Haute Cuisine on a Sailboat

Author:
Updated:
Original:
Vegemite on toast—an irresistible sailing snack?

Vegemite on toast—an irresistible sailing snack?

It’s true! Everything does taste better on a sailboat

It is fairly miraculous how appetites are sharpened while sailing. I have conducted experiments and can tell you it isn’t simply a question of being afloat. A meal aboard a powerboat tastes pretty much the same as a meal ashore and, among other things, is normally just as easy to prepare. On a sailboat, however, things tend to get more existential.

I remember, for example, watching slack-jawed as a boat I’d agreed to crew on in the Sydney-Hobart Race was being provisioned. I saw box after box of loaves of plain white bread being loaded aboard and finally had to give the skipper a poke.

“Is that all we’re eating?”

“Of course not!” he scowled and pointed at the smaller boxes coming on after the bread.

These were filled with jars of a strange Australian delicacy, Vegemite, a yeast-extract paste with more or less the consistency of axle grease.

Standing there on the dock, these staples seemed grossly inadequate. Or just plain gross. However, two days later, as we were beating across the Bass Strait into the teeth of a fierce 50-knot southerly “buster,” they seemed like ambrosia. Twice a day we started up our AC generator so we could run an electric toaster. Massive quantities of toast were then prepared and across this was spread a generous skin of “Veggie,” as the Aussies like to call it. I can assure you that Beluga caviar served on gourmet crackers never tasted so good, and to this day, like Pavlov’s dog, I still start salivating whenever I hear a generator start.

It may be that our culinary standards are greatly degraded when we are sailing. Then again, it may be that our sense of taste is greatly enhanced. Really, I think, it must be a combination of the two, and it is wise to keep this in mind when provisioning your own boat. There is, in the end, no point to loading on all the fresh ingredients for a sumptuous beef stew prepared from scratch when your crew most likely will be just as happy eating cold cans of Dinty Moore.

Not that fresh ingredients need be banished from your larder. One of the wisest things I ever heard uttered on a sailboat came from the lips of an experienced cook I once knew as he stood in the galley one evening during a long passage trying to decide what to serve for dinner.

“The first step always,” he declared, “is to start frying an onion in a pan. Then you decide what you want to eat with it.”

My life has never really been the same since. The number of one-pot meals you can prepare with onions as a base while swinging like a gibbon over a steeply heeled and madly gyrating stove is mind-boggling. Even if you just add Spam or any other equally noxious ingredient, your crew, once their bellies are full, will hail you as the reincarnation of Julia Child.

And onions aren’t the only fresh food that keeps well on boats. Cabbage, carrots, garlic, potatoes, beets, apples, cured sausage, hard cheese and most kinds of nuts are all comestibles that can stay fresh a long time without being refrigerated. Mix these up with things like rice, pasta or any number of canned and boxed foods, and your meals will be both various and nutritious.

Even if you don’t have any fresh food aboard, it is surprising how the most unsavory dish somehow becomes palatable when the wind is blowing dogs off their chains and your lee rail is buried in the briny. Think of all those centuries when windjamming swabbies wandered the globe for years at a time eating nothing but salt beef and hardtack festooned with wriggling maggots. Even with liberal rations of rum to wash it down, by any objective standard, this seems an execrable diet. But if you add in a fresh breeze, a dash of salt spray and perhaps a healthy dollop of Grey Poupon, you’ll still have a meal fit for a sailor. 

SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane, sails on the Maine coast and down in the West Indies whenever he gets the chance. He is the author of The Modern Cruising Sailboat, published by International Marine, and is a contributing blogger at SAILfeed.com

June 2017

Related

02-'17-Trans-Atlantic_Downwind-Schralpin

At The Helm: Man Overboard!

Imagine this simple scenario: the boat’s powered up, sailing close-hauled in a building breeze under full sail. I come on deck as the skipper during the watch change to make sure the new crew is comfortable and the boat is properly set up for both the current conditions and ...read more

Promo-01-LEAD-MGR00321

Contrasting X-Yachts & Moody Cruisers

One of the most fascinating things about sailboats is the different ways that sailors, naval architects and builders will approach a single design problem. The result has been a bewildering array of rigs and hull forms over the years, and in the case of the two boats we’ll be ...read more

04-Yacht-anchored-in-front-of-one-of-Lastovo's-gunboat-tunnels-(3)

Cruising Charter to Croatia

As is the case with so much of the Mediterranean, to sail in Croatia is to take a journey through time. Centuries before the birth of Christ, Greeks traded amphoras of oil, wine and grain across these waters. During the first millennium, the Romans built lavish palaces and ...read more

m123728_13_01_171012_PMA_02901_9999

Alicante Announced as an Ocean Race Europe Stop

The Ocean Race Europe, a new event in offshore sailing, will include Alicante as one of four stopover cities. This European offshoot of the former Volvo Ocean Race will include the biggest change to the racing rules under the new title—fully crewed IMOCA 60s will join the ...read more

01-LEAD-doublehanded2

Preparing for a Doublehanded Race

A few months ago we took a look at the development and attraction of doublehanded racing (Two to Tango, June/July 2020). Hopefully, that served to whet your appetite. If so, the question becomes: “How do I get started? The good news, as we explained in Part 1, is that if you are ...read more

01-LEAD-Day-three---dolphins.-300-dpi

A Key Approach to Passagemaking

How you approach offshore sailing is key to the success of each passage. In addition, some of the most valuable, even crucial attitudes and skills may not be either learned or valued in everyday life on shore and may even fly in the face of talents that are greatly admired and ...read more

OceanVoyagesInstitute-2048

Point of SAIL: Mary Crowley of the Ocean Voyages Institute

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of the Ocean Voyages Institute, a not-for-profit based in California that has been both educating sailors and working to preserve the health of the world’s ocean ...read more

01-Ocean-Voyages-Institute_PHOTO-READY_1_pg

Tracking and Catching Plastic Waste

Plastic waste—in the form of everything from plastic soda bottles to abandoned fishing nets—constitutes a major threat to the health of the world’s oceans. Giving the immense size of an ocean, though, actually finding all the plastic floating around out there in a time-efficient ...read more