In no particular order, here are the Top Ten misconceptions I would like to break about cooking and eating on a small sailboat.
1.“Boat” food is different than “land” food.
It doesn’t have to be. Sure you have to think ahead, the grocery store is not just around the corner, and you may not be able to find all the ingredients you are used to. But with good planning and a little creativity we eat pretty much the same as we would on land. Food is food; please stop calling it “boat” food.
2. You HAVE to buy a pressure cooker.
A pressure cooker can be an invaluable piece of galley equipment; however it depends on where you are sailing and how you like to cook/eat. I owned mine for a couple years before I started using it seriously. Now I use it every day when we are on passage, but for regular cooking I only drag it out maybe once a week. Yes it lessens cooking time and saves on propane, but one pot meals are boring day after day after day. As for propane we carry two standard 9kg tanks, as a lot of other boats do, and in almost 8 years I have never run out of propane.
3. “Things will be so cheap we will be eating out all the time anyway.”
This is true if you’re sailing in a place like Mexico where the food ashore is tasty and cheap. But in most places eating out is not inexpensive, and not particularly healthy. Besides even burgers and fries will get boring if you eat them every day, and most restaurants don’t like it when you show up in your underpants.
4. You will be eating a lot of fresh caught fish.
If you happen to be in a place where the fish stocks are not completely depleted by over fishing and climate change, or rife with ciguatera (a type of accumulative fish poisoning that is not visible in the fish and causes things such as paralysis and death), and you are a good fisherman or free diver/spear fisherman, then sure. Otherwise fish just is a bonus.
5. Living on a boat means eating weird canned food you never knew existed before owning a boat.
Who wants to eat whole chicken from can? And what the heck is “Bully Beef” anyway? My rule of thumb is that if you won’t eat it from a can ashore you won’t eat it from a can onboard.
6. Freshly made bread is a luxury onboard.
On my boat it is a necessity. Making bread is not difficult or particularly time consuming. It can be cooked in the oven, in a pan on the stove top or over a fire on the beach. Store bought bread that lasts for weeks is full of preservatives and is a closer relative to cardboard than actual bread. And if you don’t want to learn how to bake then sail to a French controlled country; bakeries are everywhere and baguettes cost less than a dollar.
7. You need 100 recipes for cabbage.
I read this in a book of advice about living onboard when we first bought Kate and immediately threw the book away. Cabbage is not a substitute for lettuce. Cabbage is not the only vegetable that store well on a boat. In my opinion you only need one recipe for cabbage; sauerkraut.
8. It is impossible to keep fresh fruit and vegetables for more than a few days without refrigeration.
After our 21 day crossing I had onions, carrots, potatoes, a cucumber, a couple apples and a pumpkin still in edible condition that have not been refrigerated. The only trick is to make sure you buy fresh fruit and vegetable that HAVE NOT been previously kept below the temperature you will be storing them at. This means buying at fresh markets and roadside stalls not air conditioned grocery stores. Store produce in well ventilated containers/baskets on board and check often, using any items that are ready to spoil. Buying a mix of ripe and ready to use and under ripe produce means you’ll have fresh veggies longer as well.
9. “We are sailing in the tropics, it will be too hot to cook.”
Contrary to all the postcards you see in the souvenir shops sailing in the tropics is not all white sand beaches, bikinis and blue skies. In the South Pacific the sailing season is in the winter because the cyclones like to form in the hot moist weather of the summer. This whole sailing business also relies on wind, which when it blows, even on a nice sunny tropical day, can feel chilly. Yes there has been times where standing over a stove induces unsanitary amounts of sweat, but just as often we are closing the hatches and looking for something to throw in the oven to heat the cabin up a bit, especially at night.
10. You need to provision like the zombie apocalypse is coming before leaving home port.
This is a pitfall a lot of us have fallen into when we first started out; myself included. A few months later, after visiting several nice ports in different countries, I discovered that people who live in those nice places eat too. And because people all over the world have to eat, food stuffs of all types and descriptions, often times of better quality and with a better price tag, is available for sale almost everywhere you go. Sure it is better to be safe than sorry, and I think provisioning responsibly when setting sail to more remote destinations is important. But just remember, zombies only eat brains, so the shelves should still be well stocked.