House kitchens often have the same basics but vary greatly in their size and complexity. This is no more true than when it comes to the galley area aboard a boat. I have sailed on some very lavish yachts which have all the comforts of home and then some and at the other end of the spectrum I have been on much more modest vessels where the kitchen arrangements have consisted of a single burner cook top and water from a jug. What I have found out over the years however is that the quality of food aboard often has less to do with the facilities available and more to do with the resourcefulness of the ships cook.
In the summer months it can be fun to cook on the barbeque which is often clipped to the back rail or slipped into a rod holder in the cockpit. Just like firing up the grill at home this can make a great social gathering and the person doing the cooking can be part of the fun and not tucked out of the way below decks slaving over a hot stove. What I like about using the grill is that smells, grease and heat are kept out side and clean up is often easier, but if you are grilling do keep an extinguisher handy in case of sudden flare ups. When the weather is less clement cooking is more often done on the cooker inside the boat. On many boats propane is the fuel of choice and with good reason; it is widely available, has a high calorific value and is relatively cheap. It's major drawback is that it is heavier than air has no smell so it can collect in the bilge of the boat and under the right circumstances cause and explosion although gas detectors and other safety devices go along way to mitigating such disasters. Other types of stoves can be operated on electricity, alcohol, kerosine even solid fuel. Whatever the cooker is powered with it has to be suitable for marine use. Unlike the kitchen at home boats move so only appliances designed for marine use should be installed.
What and when you eat depends on the type of boating that you do. If most of your trips are just day outings then time can be saved by doing some prep work before you leave home or leave the dock. In calm weather making meals whilst at anchor or underway similar to what you you would normally be eating at home is entirely possible but things get more trouble some when the wind picks up and the boat is bouncing around. If a rough passage is expected I like to cook in one pot. A hearty soup is always appreciated by the crew, easily prepared and ensuring everyone is well fed and warm will go along way to making everyone feel happier.
One item that is vastly overlooked in my opinion is the pressure cooker. With the lid on the contents cannot spill and because of the nature of pressure cookers the contents cook faster and you use less fuel. A stew prepared before you leave home can be cooked easily and quickly. In fact as much thought should be given to the utensils as the cooker itself. Knives with rounded ends are frequently safer than pointy ends. If you do a lot of eating while the boat is underway consider serving dinner in bowls rather than fancy plates that way food is less likely to end up on the cabin sole if the boat lurches.
Regular readers of this column will know that I am a big believer in lists; organizing your thoughts on paper is great way to ensure that nothing is overlooked, and so it is with meals on board. For anything more than a half day trip my wife Rita and I plan out the menus listing down what will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner and including the odd snack or treat here and there. We can then provision the boat knowing that we will not run out of food when we are miles from the nearest shop. My boat does not have refrigeration and so we have to make do with an icebox. This works well enough and the ice lasts for several days even in the heat of summer but for a longer trip we plan on using up the milk, butter and other fresh produce before it spoils. We do like coffee in the morning so if we keep some long life milk in cartons on hand so that we can still have our java even if we are some distance from the nearest grocery store and our fresh milk has run out.