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Galley Advice from

Kathy Parsons S/V Hale Kai - Coastal Cruiser and Island Hopper

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The founder of Women and Cruising, Kathy has sailed extensively through the Caribbean and Bahamas. She is the author of Spanish for Cruisers and French for Cruisers.
Shopping for herbs and spices in Fort de France, Martinique

About Kathy Parsons

What advice would you give women
in setting up their galleys, in preparing to cook aboard?

When we first started cruising, we were so proud of the satisfying meals that we cooked aboard that we would record each dinner in the log. We no longer do that, but still find that being aboard increases our enjoyment of the food we prepare and eat. There's time to cook and local foods to explore, and when it's time to eat, the view from our dinner table usually can't be beat. So take a little time to prepare a comfortable, efficient cooking area.

Plan the various spaces aboard that you will need for cooking and storing provisions. Often you can make little modifications that seem to make a huge difference in how much useable space you have.

Counter/working space

I often wish I had more, especially since my counter space doubles as the lids to my fridge, freezer, and pot locker. So, on 2 of my boats we added extra counter space. On my tiny Alberg 30, we added a small hinged shelf that I could open up when I needed extra food preparation space. On my Whitby 42, we added a narrow shelf with deep fiddles above the sink that seemed to double my working space.

My galley on Hale Kai with spice racks, fan, opening ports.

On all my boats, we have had spice racks and shelves mounted on the walls that allowed me to keep utensils, spices, and some of my most commonly used cooking items right at hand where I never even have to set them on the counter.

Storage space

To make the most of your storage consider some of these:

  • Wall-mounted storage rack for dishes
    We found one that fit our compact Corelle dishes plus stored our daily cutlery and utensils. Easy to grab and put away! Underway we would wedge an extra pot holder and towel to keep the dishes from moving.

  • Hammocks are great for storing perishable items that you want to make sure to eat quickly as well as lightweight bulky items like bread, chips and crackers.

  • Oven and microwave
    We always store pots and pans in the oven and in the microwave too, especially since the microwave gets so little use out cruising.

  • The choice storage spaces near the galley
    I've never had a galley that came anywhere close to storing all the provisions we need to carry for cruising. So look around (and even create) nearby suitable spaces for storage. The food you carry aboard is going to get used more frequently than many spare parts. Store your food items in the easily accessible lockers near the galley and squirrel away the infrequently needed spare parts in the less-accessible storage locations. To make it more palatable to your mate, offer to make a detailed inventory of the location of all those spare parts.

  • Revamp poorly used spaces
    On my Whitby 42, we had a huge space behind the settee cushions that was almost useless. We got rid of the small cubbyhole-like openings and added shelves with sliding plexiglas doors so that I could see everything. I used bins and big plastic containers (including large plastic restaurant mayonnaise jars) to store bulk items, and I could see everything through the plexiglas. I thought it was wonderful. Visit boats similar to yours, they may have come up with a great way to use hidden space. That's how we discovered that the space under the floor of the nav station would make a great drinks locker. We hinged the floorboard under the nav and gained a great storage space.

  • The bottom of the fridge and freezer
    Our fridge and freezer compartments are deep and each have a compartment at the very bottom under the shelf. We use that area to store extra bags of flour, coffee, yeast, chocolate, etc. We use the vacuum sealer to seal full bags of flour. They stay dry and cool.

Keeping inventory

Food inventory on my PDA

Over time I have tried many different methods to keep track of my provisions from index cards for various compartments to computer spreadsheets.

My current method is working better than my previous efforts but it's pretty geeky.
I have a little PDA that I use for a number of different purposes. I keep my inventory in a list-making program on the PDA which syncs with the computer. this is handy because I can look at or update my inventory on the PDA without having to turn on the computer. I seldom bother to print it out unless I am making a big provisioning run.

Often, I will carry my little PDA to the supermarket with me, in case I run into some find and am unsure how well stocked I am on that item. I also use a marks-a-lot to write the purchase date on food items (cans, boxes) when I buy them so I can use the oldest items first.

If you are nerdy too and want a copy of my food inventory file, email me.


What is the best aspect of cooking aboard?

Hale Kai in the Virgin Islands
Space was limited on my Alberg 30. Baking bread in Maine.
A relaxed, sunny day in a remote anchorage with little more to do than make bread, smell it rising and cooking, and then eat it!

Cooking your own catch of the day so fresh it spoils you for buying fish.

Buying veggies and fruits in local markets that are so flavorful and fresh because they haven't been altered for supermarket shelf life.

Eating according to what you find ashore (or in the water) in the country you visit: it might be mango season, there may be shrimp, or conch, or really good beef, or plantains or christophenes.

Being able to afford fresh herbs.

Sharing a nice happy hour or special dinner with cruising friends especially when we all conspire together, sharing our recipes and ideas.


What is the most challenging aspect of cooking aboard?

Space: both counter space and storage space.

Also, keeping track of what I have aboard.

And I often find it challenging to store and keep up with lots of fresh fruits and veggies aboard in the tropical areas we cruise. I love having them of course and always go overboard in the markets, then have to keep them all fresh until we eat them.


What are the 5 items that you consider essential in your galley?

a good gimbaled propane stove and oven

I do like a built-in broiler too to quickly melt cheese, etc. Where I cruise, it's often warm enough that I don't want to use the oven any more than necessary. But the oven makes it so handy for baking breads and pizzas, as well as sweets.


I cruised one year without it and quickly decided that I needed a boat big enough for refrigeration.

We now have 2 separate boxes, one a fridge and the other a freezer, both efficient 12-volt systems that we can generally keep charged through solar panels, the wind generator and motoring.

I do like having the freezer: In addition to supplying ice for drinks, it allows us to stock up on meat, fish and shrimp when we find them. With our vacuum sealer, they keep well.

pressure cooker

preferably stainless steel with a steamer insert. On my current model, I really appreciate the built-in pressure release lever that allows me to release the pressure after cooking without running under water or waiting.

an insulated melitta thermos

... with a drip filter attachment that screws on top. Makes great coffee and keeps it warm.

I don't think it is available anymore.

a LARGE, DEEP non-stick saucepan

with lid for cooking one-pot meals

good knives

... good heavy-duty kitchen or utility shears and a good knife sharpener.



Some other items that I really enjoy having are:

  • vacuum sealer that allows me to stock up on fish, meat, or shrimp when I find it and freeze it

  • salad spinner which also doubles as a colander. I use the big outside bowl to mix bread dough, knead it, and let rise (less mess). I know that I need to wash lettuce and fresh herbs well. The spinner helps me dry them well afterward.

  • electric coffee grinder, because I love my morning coffee. Beans often keep better than ground coffee.

  • Techni-Ice sheets. They are flexible little blankets for keeping items cold. We keep some in the freezer and take them with us in a cooler bag when we go to the market to keep our food cold. The cooler bag and techni-ice sheets are also great for bringing foods and drinks to potlucks. And they are much more convenient than ice when you need to apply ice to a bruise or other injury.

  • disposable ice cube bags which are super for quickly making fresh ice cubes. You can put them right against the cold plates. We also freeze lime juice in them.

What items
can you easily do without?

I hardly ever use the microwave out cruising.

The only time we ever use it is when we are tied up to a dock where it can come in handy since it heats up food without heating up the boat. We store dishes in ours.

most electric appliances.

No electric toaster, or can-opener, or broiler. Never used a bread maker and wouldn't have room for it though some women swear by them. Years ago when I baked a lot I had an electric hand mixer and I had a blender on my Whitby 42 for fruit smoothies and frozen margaritas.

canned foods that you would never eat back home.


What items
are hard to find once cruising?

  • good plastic wrap and zip-lock plastic bags from small to extra large

  • green vegetable stay-fresh storage bags

  • select-a-size paper towels

  • certain seasoning mixes (cajun, etc., gravy mix, taco seasoning)

  • plastic storage containers (available but outrageously expensive)

    We keep a page in our log where we write down items as we think of them that we want to get on our next trip home. (Include model numbers, sizes if needed.) We tear out the sheet and take it back to the US with us.


Can you describe your galley layout?

My u-shaped galley on my former boat, a Whitby 42. See my shelf above the sink!

We have ...

  • a u-shaped galley to port forward of the companionway,

  • 3-burner gimbaled propane stove and oven with pot grabbers to hold the pots in place. On my last boat, the oven had a broiler which was handy for melting cheese.

  • a 12-volt refrigerator + a 12-volt freezer – I appreciate having both. The 12-volt refrigerator is cooled via a keel cooler so we don't have to worry about water pumps clogging up. The freezer is air-cooled which means we can still use it when the boat is up in the boatyard. We have simple Radio Shack thermometers that show us at a glance the temperature in the box without opening it.


I had a generator on my last boat. On Hale Kai we don't have a generator and I don't miss it at all. Instead we have lots of solar panels and a wind generator, plus an efficient refrigeration system that doesn't require a generator. We do have an inverter which is very handy.

We have 2 deep sinks. The faucet has a single mixing handle for the cold and hot water. It allows me to use less water (big consideration). Our hot water heater runs off 110 volts at the dock; out cruising, we only have hot water if we've run the engine recently. (Our engine's cooling system is plumbed into the water heater and heats the tank whenever the engine is run.) We have pressure water and a back up hand water pump in case the pressure water failed. We have a salt water faucet with a foot pump. Although I wash dishes in fresh water, salt water is great for rinsing out dirty pots, etc.

We have a large regular charcoal water filter under the sink to filter the water that comes out the galley tap. In addition, we have a small extra-fine filter on the tap that we turn on and off as needed. Although we have a watermaker, we also collect rainwater when we can, and fill up ashore when the opportunity permits. The filters allow us to chlorinate our water when we need to always have good-tasting water, but then remove the chlorinated taste. The combination of filters ensures that we don't go through them too quickly.

We have opening ports in the galley and wind scoops that fit on the ports to increase the ventilation in the galley when cooking. We have one 12-volt fan permanently mounted in the galley and another portable clip-on fan that we can move there if needed.

We have both a propane and a charcoal barbecue, since Bill likes to grill. We use them both, but not as much as we like, since it is often too windy in the Caribbean to cook on them.


What is your eating/cooking style on board? Who cooks?

Fresh lobster sandwiches in the Bahamas. Life doesn't get much better.

We are pretty informal for breakfast and lunch, except Sunday morning when Bill cooks me a full breakfast.

I used to cook a lot but now Bill cooks more than I do because he really enjoys cooking -- and he's a great cook!

We drink wine from glass wine glasses – it tastes so much better that way and we seldom break one. We drink our coffee from our favorite ceramic mugs. Everything else we drink from plastic insulated tumblers. On my last boat, I used Corelle dinnerware, a tropical pattern that I found at an outlet. I liked it because it all fit in a rack on the galley wall, making it easily accessible, and it used none of my precious cabinet space. Now, we have nicer ceramic plates and bowls, but they take up too much space, mainly because the bowls don't nest. We also have some Rubbermaid mugs with plastic tops that are good for eating underway in the cockpit if it's rough.

I made place mats from a decorative shelf liner material I found in the islands. I have several sets and they do double-duty cushioning glass bottles and as non-skid.

A cooler is handy: When we have guests aboard, we will buy ice if we can and store drinks in a cooler on deck. Is is hard to keep up with all the cold drinks and guests are usually quite thirsty if they are unused to the tropical temperatures.

A dishwashing tip: To easily remove burned food in the bottom of a pot, add a dryer fabric-softener sheet (a used one works fine) and a little water to the pot. Let it soak 10 minutes or so. Voilá: the burned food washes right out easily.


What cookbook do you recommend?

  • A good basic cookbook that tells you how to cook everything.
    My favorite is an old Joy of Cooking. Bill's favorite is an old Fannie Farmer. Plus I have a big recipe box full of recipes that I collected from other cruisers and from books that I checked out from the library before we went cruising. The handy little book Fishes of the Atlantic Coast by Gar Goodson tells us which fish are safe and good to eat, and which are not.

  • I usually have some sort of regional cookbook for the area I am cruising in.
    I had a Bahamian cookbook aboard in the Bahamas. In the Caribbean, I have an old copy of Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz. It has helped me understand a lot of the local foods and how to use some of the local spices. Bill has added his favorite cookbooks: Sixty Minute Gourmet, Sky Juice and Flying Fish: Traditional Caribbean Cooking, and a few other Caribbean and Hawaiian cookbooks.

  • In addition to cookbooks, I also try to pick up some sort of reference for the local spices and produce, including the words in the local language. Of course since that is a particular love of mine, I've put extensive lists of food words in my French for Cruisers and Spanish for Cruisers books and have shopping and cooking translation cheat sheets on the www.spanishforcruisers.com and www.frenchforcruisers.com websites.


Would you like to share a recipe that works well on the boat?

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)
from Kathy Parsons

    chicken, cut in small pieces
  tbsp olive oil
    salt, pepper
  onion, chopped
  cloves garlic, minced
  green, red, or yellow bell peppers
  cup rice
  can tomatoes with juice
  cup chicken broth (add more if needed)
  bay leaf
  tsp cumin
    saffron threads
  cup green olives with pimientos
  tbsp capers
  cup green peas (frozen or canned)
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in olive oil.
  • Remove the chicken and saute onion, peppers and garlic in oil until soft.
  • Add rinsed rice and saute about a minute.
  • Then add tomatoes with juice, water, bouillon cubes, chicken pieces, bay leaf, saffron, olives, and capers.
  • Simmer at low heat covered until rice and chicken are done.
  • Add more liquid if needed.
  • Stir in peas and cook 5 more minutes.
  • Add some chopped fresh cilantro or parsley if you have it.


If you don't have saffron, try out some of these spices which also make a tasty Arroz con Pollo: achiote/annato, recado, sofrito, tumeric. Ask the ladies in the market how much to use. Some of these spices are also available in sazón packets in the grocery stores but may contain MSG which I try to avoid.

Liquid substitutions: You can replace 1 cup of the water with white wine or even beer. Still tastes good!



It always amazes me that people like my arroz con pollo so much since really I don't have a recipe and never make it the same way twice.

To me, it's more a concept that I adapt to what I have on hand .. and what spices I've found in the local markets that I'd like to try out.

When I have real saffron I use it, but I've also make it with the powdered (fake) azafrán that I have found in Caribbean markets, as well as with recado, sofrito, turmeric, achiote/annato, and sazón packets (which are available in many Latin American countries).

18 Boat Recipes

About Kathy Parsons

Kathy Parsons

Kathy Parsons has been cruising the Caribbean, Bahamas and US for the last 20 years. Kathy and Bill Raynor sail a 38' Downeast cutter Hale Kai. One of Kathy's special joys in cruising is exploring the languages and cultures of the countries they sail to which led her to write 2 phrase books: Spanish for Cruisers and French for Cruisers, both widely used by world cruisers. Together with friends Pam Wall and Gwen Hamlin, Kathy conducts “Women and Cruising” seminars at boat shows, helping women create their cruising life. Kathy is the founder of the Women and Cruising web site.


Hale Kai is a Downeast 38 cutter. Kathy's previous boat was a Whitby 42. Her very first cruising galley was aboard an Alberg 30.

Cruising grounds

Kathy has sailed the US coast from Maine to Texas and spent the equivalent of several years in the Bahamas. But the Caribbean, both East and West is where she has spent most of her time, during 3 extended trips.


On this website:


[February 2009]

Coastal Cruisers and Island Hoppers
have more ready access to regional markets, and cook mostly at anchor

Ann Vanderhoof Heather Stockard Kathy
Mary Heckrotte Sylvie

Catamaran Cruisers
cook on boats that don't heel


Long-Distance Cruisers
provision for long passages and cook often at sea


Cruising Charter Chefs
current & former; challenged by cooking for guests

Swan Neal