Planning Food on a Boat

On a Boat, Planning Food Requires Thinking a Little Differently

Image of lobsters on boat deck planning food on a boat

Usually when we talk about meal planning, cooking, and kitchens we’re thinking in terms of the standard three square meals and how to serve them to our families in pleasurable surroundings. Planning boat food requires a few small tweaks.

Aboard a boat it’s often more profitable to think in terms of weather and activities than traditional meals.

Here’s what I mean.

If the boat is at the dock, serving as either house or vacation cabin, then a framework of meals set on a lovely table works just fine. In fact, if you ask me, it’s the best of all possible worlds.

But if the boat is at sea, or if the weather kicks up rough on even an inland waterway passage, meals easily go by the wayside in favor of grabbing whatever is available without cooking, shoving it in your mouth and getting your hands back on the wheel. And so its pretty important to give a lot of thought to planning boat food.

In the romances of the sea, we’re told admirals and captains were wont to gather around a groaning board laden with toothsome dishes and crystal decanters of claret. But the men who did the real work – the sailors, deckhands and gunners – ate and drank what could be long stored, easily cooked, served under any conditions, and gave the ship’s owner the best bang for the buck, i.e. cheap, worry-free belly timber, and lots of it.

The recipes here on Smallest Galley are all tagged with the conditions they are suited for in addition to what kind of dish. I’ll talk more about cooking in various conditions elsewhere, but for starters, here are the basics.

The elements of food at sea are not breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are:

  • Hunger
  • Nutrition
  • Alertness
  • Quick thinking
  • Hydration
  • Non-stickiness
  • Non-greasiness
  • Stability
  • Seasickness
  • Pockets
  • Staving off boredom
  • Conservation
  • Long keeping
  • Ease of preparation

Flavor is very important, but in meal planning for boating it comes far below the other requirements of getting nourishment inside busy, calorie grinding sailors and keeping it there.

Guiding Principals of Boat Food

  • Crew members need to be able to grab things when they’re coming off watch or going on watch. Leaving the helm to make a sandwich is only possible in calm conditions.
  • The cook needs to be able to prepare food, serve food, and store food while seas are rough and it’s tough to stand up straight.
  • There’s no pulling off the water to drive through McFastFood King for a quick burger. Out there, you have to do it yourself.
  • Even when sailing inland waters, sticking with meal planning can be difficult. Dinner prep time is invariably interrupted by the need to anchor the boat before it gets dark. Likewise, cooking breakfast is a no go when you have to tumble out of bed, haul anchor and set sail before sun up.
  • Though the boat may be small, the work load is not. Sailors are ravenously hungry at the end of the day.
  • Everyone wants to sleep. So a long drawn out dinner, followed by washing piles of dishes is unpopular and best reserved for the celebration of making it to port.
  • Food cannot gum up the fingers of the helmsman or navigator who may – mid nosh – suddenly need to flip through a chart book or swipe across a touch screen.
  • Strong smelling foods should not be served when the weather is rough. Save the Parmesan cheese, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tuna and garlic for calm seas.

Must Haves:

Never Run Out of These:

  • Water
  • Bouillon
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Candied Ginger
  • Chocolate Covered Ginger
  • Granola Bars
  • Tortillas
  • Nuts
  • Dried Fruits
  • Jerky
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Alcohol – the drinking kind

A Special Consideration: Kids Food Underway

Fill Ziploc Sandwich Bags with:

  • whole grain crackers
  • fruit chunks
  • meat cubes
  • cheese chunks
  • string cheese
  • granola bars
  • raisins
  • canned green beans – why is it every kid on earth loves these?
  • pickles

Fill tiny, locking Snapware tubs with:

  • apple sauce
  • yogurt
  • mac’n cheese

A Word About Food Pouches

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