Passage meals: what we’re eating at sea

flying the asymmetric

What do you eat on a passage? How do you prepare food for everyone, and have enough on board?

This question came from a few different places after our weeklong sail from Namibia to St Helena. I don’t normally track what we eat, but this time I’d been writing down our meals in the margins of my journal along the way, and offer them here as an example. It’s not a very fair one though as we probably ate better than normal, given the great provisioning (so fresh, so affordable!) in Namibia, coupled with comfortable passage conditions. Meal prep was a lot easier than usual! There was minimal swearing in the galley, despite being on a port tack most of the time.

For this particular passage, we had the boat so stuffed full of food—to minimize purchase until we get to the Caribbean (April) or USA (June)—that we’re overstocked. Finding ingredients is more a question of “where did I put the couscous?” than whether or not we have any.

Apologies to my family. Nobody looks good when they’re eating.

My planning approach is similar for most passages. I keep a list of meals we typically eat underway—it evolves by region, as different foods are easy or hard to find—and check off a mental list of provisions to have for a handful of them. I’ll prep a couple to make the first day or two out as easy as possible, when I’m least feeling like cooking. If we’d expected bad weather- we didn’t- I’d have more prepared for easy heat-and-eat options. If we had needed them, we could have done a few can-dump-meals in adverse conditions.

What’s not typical about these meals is how much I used the oven. In the tropics, it’s simply too hot to do that much baking and roasting. But we had cool weather most of the passage, so it helped warm us and the boat; besides, hot bread makes for a happy crew.

Departure Day

  • Croissants with butter and jam
  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Rendang and rice (Indonesian-style beef curry)

Day 2

  • Oatmeal and raisins (it’s COLD!)
  • Corn fritters and steamed veggies
  • Moroccan beef tagine with couscous (using the more of the delicious Namibian beef)

Day 3

  • Eggs and toast
  • Fresh focaccia and apples
  • Roast chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy

Day 4

  • Scones (oat/fruit/nut)
  • Greek salad
  • Pasta with zucchini, chard and parmesan

Day 5

  • Granola and yogurt
  • Salami & cheese sandwiches on fresh bread
  • Baked chicken (lemon/smoked paprika marinade), green beans, “halfway cake” (crossed the halfway mark in the wee hours of the morning)

Day 6

  • Apple upside down cake (left from the night before)
  • Grilled ham & cheese, fruit salad
  • Smoked bockwurst, peppers & onions

Day 7

  • Fried eggs and potato pancakes (from leftover mashers)
  • Melon wrapped with salami
  • Enchiladas stuffed with zucchini, chard, and borlotti beans; hot cornbread


  • Panfried cornbread (half the reason I make cornbread is to fry it for breakfast)
  • Soup & salad
  • Pasta with ham, peas, and cream sauce; fresh garlic bread


Besides meals, we always have a couple of grab-as-you-need options. There’s fruit, as long as it lasts, either in a bowl on the counter or at the top of the fridge. A dedicated locker on the port side holds snacks from crackers to nuts and dried fruit. Treats are stashed too: I made gingersnaps before we left Walvis Bay, and have a few bars of dark chocolate to sweeten the wee hours of watch at night. Teenagers with hollow legs can always fill up with a bowl of granola.

I’m thinking of tracking meals again on the coming passage, because it’s probably going downhill from here!

13 Responses

  1. You people eat better during passage than I do at home. (Pretty sure that’s more an indication of my atrocious cooking skills than anything.) Enjoy!

  2. Wow, this is definitely nicer than we make even while just sitting at anchor! Is there a cookbook in your future? (BTW, there’s a fresh papaya on board right now, along with your chutney recipe … can’t wait to try it!

    1. If there’s one book I’m pretty sure I’ll never write it’s a cookbook! Hope that chutney came out nicely for you. 🙂

  3. A cookbook is a great idea! Your meals sound wonderful, Behan!

    Can you describe how you fry your leftover cornbread? Just a little (or a lot) of butter in the pan?

    1. Hi Behan,
      Let me add to Dan’s question: how do you make corn fritters underway? I suspect you don’t have 2″ of hot oil boiling on the stove.

      1. Hey Rich- I pan fry vs deep fry (deep frying a RARE event on Totem, maybe once a year, for donuts); these fritters are sort biscuit-like, I just drop the batter by spoonfulls into a cast iron pan with a bit of butter/oil on the bottom.

    1. I’ve tried a few times, and much to my chagrin, have always failed. I know others manage. I used to have a great herb/veg garden on land… something about pot gardening doesn’t work with me I guess! I think the saltwater environment makes it tough, too. Boats that make it work need a place where plants can be safely stowed away from any salt spray.

  4. Behan, just a quick thank-you for your family’s blog. I’m from the Nat Geo generation who experienced vicariously Robin Lee Graham’s teen-age voyage. It has taken me many years to get on the water. Though I continue to dream of what you and your family are doing, my reality is having the incredible opportunity to live in Spain part-time and coastal sail the other times. I so enjoy your pragmatic but personal observations in your blog. In addition, your fotos are lovely as well. Finally, in a reply that is too long, a value your role as a moderator for WWS. Hats off to you and your family!

    1. Hi Kathryn, Robin Lee Graham has a lot to answer for IMHO! Sounds to me like you have a pretty sweet deal with Spain + coastal cruising. thanks for chiming in!

  5. Behan just made a batch of your papaya chutney and absolutely loved it. Put up 6 jars and gave away 2. Your recipe was spot on. My fellow cruisers kinda chuckle at me when I tell them I have 3 pressure cookers and a pressure canner on board! But you know how wonderful day it is to have the extra big pots for all kinds of uses. Please share more of your tried and true recipes. Love the lotion as well. We had a lot of fun making it with my grandgirls, and giving as gifts. Thank you.

    1. So glad you liked it Deb! Wow, 3 pressure cookers… I think I have PC envy! Would need to get rid of something to make room for another, though. Hm….

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