For those who take long boating trips – and we are talking weeks, months or years here – it is safe to bet at least 1 of 2 questions always pop up, “How do you eat?” and/or, “What is it like cooking while on open water?” Cooking and eating while traveling on a boat are easier than you would think and are fruitful if you have the right knowledge. Traveling for long periods on a boat will involve a lot of planning, so be sure to pack plenty of non-perishables, good fishing gear, various spices and fresh veggies that last long.
The average kitchen on an average size boat will supply you with a 3-burner stove, a manually pumped single basin sink, minimal counter space and a mini-fridge, if you are lucky. If you can afford a slightly larger boat that is equipped with additional amenities like a small oven, microwave and icebox, the purchase will definitely be worth it; you will be better off and more comfortable when taking long open water trips.
Boat kitchens have some built-in amenities for safety. You will want to be sure to follow all safety precautions while in the kitchen. If plausible, we recommend only cooking when anchored or at the docks. If you are inexperienced, cooking while moving can pose great harm! Take advantage of the shelves with ledges, countertops with built-in storage or the small stove ledge that keeps pots from falling to the floor, if available.
It is safe to assume that storage will be in short supply. Look up some DIY space saving options to help your kitchen work for you and not against you. A simple idea is to affix some mason jar lids to the bottom of the cabinets so that you can screw the mason jars into them. Mason jars can hold spices, pastas, rice and other snacks. Hanging storage baskets can come in handy too for your fresh produce. When packing your kitchen up, remember to use your space wisely.
It is said that planning for an extended boating trip is like planning for a camping trip. Like campgrounds, RVs or popups, galley kitchens offer limited space and while on the water, freshwater, fuel, refrigeration and perishables are limited. You can’t just run to the grocery store to buy a missing ingredient, more drinking water or to refill a propane tank; prior planning is of utmost importance.
Knowing your kitchen and boat storage capacity are important as well. If you are new to your vessel, get to know your kitchen and vessel before taking her out for a long trip. Know what your cooking capabilities are; how much food and freshwater you can store; if you can keep ice long term; if you can store a few select perishables in the fridge; and how easy it is to wash your dishes.
Make a baseline menu that mainly consists of the non-perishable items you will be bringing. Sprinkle in a few of the perishable items and remember to incorporate the path you are taking and the fresh fish you will be able to catch to add to your meals. Be sure to take into consideration the pitstops on land to fill up your fresh water and to replenish your non-perishable and perishable items.
You should always have an emergency stash of freshwater and food. Set aside at least 2 gallons of water per person, in addition to your daily water supply to be safe. It is also safe to have a way to convert saltwater to freshwater, just in-case. Pack extra canned foods, long lasting fruits and veggies or even MRE’s if you can get your hands on them.
When on an extended fishing trip, you will need more than just your rods and reels! If you are among those who have a large vessel kitchen, then you likely will have everything you need; but for those who have a smaller galley kitchen, there is special equipment and some tips and tricks that can make cooking on board easier.
There are portable grills specially made for the marine industry that can be purchased. They attach to the railings of most boats, making it convenient when you catch fresh fish. Additionally, there are similarly functional marine cutting boards that can be attached to the railing, right next to your grill. For inside the kitchen, be sure to buy a cutting board that clamps to something or suctions to the countertop. You can also purchase a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers are built to cook food hot and fast; they come in handy for soups, stews and chilis.
There are also marine industry designed coolers. In addition to the ice you can store on board, you can grab 2 coolers and fill them both halfway with ice. One will be the cooler for your drinks, and one will be for you to keep your fresh catches in.
Commonly forgotten kitchen tools include: can-openers, corkscrews, bottle openers, wooden spoons and spatulas. If counter space is limited, bring one of those coolers into the kitchen and use the top as additional space.
As for dishes, bring only what you really need based on your menu and knowledge of your kitchen space. Due to the little space available in most vessel kitchens, you will likely only need a few pots and pans. Bring only one set of dishes for each person, or you can choose to bring plastic and paper to use. Just keep in mind, you will have to store all the trash that you generate until you land at a port to dump it. If you are concerned with how to wash dishes, bring a few additional large pots to act as wash basins. Oh, and DON’T forget to bring 2 sharp knives, 1 for prepping your food and 1 for filleting your fresh caught fish!
When packing for an extended boating trip, the amount of food you bring is just as important as the kinds of food you bring. You will need to consider how often you will be making your way to ports. If you plan to port frequently, then you can bring less food at once, yet bring more perishables. If you plan to go longer periods in open water, then bring more food and less perishables.
When talking about being on a boat with little to no refrigeration/cooling techniques, all perishables are not treated equal. If you have refrigeration, you can bring small amounts of milk/dairy products, soft leafy greens, soft fruits and soft vegetables. If you do not have a good amount of refrigeration, we suggest bringing hard fruit and veggies like oranges, apples, pears, onions, carrots and potatoes.
As far as starches go, we recommend rice, pasta, tortillas and breads. Some feel guilty when cooking pasta on board because of the large amount of water and fuel used. However, we know of a way that requires less water and fuel; simply use half of the required water, cover the pan to let it boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cover again, let boil for 3 minutes. Now turn off the heat, keep the pot covered and on the hot burner, and let sit for 10 minutes.
Protein is very important to involve in your everyday meals. Our first suggestion is to catch as much fresh fish as you can on your journey. This will keep space open in your fridge or iced cooler. If you want variety, bring only frozen meats. Having these in the cooler will keep the other food frozen/cool and you will be able to take them out to defrost a couple of hours before you plan to make your meal. Other non-meat, non-perishable forms of protein are good as well, such as canned beans and jars of peanut butter.
Now for the important pantry items, the non-perishables. As mentioned above, be sure to bring various beans and a few jars of peanut butter for non-perishable protein. You will want to bring jarred or canned pasta sauces; they make for a quick and easy meal. Since most vegetables go bad too quickly, you will want to bring plenty of canned veggies to make as side dishes to go with the fresh fish you catch. If sweets are your vice, be sure to bring some. Oh, and don’t forget about breakfast! Stock some water only pancake mix, oatmeal and/or cereal, too.
Cooking on board a ship for an extended trip can really get boring, so our last pantry items to remember are spice – bring as many as you can fit. Being creative with spices can really make a dish unique. Mexican spices, Italian spices and plenty of garlic will make your food that much more enjoyable. If you like heat, try bringing some red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, Caribbean jerk seasoning and your favorite hot sauce!
Cooking on board can be as easy or as hard as you make it. Be sure to use your space wisely. Get to know your vessel and most importantly, your kitchen, well before leaving on your long oceanic trip. Plan your meals ahead of time, stock your pantry appropriately and keep your equipment organized.