Go to WomenAndCruising.com

Galley Advice from

Ann Vanderhoof S/V Receta - Coastal Cruiser and Island Hopper

Next Woman
18 Women
The author of An Embarrassment of Mangoes and The Spice Necklace, Ann has let her interest in food shape their cruising experiences in the Caribbean aboard their Tartan 42 sloop.
Ann Vanderhoof with the fritters she made from lambi (conch)
Ann Vanderhoof with the fritters she made from lambi (conch) Grenadian fishermen  friends gave them one day. The recipe is in her new book, The Spice Necklace.


About Ann Vanderhoof

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

Think about what you use – and what you like – in your daily cooking/eating routine at home, and make sure you transfer as much of that as possible onboard (given the limited storage space, of course).

Live aboard cruising isn't like a 2-week holiday: your galley is now your home kitchen, and you don't want to feel you're roughing it every time you prepare a meal.

For instance: When we first moved aboard and started cruising, I had no china or glass in the galley, fearing breakage. But I like drinking wine out of a stemmed glass, and I like my morning coffee in a ceramic mug. And when we have guests for happy hour, I'm convinced my snacks look more appetizing on my favorite “from home” china serving plates and bowls.

Plastic made me feel like we were camping – so gradually we introduced some glassware and china into the galley. Much to my surprise, we've lost only one glass in the last two years – which is better than our record living on land.

High-quality pots and pans (and a pressure cooker: see #4, below) are essential boat equipment – perhaps even more so than on land. They tend to cook more efficiently – a real bonus in a small space that heats up quickly. And take it from me: You will curse a cheesy frying pan or pot every time you have to scrub off burned food in a small boat sink with limited – or no – hot water. Pots and pans that nest help conserve storage space.

A well-lit galley makes meal prep easier and more pleasant, too. (In the Caribbean, where we're cruising, sunset is around 6 pm year-round, so I am usually prepping/cooking dinner after dark.) Adding an energy-efficient light (or two) can make a big difference in how you feel about time spent in the galley.

Make sure the galley equipment you use frequently is easily accessible. Having to lift out a bunch of stuff to get at the pot you need grows tiresome very quickly.


What is the best
aspect of cooking aboard?

    Hands down, the reward of cooking aboard for me is the opportunity it allows to

    try local ingredients and recreate local dishes in my own galley.

    I love to shop at local markets, discover new-to-me ingredients – fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, types of fish and seafood – and chat with the market vendors and other island residents about how they like to prepare them. Then I go back to my galley and experiment.

    These local lessons have been the source of some of our most wonderful meals – and some new friendships.


What is the most challenging aspect of cooking aboard?

the limited space of my galley

It requires me to be EXTREMELY well organized, especially when we're entertaining. In Receta 's small galley, for instance, the top of the fridge/freezer is my main “counter space” – which means I have to make sure I've removed everything I need from the fridge/freezer before I set stuff on top and start to work. Also, I'm challenged to cook more neatly aboard, to keep the subsequent clean-up under control.

I do miss the ease of having a dishwasher.

Ann Vanderhoof on Saline Island, Carriacou
Lobster for lunch on Saline Island, Carriacou
(with Sherwin Noel  of "Lambi Queen")
Ann Vanderhoof is learning to roll coo-coo on Carriacou
Learning to roll coo-coo on Carriacou
(with local cook Leslie Anne Calliste)


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

a good pressure cooker

cuts cooking time of everything from chicken to conch, goat to octopus, making whatever's in the pot extremely tender and flavorful while reducing heat in the galley (and conserving propane)

a big stock pot

essential for cooking lobster and crabs, or pasta/stews for a group

good knives

including one for filleting fish, and a proper knife sharpener

thermal carry bags

essential when you shop in hot climates, and for carrying cold drinks (or hot dishes) to potlucks on shore/beach/another boat.

the cutting board ...

... that fits overtop of half my double sink. providing additional work surface

3 more things I can't live without in my galley:

a microplane

great for zesting limes and other citrus fruit, as well as grating cheeses, garlic, onion – and, of course, nutmeg for dusting on top of rum punch; one simple tool does several jobs well and takes little storage space

my digital kitchen scale

I almost didn't move this aboard, thinking it wouldn't “earn” its storage space. But I use it to weigh seafood that we catch (and buy) as I package it for the fridge/freezer, as well as to weigh other ingredients. The scale is pressed into service much more frequently than I imagined it would be

an instant-read thermometer and an oven thermometer


What items
can you easily do without?

I'm happy to do without electric appliances.

Despite what the directions in a recipe say, you can do almost everything by hand with a bit of muscle power – including whip cream (with a stainless-steel whisk or hand-cranked egg beater) and cream butter and sugar for a cake (with a wooden spoon).

That said, I do have a Cuisinart “stick”/wand blender with a small food-processor attachment onboard, and it does get called into service. (It draws hardly any amps.)

And if you can't live without freshly ground coffee beans, by all means make room for your coffee grinder aboard, or whatever other small appliance makes life easier for you. They take a small amount of storage space -- and cruising shouldn't mean doing without something you enjoy.


one-purpose gizmos

-- such as a garlic press -- don't earn their keep on Receta , which has limited galley storage space. (Instead, I mince garlic or grate it on my microplane.)

I thought silicone bakeware would be great on a boat

... because it stores more compactly than conventional metal baking pans. However, I found it didn't work for me, as the silicone muffin “tins” and baking sheets proved too floppy (especially on a boat) to use on their own and needed to be “backed” with a metal baking tray or pan in any case.


What items are hard to find once cruising?

This depends very much on what you're addicted to and can't live without. At the top of my list, for instance, would be big, hard sourdough pretzels, because they are my stomach-settler on rough passages – but, obviously, this is a very personal preference.

The following are also on my list of the hard-to-find and prefer-not-to-live-without:

  • sugar-free drink mixes
    (such as Crystal Light lemonade)

  • Lipton Cold-Brew Tea bags for iced tea
    I've never seen them outside the U.S., and they are a terrific idea on a boat because you don't need boiling water to steep them, and it takes less time and energy to chill the resulting tea since you're starting with room-temperature water.

  • Ziploc, Hefty, or similar zipper-type storage bags in all sizes
    The jumbo ones (2.5 gallons) in particular are difficult to find, and extremely useful. (Beyond the galley, I use them onboard for storing clothes and extra linens and towels.) Even though it's possible to find smaller Ziplocs in the Eastern Caribbean, where we're cruising, they are usually less expensive if bought at home.

  • depending on where you're cruising, good chocolate – especially (unsweetened) baking chocolate and chocolate chips -- can be hard to come by and/or expensive. Ditto nuts for baking, such as walnuts and pecans.


Can you describe your galley layout?

Ann Vanderhoof's galley aboard Receta
Papaya muffins just out of the oven (the recipe is here)

Receta 's tiny U-shaped galley is to port at the bottom of the companionway steps. With a floor space of about 2 feet x 2 feet, the galley can accommodate only one person comfortably at a time. (2 cooks would definitely spill the broth long before they spoiled it.)

  • One arm of the U is occupied by the fridge/freezer, which uses a 12-volt Isotherm water-cooled cold-plate system to “spill” cold from a small freezer section to the rest of the fridge.

  • The other arm of the U has a double-sink and a dry locker. We have 3 fresh-water taps in the galley: hot and cold water direct from the tank, plus a tap attached to a General Ecology/Seagull filter. There is also a freshwater hand pump. We have a wonderful folding plastic dish drainer, which precisely fits onto a small hinged fold-down countertop next to our sink. (Unfortunately, it's beginning to crack from years of use, and we are desperate to find another one of the same dimensions.)

  • At the base of the U is a HilleRange 3-burner propane stove and oven, and a propane barbecue is mounted on Receta's stern rail.

We have a 1000-watt inverter, so I can use small conventional electric appliances, but (as noted above) I usually do most of my galley work by hand.

Pots and pans, dishes, glasses, spices, and frequently used non-perishables (olive oil, vinegar, honey, etc.) are stored in lockers in the galley for convenient access.


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

Ann Vanderhoof aboard Receta
Dinner that I reeled in between Carriacou and Grenada.
Barracuda. Delicious.

Almost every night we're home, we set the table (see below) and sit down to dinner, usually in the main salon but sometimes in the cockpit. On Receta , dinner is the one meal that is definitely NOT catch-as-catch-can. I mostly cook from scratch (with the help of the odd can or jar), focusing on what's available fresh locally.

If I've been to the Saturday market in Port of Spain, Trinidad, say, dinner might be curried shrimp with rice and a salad. If we're in Grenada and fishermen friends have stopped by with fresh lambi (conch), we might cook it in foil on the barbecue (using my recipe in An Embarrassment of Mangoes) or stew it in the pressure cooker and serve it with rice and “creamed” callaloo (using the method a Grenadian friend taught me, which is included in The Spice Necklace .)

And, of course, we cook fish whenever we can buy it, catch it, or are given it as a gift – pan-fried, grilled, curried, you name it. (We eat red meat onboard very infrequently.)

We set the table with place mats and use cloth napkins (from Art Fabrik in Grenada), except when we're eating a dish that requires our fingers, like lobster or crab. (Then we revert to paper towels.)

I do most of the cooking on Receta , because I enjoy it -- though Steve is in charge when dinner is on the grill. (He also has a few stove specialties, including a fabulous Creole octopus.) The tradition on Receta is that I wash, Steve dries, and both of us put away – usually with some lively soca, calypso, or steel-pan accompaniment.

Breakfast and lunch are more casual. We usually have fruit and cereal for breakfast (with either yogurt – sometimes homemade – or UHT milk), and, occasionally, fresh-baked muffins (such as the papaya-banana muffins in An Embarrassment of Mangoes (see recipe here). Lunch if we're onboard is usually a quick sandwich.


What cookbook do you recommend?

My favorite books to cook from are my own:

An Embarrassment of Mangoes, by Ann Vanderhoof Ann Vanderhoof's new book: The Spice Necklace

- An Embarrassment of Mangoes (published in 2004; available through Amazon, The Nautical Mind, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, and other online booksellers)

- and The Spice Necklace (available in Canada, to be released in the USA on June 23, 2010)

Both books contain recipes at the end of each chapter, based on Caribbean ingredients and cuisines.

    The recipes started with suggestions from market ladies, home cooks, restaurant cooks, farmers, and other locals, but then I take the advice/directions I'm given verbally (or what I've observed in an island kitchen) and work out precise quantities and methods in my galley.


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

Papaya-Banana Muffins

from An Embarrassment of Mangoes - Ann Vanderhoof

Makes 1 dozen

This recipe is a solution to the problem of too much ripe tropical fruit. These muffins have lovely color and flavor, and are nice and moist – plus they're quick and easy to put together.

You can make the muffins entirely with papaya if you like; just increase the quantity to 1 1/2 cups. The muffins will have a slightly moister texture and a flatter top.

1 2/3   cups flour
1   tsp baking powder
1   tsp baking soda
1/4   tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1   egg
1/3   cup oil
3/4   cup sugar
  cup very ripe papaya, mashed
1/2   cup very ripe banana, mashed
(1 large banana)
1/4   cup walnuts, chopped


    Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a muffin pan or line it with muffin papers.

    1. Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

    2. Beat eggs with oil, sugar, and mashed banana and papaya in a large bowl.

    3. Mix in dry ingredients and walnuts (if using). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pan. Bake in preheated oven for 18–23 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.


18 Boat Recipes

About Ann Vanderhoof

Ann Vanderhoof

Ann Vanderhoof is currently cruising the Eastern Caribbean with her husband Steve Manley on their sailboat Receta. ("Receta" is the Spanish word for recipe).

Her first book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes (about taking a two-year midlife break and sailing Receta from Toronto, Canada, to the Caribbean), was a national bestseller in Canada and an Amazon Top Ten Book of the Year for Travel.

Her second book, The Spice Necklace: a Food-lover's Caribbean Adventure (2010), continues Receta 's Caribbean adventures, as Ann follows her nose (and her tastebuds) from island to island, taking readers along as she searches for oregano-eating goats in the Dominican Republic, hunts crayfish and land crabs in Dominica, crams for a chocolate-tasting test at the University of the West Indies, downs moonshine straight from backyard stills, and meets an unforgettable cast of island characters.

She also writes about Caribbean food and travel for Gourmet magazine.


Receta is a 1981 Tartan 42 sailboat (sloop); aft cabin, aft cockpit. She's very fine fore and aft, so space (including room to stow large items) is more limited than with many more “modern” sailboat designs.

Cruising grounds

Currently, Ann and Steve are cruising in the Eastern Caribbean.



[February 2009] [Updated July 2010]

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