“You live on a boat?! How is that? Does it move all the time? How does the weather affect you? Where do you keep your stuff? Do you have electricity? How about fresh water? Do you have a real kitchen? How do you deal with waste? Are you connected to cable and WiFi? Does your dog like living on a boat? What happens when you go sailing?”
Do you have a real kitchen? Yes, it’s real, but it’s tiny. (It’s called a galley on a boat.) I have about four feet by 6 feet, plus cabinet space, to work with. And in that small space I have a stove with three burners and an oven, refrigerator, double sink and counter space. The counter space also doubles as covers for my sink, fridge, storage and dish drainer, so clearing any clutter is always the first step to prepping/cooking. Heidi and Aaron have opted not to have a freezer any longer in order to save electricity, and the space will soon be used to store everyday pots and pans for easy access. It’s not uncommon for the steps from the galley to the cockpit and the navigation station to also be used in the prep process. 🙂
My stove, a Seaward Princess II, was built specially for a boat and operates on propane. It replaced my original stove (also a Seaward Princess) in 2014 and cared for properly will last over 20 years.
Propane is a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) that is compressed into a transportable liquid. Propane combustion is much cleaner and safer than gas combustion, though not as clean as natural gas. It has a low boiling point which makes it vaporize as soon as it is released from its pressurized container with a simple metering nozzle. It is easily transportable and generally available around the world. We have a large, industrial can that stows in a special cabinet in my cockpit and connects via a gas line to the stove. With regular day-to-day use it only needs to be refilled every nine months or so. No need to be attached to the dock to cook! (Our barbecue also operates on detachable propane cans or a large, movable industrial can.)
One of the unique features of my stove is the gimbal … a balance point system with a latch that can be locked so the stove stays stationary, or released to swing with the motion of the boat. Heidi can cook while we are underway without spilling or slopping over the pots and pans when the gimbal is in effect. The stovetop has arms that lock the pans over the burner to avoid sliding and these can be used with or without the gimbal. There are also metal rings on either side of the stove cabinet for Heidi to hook a strap around her waist so she doesn’t fly around the galley when I am heeling (tipping). But when the weather is particularly rough, no one wants to be below decks trying to cook!
I’m now turning this post over to Heidi since I only provide the basic tools and she handles the creative aspect.
I didn’t grow up cooking with my mother, and mainly enjoyed baking with my Nana. During my years in San Diego, Hamburger Helper and Shake ‘n’ Bake with canned veggies were our go-to meals. Family life in San Leandro was at the height of my Chamber and Foundation careers and my husband cooked all of our meals with me doing an occasional batch of deviled eggs or Jello shots. (And he was an excellent cook!) Any attempts at cooking were doctored after I left the stove, so I stayed as far away from the kitchen as possible. Until Aaron and I moved onto the boat.
Somehow, my fear and loathing of the kitchen changed on a boat, possibly because Aaron was always grateful for whatever I placed before him, and probably because I felt comfortable in the small, simple space. I read the entire book, “The Joy of Cooking” and researched recipes on the internet. My first few forays used every pot and pan and I made a huge mess. I learned slowly, going from simple meals to true gourmet fare. Now I’m extremely proud of the care I take in planning healthy, delicious, and often elaborate meals on a daily basis. Most of all, I love provisioning: planning the menu for get-aways to Angel Island or Half Moon Bay, and next year for long periods at sea or at anchor without easy access to a store.
The key is in the prep: I pull out all the ingredients, then chop and measure and place in small bowls or on the cutting board so they’re ready to add. I do dishes as I go instead of leaving a pile for the end, often re-using the same bowl and pan, which is a must since I have a limited number of cooking vessels. I also need to think about space and limit/adjust my recipes to those that fit on three burners and a seven inch by fourteen inch oven with a single rack.
My biggest challenges and proudest productions are always special occasions such as Thanksgiving. Doing a traditional turkey means literally measuring the turkey in the store (yes, people stare!). Big breasts aren’t our friend, but I’ve managed to find nice 12-15 pounders that just fit. Cranberry sauce, the initial stages of the stuffing and the dessert are all made in advance.
Refrigerator space is also a challenge as it is small and deep. When I meal plan, I buy ingredients that will have multiple uses and generally shop twice each week so we mainly eat fresh veggies and proteins. I’m learning to use more dried/canned ingredients so we’ll still eat healthy and flavorful meals when we are at sea and our fresh stores run out. I’m most looking forward to eating whatever the locals eat when we are in foreign countries and learning about new herbs and spices.
Other tips for cooking in a small kitchen are to have the correct tools at hand. I keep my knives above the stove on a magnetic rack, hot pads and silicone lids hanging on hooks, a drawer full of utensils next to the stove, and spices, cutting boards of various sizes and baking sheets within arms reach. I also don’t have a utensil for every purpose; I limit my tools to those that I use on a regular basis. I have a manual chopper and a battery operated immersion blender on board but no other appliances as they use precious energy and space. The oven works well for toasting and knives give me the exact size of dicing and chopping I desire.
Cooking has become one of my favorite hobbies … and our waistlines are proof that I’ve gotten fairly decent!
Click on the “In the Galley” category for recipes cooked in my tiny kitchen.
A great resource for cooking onboard is The Boat Galley Cookbook, written by two women who have cruised aboard their sailboats extensively and to which I often refer.
Part 8 next week: How do you deal with waste?