Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cooking While Living Aboard Your Boat

First of all, I'm not a very good cook. My mother however is a great cook, a fabulous baker, and way before decorating cakes was an art; she was an artiste extraordinaire!!! Honestly, she was doing things with gum paste when people didn't even know what the hell the stuff was. Of course my sister went and inherited my mother's artistic ability, and as a child could draw remarkable caricatures of the neighbors. And no one was ever insulted.

I inherited Mom's nearsightedness and that's about it.

But even though I'm not a good cook, I like cooking on the boat. I think maybe I feel a bit like Ma Ingalls-- like I'm living on the wild frontier (even though a store is almost always within dinghy distance).

Two years ago when we bought the boat and sailed her from Massachusetts to Maryland, we had unseasonably cold and crappy weather. Since I knew nothing about sailing (and not much has changed since then) I was appointed the title of cook and called myself Hop Sing for the duration of the trip. Much to my relief, I soon came to realize that as long as it was served hot; even dog food would have been welcome to the crew, and no one ever figured out that I'm not a very good cook!

That particular delivery took a bit longer than expected and how well I remember trying to figure out what to prepare for a cold and famished crew of four with virtually no provisions. I ended up boiling the last of the elbow macaroni, throwing in a leftover jar of salsa, dumping in the remaining Bloody Mary Mix, and grating what was left of a block of cheddar cheese. It was fantastic!!! But then we were starved!

First of all cooking on a boat depends upon what kind of devices you have at hand. We have a wonderful propane stove (never used until we bought the boat) with two burners. This is actually more than I have to cook with in our apartment (where we only have a microwave, and a convection oven). On the boat, with our stove, oven, and outside grill, I can cook pretty much anything I want.

A few months ago I stumbled across a book that a cruising couple wrote. It's a very detailed guide and I admire the work they put into it but once again I was left with huge feelings of inadequacy. You see, there's a huge chapter on provisioning and I made the mistake of reading it. Included in the book was an Excel Spread Sheet kind of thing complete with examples of how to determine what to take on board for an extended period of sailing.

For six months I was supposed to record, down to the last ounce, everything we ate at the apartment (I immediately felt like a cheat because I knew I wouldn't include the chocolate bars that I ate when Hans wasn't looking), multiply everything by 3, divide by the square root of that answer, but only after saying Mother May I, and then add up the total.

I never was a whiz at math, I certainly don't intend to become one now, and I tossed the book aside in despair. I felt depressed that this whole concept didn't appeal to me and decided that in addition to being a poor sport, I wasn't worthy of living on a boat.

And then something wonderful occurred! I stumbled across the Bumfuzzle blog. Even though very few people in the sailing community thought it was possible, this couple sailed around the world without any previous boating experience. But what caught my eye was that they didn't cook. Period. They still don't, and what's more, they don't care what anyone thinks of them. They stocked up on prepackaged food like Doritos and kool-aid, and Heavens to Betsy, they survived. And I don't think they ever once had to multiply, divide or say Mother May I!

Now, I myself would never be able to live like this, but they made me feel better about not having a detailed plan in place.

Then just a week ago I got an email from Linda at Sea Yawl Later, so I zipped on over to read her blog. I really enjoyed it, and what was obvious from a lot of her posts, was that she really likes cooking on their boat.

The polar opposite of the Bumfuzzles. But like me, Linda sometimes just went with the flow. Using leftovers and what ever she had on hand, she was having fun.

And that's when I realized that I have to do what I want to do, and in addition to ignoring a lot of the so called experts on the forums I need to quit worrying about whether I'm doing the right thing.

Morning Mimosas while at anchor.

Fruit went bad very quickly in the heat this summer and I really do hate waste. So two times (and I swear they were two of the hottest days we endured) I made banana bread.

I learned to quit buying bananas!

I also made the potholders you see here. But I didn't make them while on the boat!

Chicken and potato (potatoes can be bought in a can!!) shish-ka-bobs all ready for the grill.

Blue berry muffins complete with pirate flags.

I don't even like blue berry muffins!

But I do love the pirate flags.

Bisquick Biscuits. They're good anytime! I love them with butter and jelly, butter and syrup, butter and honey... and they are too stinking easy to make!

OMG!!! Brownies!! I never make them at the apartment. But on the boat I made them several times from a mix, and therefore very easy!! And when I realized that I was actually losing weight during out trip, I ate them two at a time.

Don't worry, any weight I lost on the boat has since been regained. It must be the nasty Big City Air!

Don't forget Wilbur! He loved placing his dinner order to me every evening.

Extra -rare was always his choice.

As though I couldn't figure that one out!

In the cockpit, after grilling our steaks, Hans toasts Wilbur our Wonderful Salty Dog.

And now that we have Wilbur on board... if we run out of provisions...remember what I said about dog food; as long as it's served hot!! I'm operating on a don't ask don't tell policy here!


  1. I have a feeling you're as good a cook as you are a seamstress and writer! I love the home-made pot holder and pirate flags. I don't like to cook much, so I'll be a little in between Pat & Ali(Bumfuzzles)and you. We have an alcohol stove that we're afraid to use, and hope to replace it with a propane one. Glad to hear cooking onboard isn't so bad.

  2. Cheryl, Maybe it's just me but I really do enjoy it. I guess it's just another part of the adventure.