up before you leave the dock reduces effort and irritation.
5. Clean the boat like crazy: Odours can do you in if you’re on the verge of “mal de mar”. Make sure there are no sour sponges, dirty dish towels, gruesome laundry or icebox gremlins waiting to do you in. Do your best to clean up spills so you don’t slip and fall. Check your fresh produce supply regularly so you’re not caught out by a rotting potato or mildewed melon
6. Add safety features and use them: The safer you feel in the galley, the more pleasant your galley tasks will be. There should be lots of handholds in the galley and a galley strap at the stove so when the going gets rough the chef doesn’t land in the soup. We have pot clamps on our gimbaled propane stove to keep things where they should be and Paul added a stainless steel safety bar in front of the stove (between the cook and “the cooker”) for added protection from burns. At sea I also cover our countertops with non-skid mats to keep bowls and utensils from flying around.
7. Keep it simple: When the weather is rough, it’s really better to stay out of the galley, if possible. Design meals to be quick and easy. We snack a lot on passages, especially in foul weather, often having several small meals rather than three major productions per day. It’s easier on the digestion and easier on the cook.
8. Come up for air: Stick your head out the companionway occasionally if you’re going to be in the galley for a while. It clears your head and makes you feel better.
9. Make clean-up easy: Design your meals so clean-up isn’t a major chore. One-pot dinners served on paper plates makes life easier for everyone when the going gets rough.
10. Make time to sit together and eat: Being only 2 on a yacht while underway can make it tempting to alternate long watches and pass each other like ships in the night. Help your relationship and avoid loneliness by sitting and eating together – even if it is only for 10 minutes, take the time to catch up and ask each other how they are feeling.
For more tips and ideas, check out the Shards’ best-selling book, “Sail Away! A Guide to Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising” now in an updated 2nd edition, or their new 50-minute video, “How to Sail Your Boat Across an Ocean”.
You can find books and Distant Shores DVD’s from Paul and Sheryl Shard on their website at www.distantshores.ca
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