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Top 10 Tips for Cooking at Sea

by Sheryl Shard on 29 Dec 2013
A calm day on the Atlantic with Paul and friend, Matt Heron. After days of rough weather during the 2012 Atlantic Rally for Cruising (ARC) it was nice to have a sit-down meal in the cockpit together. Sheryl Shard
World-renowned TV journalists and long range cruising sailors Sheryl and Paul Shard are currently sailing their boat, Distant Shores II, in the Caribbean. Here Sheryl talks about their personal experiences of cooking at sea:

One of the things Paul and I love about cruising is that we have more time to prepare and enjoy delicious meals afloat than when we are rushing around carrying out busy lives ashore. We love to shop in foreign markets, experiment with new foods, and entertain friends aboard our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II. When on passages, however, food preparation takes on a different meaning and significance.

Good nutritious meals are important to maintaining your health and energy at sea, not to mention your sense of well-being when spending weeks in isolation on an ocean crossing. But the physical challenges of passage-making sometimes make meal preparation an energy-depleting exercise. In rough weather it can be downright dangerous.

More injuries at sea are caused by working in the galley than in any other way – burns from hot spills, cuts from knives or rough edges of cans, bruises and worse from lost footing while juggling pots and pans in rough weather.

During 24 years of international cruising, Paul and I have developed a set of guidelines that has made cooking at sea easy, safe and pleasurable:



Top 10 Tips for Cooking at Sea
1. Prepare meals ahead of time: Before leaving on a passage, we try to prepare as many meals as possible before we leave the dock. It takes a few days for your body to adjust to around-the-clock watch routines so make everything easy. Like many long-distance sailors, Paul is especially susceptible to seasickness during the first three days of a passage so we plan light, easily digestible foods.

2. Store everything you need for meal preparation near the galley: If everything is close at hand, you will do a better job of preparing good meals since it will be less tiring than running here and there digging deep in lockers on a pitching boat. You will also be less likely to fall or injure yourself.



3. Know what you’ve got and where it is: Don’t waste your time and energy digging through lockers unnecessarily. Keep a good inventory list so you know exactly what you’ve got and where it is.

4. Top everything up before you leave the dock: Running out of dish detergent, having to change a toilet paper roll or finding the flour canister empty can bring me to tears if a storm is raging. Topping everything up before you leave the dock reduces effort and irritation.



5. Clean the boat like crazy: Odours can do you in if you’re on the verge of 'mal de mar'. Make sure there are no sour sponges, dirty dish towels, gruesome laundry or icebox gremlins waiting to turn your stomach. Do your best to clean up spills so you don’t slip and fall. Check your fresh produce supply regularly so you’re not caught out by a rotting potato or mildewed melon.

6. Add safety features and use them: The safer you feel in the galley, the more pleasant your galley tasks will be. There should be lots of handholds in the galley and a galley strap at the stove so when the going gets rough the chef doesn’t land in the soup. We have pot clamps on our gimbaled propane stove to keep things where they should be. We have a stainless steel safety bar in front of the stove (between the cook and 'the cooker') for added protection from burns. At sea I also cover our countertops with non-skid mats to keep bowls and utensils from flying around.

7. Keep it simple: When the weather is rough, it’s really better to stay out of the galley, if possible. Design meals to be quick and easy. We snack a lot on passages, especially in foul weather, often having several small meals rather than three major productions per day. It’s easier on the digestion and easier on the cook.

8. Come up for air: Stick your head out the companionway occasionally if you’re going to be in the galley for a while. It clears your head and makes you feel better.

9. Make clean-up easy: Design your meals so clean-up isn’t a major chore. One-pot dinners served on paper plates makes life easier for everyone when the going gets rough.

10. Make time to sit together and eat: Being only two on a yacht while underway can make it tempting to alternate long watches and pass each other like ships in the night. Help your relationship and avoid loneliness by sitting and eating together – even if it is only for 10 minutes, take the time to catch up and ask each other how you're feeling.

About Paul and Sheryl Shard
Paul and Sheryl Shard are the authors of best-selling book, 'Sail Away! A Guide to Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising', which they are updating to a third edition. They are also the fun-loving hosts of the award-winning sailing adventure TV series, Distant Shores, which is broadcast in 24 languages around the world on Travel and Escape channel, Cottage Life channel, AWE TV, Documentary Channel and Travel Channel. They have documented their experiences sailing to over 60 countries and colonies on 5 continents and are currently cruising and filming in the Caribbean aboard their Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II. Meet them at the Strictly Sail Chicago Boat Show January 24-26 and the Toronto International Boat Show January 11,12,17,18. You can follow their adventures and download episodes of Distant Shores on www.distantshores.ca

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