When we first decided to start cruising full-time on our 26’ sailboat, I thought one of the biggest challenges would be living without a fridge. Yes, that’s right - we don’t have a fridge on board. We don’t have an oven, a dishwasher or a laundry machine either. This is a very low-tech boat and certainly a long, long way from living on land. But, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised that living without a fridge isn’t really a problem at all. And just to prove it, I thought I would share a week’s worth of our meals to show you the types of things we cook and eat.
One of my “inspirations” for preparing to cruise full-time has been Lin Pardey’s The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew. In her book, she describes the meals she made each day on a passage that they took from Asia to North America, along with some handy tips and tricks. So, like all good idol worshipers, I decided to imitate her and I’ve been recording what we eat in our log. When I looked back to pick a week of cooking to share, I made a few observations:
- We eat a lot of pasta. Which you might not think is a bad thing, but I only make it one or two ways.
- Tortillas are a godsend when you don’t have an oven and easy access to store bought bread.
- Cooking experiments don’t always turn out. Some things that I’ve made, even a dog wouldn’t eat. Those are the days you think to yourself, “I wish we could order a pizza to go just now.” But you can’t. Because you have no cell phone reception and you are far, far away from a pizzeria.
- We could definitely do better on that whole 5 a day thing. But that was probably the case before we moved onto the boat.
Tuesday, 3 March 2014 (Bay of Islands)
Breakfast – nada
Lunch – rice & bean burritos and cheese quesadillas
Dinner – pasta
Usually, I’m a big believer in eating breakfast and demand to be fed pretty much first thing after I wake. But, since we’ve been out cruising, I find that we often eat much later at night then we did on land as we’re either anchoring someplace new or have been out exploring an island during the day. Or, I just can’t be bothered to cook until the sun goes down. So, I find that there have been quite a few days where we’ve skipped breakfast and quickly got the boat ready and headed out to our next destination. This was one of those days.
For lunch, Scott likes to play a little game I call “Salmonella Roulette”. I heat up last night’s dinner – which has been sitting out without refrigeration – and he happily eats it. So far, he hasn’t gotten sick. So while he had leftover vegetarian rice and beans burritos, I settled for a cheese quesadilla.
For dinner, I made my specialty – Ellen’s pasta with red sauce. Simple to make. You chop up an onion, a green bell pepper/capsicum, a couple of cloves of garlic and some sun dried tomatoes. Sauté them in pan with some olive oil. Add in a can of tomatoes, some olives, chili flakes and black pepper. (If you’re using a plain can of tomatoes, add in some salt and sugar too.) Turn up the heat and get everything talking to each other. Then turn off the heat for 10 minutes and let the pan sit. Turn the heat back on briefly, then turn off again. This is how we try to minimize how much LPG we use. Oh, the fun and games on a boat. Cook some spaghetti, add the sauce and voila – you have dinner. Even better if you add in some salami and cheese.
Wednesday, 5 March 2014 (Bay of Islands)
Breakfast – egg & cheese breakfast burritos
Lunch – nada
Dinner – chili bean spaghetti with griddle bread and pepper jelly
Even though Scott is our full-time skipper, he generally makes our breakfast. Technically, I should be doing that given my complete lack of useful contribution to sailing. But Scott is a real sweetheart so he does it. Either that or he is worried I’ll mutiny. His specialty is egg & cheese breakfast burritos. Another simple dish – make some scramble eggs with cheese. Heat up some tortillas in a frying pan with some olive oil. Combine. Yummo.
Tortillas are fabulous little creatures. They live happily in their plastic pouches for months until you’re ready for them. We use a lot of them as bread is hard to find or is way too expensive to buy and we don’t have an oven to make our own. Tortillas are a regular feature in our repertoire. Unfortunately, they are made with white flour so the nutrional value is probably negligible.
For some reason we skipped lunch. I was probably unhappy about this. But dinner made up for it as I made my only other pasta recipe – vegetarian chili beans served on spaghetti. At this point, we only had two tortillas left and lacked any other substance which resembles bread, so I made some skillet bread with rosemary and garlic to go with dinner. I found a jar of red pepper jelly in one of the cubby holes which we spread on it.
Thursday, 6 March 2014 (Passage from Bay of Islands to Whangaroa Harbour)
Breakfast – leftover skillet bread
Lunch – leftover chili bean spaghetti & crackers with peanut butter and smoked mussels
Dinner – pretzels, salami, cheese & crackers
We had an early start to make our way up north to Whangaroa so we got the boat underway and then ate leftover skillet bread in the cockpit. It was okay. Pancakes would have been better, but they didn’t seem to be on offer.
We stopped off at the Cavalli Islands at lunchtime to wait out the tides so that we could get into the Whangaroa Harbour (when you have a strong tidal stream vs. 10 hp engine, you wait). Scott played “Salmonella Roulette” again and finished off the leftover chili bean spaghetti. He offered to share. I looked at him like he was a madman and refreshed myself about what to say on the VHF if he got really sick and I needed to call for help. As usual, his tummy is made of iron and he was just fine. To top off his spaghetti, he had some crackers with smoked mussels. I was content to just have crackers and peanut butter – a meal which I personally think is a cruiser’s best friend.
When dinner time rolled around, I decided to call a general strike in the kitchen and said, “I’m not going to make dinner tonight!” Scott looked at me, rolled his eye and said, “Fine, I’m not going to skipper the boat anymore.” We stared at each other for a good ten minutes and finally realized no one was going to give in. So we settled for a smorgasbord of pretzels, salami, cheese and crackers. I’m not sure there was any winner in this particular battle of wills.
Salami and cheese are a couple of our staples on the boat. I’ve found a great salami which doesn’t require refrigeration. Once you open it, you just have to eat it within 30 days, but that really isn’t a problem for us. It is a great little protein solution – we put a little in my famous red pasta sauce and have it for snacks. Cheese also doesn’t seem to require refrigeration but that might just be the New Zealand climate. It doesn’t get very hot here and we happily leave a block of Colby cheese in a container and put it in all sorts of things.
Friday, 7 March 2014 (Whangaroa Harbour)
Linner - grilled cheese
For some reason, the only think I marked down in our log was grilled cheese. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what we ate for breakfast. But I think we had them for a late lunch/dinner combo – what we like to call “linner”. When we were in Whangaroa town, we went to the general store. The thing about general stores in New Zealand is that prices are rarely marked on anything. Usually, I ask how much something costs. This time, I just took a load of bread up to the counter, the woman sized me and my American accent up and said, “$6.50, please.” This is the most we have ever paid for a loaf of bread here. I want an oven on my next boat so that I can make my own and not be held hostage to the general stores.
So with our very expensive bread, we had some lovely grilled cheese sandwiches with onions and garlic granules sprinkled in for good measure. This wasn’t one of our better days when it comes to getting your daily dose of fruit and veg.
Saturday, 8 March to Sunday 9 March 2014 (Passage from Whangaroa Harbour to Kawau Island)
Breakfast – eggs & toast
Lunch – grilled cheese w/salami
Dinner – peanut noodles
Breakfast – toast & breakfast burritos
Snack – pretzels and coke
Dinner - pasta
While I have done a teeny bit of night sailing before, this was my first official night passage – it took us 30 hours and 45 minutes to sail 119 nautical miles from Whangaroa to Kawau. We didn’t actually know that we were going to do it until later on Saturday when we realized that it was miles and miles from an anchorage and it was getting dark. And then Scott suggested we just carry on to Kawau.
I was glad that we had breakfast that morning, as it turned out to be a very long two days. Because we had bread, toast featured in our breakfast, along with some scrambled eggs. Lunch on the first day featured more grilled cheese with the added bonus of some salami thrown in. For dinner, I decided to make peanut noodles for a couple of reasons – it only requires one pan to boil the pasta in and it tastes just as nice cold as it does warm so we could eat it throughout the night.
On the second day, Skipper Scott made us breakfast using up the last of the bread for some toast along with some of his famous breakfast burritos with the last of our tortillas. Everything just tastes better when you haven’t slept. Once we got to Kawau, we celebrated with some coke and pretzels and then I topped off the evening with spaghetti and red sauce. One thing you have to love about Scott is that he will happily eat the same thing day in and day out. Which is fortunate as I make the same thing day in and day out.
Monday, 10 March 2014 (Kawau Island to Islinton Bay)
Breakfast – cheese & salami omelet & scrambled eggs
Lunch – peanut butter, smoked mussels & crackers
Dinner – pasta
Because we were out of tortillas and bread, we had a “low carb” breakfast of eggs. I had mine plain and scrambled while Scott went all out and put cheese and salami in an omelet. Lunch we the usual cruiser’s special of crackers with peanut butter for me and smoked mussels for Scott. And of course, what would dinner be without my usual spaghetti and red sauce pasta dish. I’m nothing, if not creative.
So there you have it, a glimpse into a week eating and cooking onboard Rainbow’s End. I’m guessing that job offers won’t be streaming in for me to be a chef aboard a super yacht? But in the end, as long as the skipper’s belly is full, that’s all that counts.
What kinds of things do you cook and eat when you’re out cruising? Any suggestions for easy to make recipes that don’t require refrigeration?