Cooking on a Boat

A huge part of living on a boat is getting used to living and functioning in a small space. This has an impact both on the amount of stuff you can have with you, but also on the amount of space you have in which to carry out your daily chores and activities. Every aspect has to be used to it’s full advantage, whether that’s by making sure that every nook and cranny is used for storage, or ensuring that you’re making the best use of consumables like fresh water and propane.

The galley, or kitchen, is an area in which some major adjustments have been required. Before we moved on board, I carefully measured all our galley storage spaces, and worked out how and where everything would be stored. Some things were easier than others – we have a built-in ‘secret’ drawer in the dinette table for cutlery, and there is a cupboard with angled shelves inside that is designed for storing plates, bowls, and a few assorted items. The few remaining drawers, cupboards, and storage areas are for food, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, plastic food storage boxes, and whatever else ends up being needed in the kitchen.

Although we try to be be as minimalist as possible, it’s amazing how quickly those spaces fill up, especially when you’re trying to provision for several weeks at a time. Now that we’re on the Central Coast of BC, towns are few and far between, so if you don’t have it with you, you’re probably going to have to do without for another week or more. With that in mind, food provisioning has been a whole new learning experience for me – it sounds so easy, but I was definitely not prepared for the reality. We have a decent sized fridge (for a boat) and a small freezer, but it’s hard to keep produce from going off after the first week or so. For the ‘week two’ meals, I have been trying to find ways of incorporating canned vegetables into the meals without It turning into just another version of tuna casserole (all these canned vegetables have me feeling a bit like Nigel Slater’s mom in the movie Toast). Storing all those cans is the other problem – I think we’re doing okay for now, but I need a better system for keeping track of what we have in deep storage, so I actually remember to use those tins when I go to cook a meal!

This photo shows about 60% of my counter space

When it comes to cooking the meals, we also have to be creative. Our galley is pretty small, and most of our decent-sized counters double as something else – one section folds up to reveal the stove/oven (not so useful when you’re cooking), another is the top of a deep-locker food storage area, and a third is actually a flip-up lid for the deep-locker fridge. With this kind of set-up, it becomes absolutely necessary to make sure you have everything you need from under the counters before you start cooking. Otherwise, it’s really hard to find a place to put your stuff while accessing that hidden storage area!

Our induction cooktop. This is our pressure cooker, which still freaks me out everytime it lets off steam!

Although our boat has a built-in propane stove and oven, we have been experimenting with using a portable, single-burner induction cooktop to do most of our food preparation. Propane is fairly typical on boats, but it is both a resource that has to be purchased externally, and a potential hazard should we ever have a propane leak (admittedly, the risk is fairly low, and there are several protocols in place to prevent this). It is becoming more common to switch to all electric cooking on boats, which can be run from your batteries and solar panels (and well as wind and hydro generators, if you have them), and therefore adds to your ‘off-grid’ style of living – but that’s a whole other conversation. The point here is that whether it’s an electric or propane stove that you’re using, you don’t want to waste power while cooking.

Soda bread in the oven

The final challenge I’ve been working with is trying to bake in the propane oven. For a boat oven, ours is actually pretty good. It stays reasonably hot (although it struggles to go above 400°F), and heats up fairly quickly. I think I’ve alost got it mastered though – and all it took was a loaf of Irish Soda bread, 3 loves of sandwich bread, and a small batch of scones! A friendly fellow boaters just gave me some sourdough starter, so now I have a whole new bread adventure to undertake.