Dining on the Water

Cooking aboard a sailboat doesn’t mean that food can’t be inventive and delicious, but it must be simple to make. Here are a handful of lightning-fast gallery recipes that will be just as tasty when prepared in your own spacious kitchen.

Dining On The Water


Meals prepared in the author¡¯s sailboat galley are just as tasty ¡ª and quick to make ¡ª on land


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By Peter G. Rose

Photographs by Kenneth Gabrielsen


For more than 10 years, my husband Don and I have plied the Hudson River in our Island Packet sailboat Pot Luck. Some summers we have taken only short trips, while in others we have spent many weeks on the water. Over the years, I have learned how to stock the boat and how to prepare simple, good meals in my small galley without much of a fuss.

Let me describe what our home-on-the-water looks like. Although the overall length of Pot Luck is 31 feet, the actual living space in the cabin is about 10 by 20 feet.


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Immediately to the left, as you enter by way of a small ladder, there is a little galley with a two-burner propane stove with a small oven, a double sink, and a refrigerator (with a tiny freezer unit) built into the counter. Our Magma barbecue grill is installed on deck and a microwave oven is stashed away in the fore peak (the only available space for it). In addition, we have an electric chopper, a hand mixer, and a blender. I can cook almost anything; it just takes me longer, because I constantly need to shift things around to create room to put a bowl or cutting board down as I need it.


The boat runs on 12 volts DC power, which consists of two battery banks with 450 amp hours each. These batteries are charged by the alternator in our engine, three solar panels, and an Ampair wind generator. They make more than enough electricity to run our refrigerator and little freezer, which makes ice cubes. (Don loves the fact that we get ice cubes from the sun.) The solar panels are so effective that even on a gray day they make ample electricity. We also have an inverter, which changes 12-volt DC to 120-volt AC.

That allows us to run regular appliances, such as the blender or the microwave.


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Since the space is so small, it still feels a bit like ¡°playing house,¡± but that was one of my favorite games when I was a child. Theoretically the cabin sleeps six, using two permanent bunks and the couch in the eating area. The table folds up and the couch can be pulled out to make a double bed. The cabin also contains a bathroom (if you prefer, a ¡°head¡±) with a toilet, sink, and a very functional shower Don installed only a few years ago. The living quarters are compact but warm and cozy ¡ª a great place to sit and read, listen to music or books-on-tape, or take a nap.


It takes a while each year to get Pot Luck ready. Even before she (I¡¯m sure you know that all boats are female) goes in the water, the bottom part of the hull needs to be painted. Once she is in the river, she gets cleaned thoroughly inside and out. Then we¡¯re ready to stock her ¡ª and that is where I come into play. I have made a master list and go over it at the beginning of the season and buy, or bring from home, what is necessary.


My master list includes drinks (seltzer, juices, and beer); cleaning supplies; paper goods; canned goods such as ham, chicken, and fish (tuna and salmon); a few cans of vegetables (peas, corn, and beets); baking supplies such as flour, sugar, and baking soda; starches (rice, couscous, and lentils); and lots of condiments ¡ª mustards, chutney, soy and barbecue sauces, and salad dressings. For a long trip last year, I brought a variety of dried fruit along, which I found to be a worthwhile addition. I stocked raisins to add to cereal or cookies; currants to mix with rice or use in coffee cake; dried cranberries (with walnuts) for couscous or rice; and candied ginger, which is handy for seasickness but also for cookie toppings. (Dried blueberries and cherries also make delicious treats.) And I brought a large assortment of nuts. I like to mix dried fruits and nuts to make my own more elaborate GORP than the ¡°good old raisins and peanuts¡± that the acronym stands for.


I find that some canned foodstuffs are essential for emergencies. I am not thinking of shipwrecks, but of the times when supplies are low and a market of any kind is not within walking distance of our boat. As much as possible, I will bring a lavish assortment of fresh fruit and produce aboard, usually from local farmers¡¯ markets. For long trips, I like to have an ¡°herb garden,¡± in the form of hanging baskets with herbs that swing from the solar panels at the stern. Fresh herbs liven up even canned foods.


On board I cook simple summer meals of grilled meat, a cooked vegetable and a salad, with a starch ¡ª rice, potatoes, couscous, or just bread and butter. Dessert consists of whatever fruit is available, often cooked as a compote. Most boaters have a blender on board to make frozen drinks. I like to use mine also for chilled blender soups, such as Chilled Broccoli and Tarragon Soup, which are wonderfully cooling starters on a hot day. Another trick I have learned over the years is to never cook for one meal only. If I am making rice, I make enough for two dinners, and I do the same with meats and vegetables.


We have a small fold-up table in the cockpit, and (weather permitting) we eat our meals out there so we can enjoy the antics of the ducks or cormorants or look at the boats passing us by. No matter what we do during the day, by the end of the afternoon you can find us back in the cockpit watching the sun go down and hoping for one of those glorious Hudson Valley sunsets with vivid hues of pink and lilac. Dinner is also served in the cockpit. Generally the wind dies down as the sun sets. The water becomes calm and looks like glass at that time of the evening. Often an eagle makes one last pass looking for fish as we are leisurely eating our food. We light candles as it gets darker, enjoy dessert and the last of our wine, and quietly talk about our day, or sometimes companionably nod off. It¡¯s summertime in the Hudson Valley, and the living is easy. ¡ö


Peter G. Rose just completed a travelogue/cookbook with the working title Potluck on Pot Luck. She is the author of Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in Seventeenth Century Dutch Art and Life (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2002) and Foods of the Hudson (Overlook Press, 2000). Visit her website at www.peterrose.com.

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