A Sailor’s Meal

Kate walks us through eating 4000 calories a day and losing 10 pounds in their first month on the ship, and other delights of eating while living on a sailboat!

tuna noodle casserole in a small bowl, plus a packet of Heinz ketchup


The day before we left Massachusetts, a friend came by with a bag of what I would describe as “sailing food”. She brought us a ton of Clif bars, cured meat (remember Fabio is Italian) and little bocconcini (bite-sized mozzarellas). This grab bag of goodies really helped us in our mad dash south, with winter nipping at our heels. We ate half of the prosciutto before we left the harbor, the cheese was gone in a few days, and we have just a few Clif bars left.

Thanks, Gail.

Food on a boat, especially in winter, needs to above all sustain you calorically. Before we left the northeast, Fabio did some research about this and estimated that we would need at least 4000 calories a day. We sort of laughed this off, thinking it would be impossible to eat that much while sailing the boat.

Sure enough, within the first month of winter sailing, we had both lost ten pounds of body weight each, and we were cooking literally all our food in bacon fat.

In the beginning we simply survived, food-wise. Before Roberto (our bonus crew member on the first leg) left us, he gave me a serious look and told me “get a bigger pot”. We needed to get beyond surviving, and back into the pasta, soups, polenta, curries and risotto we enjoyed on land. Fabio and I enjoy cooking and, above all, eating together. If we were to live on this boat for any amount of time, we needed to eat for more than survival.

a pan willed with chopped carrots cooking in bacon fat
Carrots cooked in bacon fat.

Right now we are at anchor off Cumberland Island, Georgia, and I have a peach cobbler in the oven. Fabio was adamant that we have a full stove with an oven on board, and one day schlepped home a used Force 10 propane stove. It pained me that we had to sacrifice two full drawers in the galley to make room for this beast, but on a day like today I am glad he won the negotiation.

Hot food, complicated food, your favorite food…it is absolutely necessary to find a way to adapt these recipes and equip your galley. For us, we have searched out a compact cheese grater (did I mention Fabio is Italian?) and a block of pecorino to perfect steaming bowls of pasta. We use small crocks for mini casseroles that remind me of home. We collect interesting teas and condiments and trade spices with other boaters.

crab legs and corn on the cob at a restaurant
Okay, sometimes we just go out.

Storage and propane are limited resources on a boat, so we find workarounds for conserving space or reducing cook-time. We can’t really do brown rice, for example, but have found decent quick-cook rice sides. We soak dry beans until they practically start growing again. When we do have fresh veggies, we have to strategize on how to eat them all before they go bad.

Baking is sort of the Holy Grail, and we will know we have mastered this galley operation when we produce a crisp hot pizza one day. We are getting there, warming up on muffins, cookies and now cobbler.

We eat all of our mistakes along the way, and I can personally report that we have stopped losing weight.