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12 tips for cooking — and eating — on board

My culinary skills are negligible at best, the results inedible at worst. This being the case, I’ll not try to spoil your appetite with recipes. What I’ll cover here is based upon years of observation and the advice of people with expertise.

My experience (eating, not cooking) indicates that almost nobody cooks while under way, some exceptions being long-distance cruisers, delivery crews and liveaboards. Most cruisers I know, my wife included, try to hold off food preparation and cooking until they are no longer under way. Food preparation while under way means more time below and more chance of developing seasickness. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re limited to munchies, nuts, carrots, celery, cold sandwiches or other snacks as your only options, but most of us generally only snack while under way.

Does that mean we need to subsist on sandwiches after reaching our destination, or find a restaurant at or near the marina or anchorage? Au contraire mes frères, read on.

1. Bring ingredients, prepared beforehand, for such appetizers as nachos. Chips and store-bought dips are good to have on hand, as are cheese and crackers.

2. Precook and freeze dinners — stroganoffs, stews, casseroles — that can be thawed, heated in a microwave, and served while under way, or when at anchor or docked. (Store-bought frozen dinners also are an option.) These can be served with other foods that need only heating, like frozen or canned vegetables.

3. Keep in mind that the risk with over-reliance on refrigerated foods is that if something happens to the fridge or freezer, you’ve lost your meals.

4. Reconstituted foods, such as soups and cereals, also are an option, but I think most reconstituted cereals taste like library paste. Flavored cereals like Quaker Instant Oatmeal just need hot water or milk to produce a meal even finicky kids will eat. Stock up on canned soups, stews, fish, meats and fruit for quick meals. Don’t forget single-serving containers of Jell-O and pudding for dessert.

5. Purchase fresh produce and seafood or meats at local markets, and fire up that grill clamped to the rail at the stern.

6. On our boat we clamped several good insulated containers with spigots to bulkheads in the cockpit and cabin. These were filled with coffee and hot water for tea or soup. Cold drinks such as fruit juice, soda and iced tea were kept handy in a cooler. I am an inveterate coffee drinker, but coffee makes me thirsty. When sailing, I drink tea — cold during the day and hot (with honey) on night passages or if the weather is inclement.

7. Before provisioning for a cruise, be aware of crewmembers’ allergies or aversions to certain foods. Someone getting ill because of the food or complaining about the cuisine can put a real damper on your outing. Be careful of spicy, acidic or greasy foods. They encourage seasickness. Always include gingersnaps, ginger tea, soda crackers and the like to counteract seasickness.

Here are a few thoughts about safety in the galley:

8. Wear bib-type foul-weather pants to protect against burns from hot liquid spills or splashes, especially under way but also on the hook.

9. Install a hand-hold above the range and one at about waist level to keep from contacting a hot surface if you lose your balance as the boat rolls. Oceangoing sailboats often have “butt straps” for the cook that provide stability when the boat rolls.

10. Most powerboats don’t have gimbaled stoves, making cooking under way problematic, even in a boat with stabilizers. Powerboaters should have hand-holds and butt straps installed if they plan on preparing hot meals where the boat is likely to roll. Also, consider using pot clamps.

11. Fire extinguishers, of course, are mandatory equipment. Locate one in the galley, close at hand but not positioned so that it requires reaching over the stove.

12. Propane stoves require regulators and shutoffs, and gas detectors in the bilge. Shutoffs should be located where they don’t require reaching across the stovetop.