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Galley Advice from

Mary Heckrotte S/V Camryka - Coastal Cruiser and Island Hopper

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Mary and her husband -- now based in Bocas del Toro, Panama -- have “rattled" around the Caribbean basin like a loose marble on a 36' and 46' monohull.

Mary's Galley aboard Camryka

About Mary Heckrotte

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

Flexibility and adaptability are key characteristics of a happy cruising cook.

The most helpful cooking book I've come across is How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson. This book provides all the lessons Mom could have/would have/should have taught. With basic cooking procedures down pat and a sense of what goes with what, it's easy to adapt and modify to accommodate available supplies and conditions.

An exciting part of cruising is trying local products. Vendors are the best source for information.

Cruising cooks must be hoarders. When you see what you want, buy all you can stow/use as the product may not be available at the next island or even at the same store tomorrow.

Hoarding recipes is a helpful habit, too, but not cookbooks as each one generally has only a few recipes of interest. The rest of the book is filled with recipes that include hard-to-find or store ingredients or ingredients you don't eat. It's easy to copy recipes that look promising on index cards and stow them in small boxes. Cookbooks can be borrowed from friends and libraries or purchased at thrift stores and passed along when you have copied what you want.


Mary's Famous Cheesecake

Some of the best recipes are the ones you beg from fellow cruisers and even from restaurants. The Internet, magazines, and newspapers are excellent sources. If I prepare the recipe, I note the date and location, any variations I've made, mention any guests, and make comments about the dish. My cards are a travel log of memories. Computerized cookbook programs are a godsend when you don't know what to do with what you have on hand. List the ingredients and the program will pull up dozens of recipes using those particular ingredients.

You probably won't use as many electrical gadgets onboard, but for the most part, meal preparation isn't any different than it is in a house since most cooking is done at a marina or at anchor.


We all tend to worry about how we will cook at sea but
1) we aren't at sea as much as we had imagined,
2) we don't eat much when we're underway.
For crossing the Atlantic, we prepared and froze ordinary meals ahead of time in foil pans that could be heated in the oven. For a 5 or 6 day passage, we prepare in advance and refrigerate meals that don't require additional cooking such as Chinese Chicken Salad or Steak and Green Bean Vinaigrette. Underway we tend to eat more snack foods than anything else.


What is the best aspect
of cooking aboard?

  • Unlike land life where schedules were always tight and time at home limited, cruising has afforded not only plenty of preparation time but also time to ponder recipes, shop for ingredients, and experiment with new foods.

  • And even after 16 years aboard, I get the biggest thrill from cooking in my same old pots on my same old stove and looking out my porthole at a whole new country.
    How cool is that?!!

What is the most challenging aspect of cooking aboard?

  • food preparation space (part of which is on top of the fridge so must be moved to open the fridge.)

  • insufficient space at the table for food and seating guests

  • size of oven (a turkey in the pan must be less than 6”high!)

  • having the ingredients the recipe calls for at hand (perhaps not available to purchase or stowed aboard in the deepest recess of a locker)

  • limited freezer space

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


A few drops in a gallon of water to soak vegetables and fruits kills more of the bugs that cause intestinal problems than does bleach.

Tupperware containers

Although expensive initially, these containers will pay for themselves by keeping moisture, mold, and critters out of your provisions.

10” cast iron skillet

Although it may be because of my Southern heritage, I find this pan more useful than any other, not only for frying but also for baking. A squirt of cooking spray after the pan is washed prevents rust and maintains the patina.


good knives

Since we buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, much meal preparation time is spent peeling, slicing, or chopping. Good knives save time and effort.

7”x11” stainless steel casserole pan

This one pan is used for cakes, casseroles, roasts, and breads. And it fits perfectly in our small boat oven.


What items can you
easily do without?

A number of years ago, I wrote an article for Living Aboard titled,"Take it Easy, Mon, We Got Bread in de Island!" How very true!

We loaded up far too much food from the US

... taking up valuable space, weighing down the boat, and going bad before we could eat it all.

With improved distribution, the world has changed since the days many of the provisioning books were written, at least the ones I read. Now days you'll find basic foods wherever you cruise, more specialty items than you are led to believe, and of course plenty of local products to add to your adventures.

What items are
hard to find once cruising?

  • canning jars and lids

  • no-fat foods
    (mayonnaise, evaporated milk, cheese)

  • special seasonings
    (Jane's Crazy Salt, Old Bay, Heinz 57)

  • grits

  • rye bread or other bread variations
    (or the flour to make them)


Can you describe your galley layout?

On Camryka, we are blessed with a marvelous galley, almost a proper kitchen except for the top opening fridge compartments.

  • The fridge has 2 sections, both of which have much added insulation. One section houses the small Adler-Barber freezer. I don't give up any freezer space to ice cube trays (we just keep beverages in the fridge) and by buying only boneless meats, we can mange for two months.

  • We have double stainless steel sinks with pressure water. We only have hot water when we run the engine. (A teaspoon of bleach in the Joy detergent bottle is handy and assures sanitary dishes.) We don't have a seawater pump as I think it takes just as much water to rinse off the salt and we rarely cruise where the water is clean.

  • The galley has generous cabinets and we have several large lockers devoted to food storage in other sections of the boat.

  • The Force 10 BBQ is in storage as my husband doesn't like to grill and I can't be in the galley and tend to the grill at the aft end of the cockpit.

  • We have a small portable back-up generator but mostly rely on solar and wind generator with an inverter. The microwave only works with shore power. The bread maker is handy for mixing dough but unless we are at a dock, I don't bake in it.


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

For lunch, my husband prepares and eats leftovers or a sandwich. I often skip lunch or find odds and ends for a snack. We share a proper sit-down dinner at the cockpit table when weather permits or otherwise at the main salon table.

Ordinarily we work hard to maintain a healthy low-fat and low-sodium diet with fresh meats and veggies. When underway, though, we tend to eat much more junk and snack foods. We each keep preferred snack foods stored onboard and help ourselves as the notion strikes. I rarely make desserts except for company.

We have service for 8 Correlle dinner ware and plenty of glass glasses. We mostly use cloth napkins (bandanas are perfect) and get out the place mats for guests


Sponge Cake Deluxe
My lovely salad

What cookbook do you recommend?

With limited space, my recipes on index cards are a treasure trove gleaned from dozens of cookbooks and collected from here there and yon over the years.

In 2001 on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, I put together a cookbook with over 400 recipes contributed by generous cruisers and their families and friends. The cookbook is called Buen Provecho, Rio Dulce. If I had no other recipes available, I'd fare quite well with these as cruisers shared their best.


The cookbook "Buen Provecho, Rio Dulce", was photocopied and bound in
Guatemala and sold (quite successfully) for the benefit of Ak'Tenamit, an
impressive project benefiting Mayan Indians on the Rio Dulce.


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

from Mary Heckrotte


3   cups all purpose flour*
1   package yeast
1   tsp salt
2   tbsp sugar
1   cup very warm water
(120-130° F)
2   tbsp olive oil
  can substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour if desired



3/4   cup pizza sauce
2   cups shredded Mozzarella cheese *
3   cups thinly sliced fresh vegetables
2   cups Parmesan cheese, grated
  or substitute 1 cup Cheddar or Monterey Jack


  • In large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.
  • Stir in water and oil.
  • Mix in enough of remaining flour to make a soft dough.
  • Knead on floured surface until smooth, about 5 minutes*
  • Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
  • Roll or stretch dough onto 10”x15” rectangular pan or a 12” -14” round pan or stone.
  • Add toppings in order given.
  • Bake at 450° for 20 minutes or until crust is golden

* or place all ingredients in bread maker in order specified by manufacturer.


- Add meat or seafood as desired such as canned or fresh shrimp, crabmeat, anchovies, browned beef, pepperoni, diced ham or chicken.
- When fresh veggies are not available, some good substitutes are:
. canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
. sliced olives
. sliced sun-dried tomatoes

Before cruising, when there was always a Dominoes or Pizza Hut only a phone call away, I never would have imagined making my own pizza. But my husband and our guests have been pleased with my efforts.

It's all thanks to Barb Maness on s/v Homeward Bound who kindly shared her recipe for “Garden Patch Pizza.”

The nicest thing is that the dough doesn't have to sit for hours to rise. Although the instructions are for making the dough by hand, I usually put the ingredients in the bread maker and let it do the work, not even a floury mess to clean up.

As soon as the dough is ready, I spread it on the pizza stone, a very handy item to have aboard. By the time I have all the toppings chopped, the crust has risen to perfection. Toppings are always “what we got in the fridge today.”

The recipe calls for a cup of very warm water. Another cruising woman taught me that if I mix 1/2 cup boiling water with 1/2 cup cold water, the temperature will be just right.

18 Boat Recipes

About Mary Heckrotte

Mary Heckrotte

Mary ready for a CAMRYKA Happy Hour

Since 1992, Mary and husband Carl have drifted mostly in the southern and western areas of the Caribbean, first on Mariah, a Westerly 36, and then on Camryka, a Pan Oceanic 46. They were accompanied by Tashi for many years and now by Mandy, both Miniature Schnauzers who have excelled in the job of ship's Chief Security Officer. Although far from finished with cruising, Mary and Carl recently claimed Bocas del Toro, Panama as home ground and built a small house where cruising friends are readily welcomed for potluck on the porch.

Mary has been a frequent contributor to sailing publications including Living Aboard, Caribbean Compass (especially the cooking column "Whacha Gonna Do With All That ...?"), the latest SSCA Cookbook, Cruising World, and Latitudes and Attitudes. Mary also is a contributor to Gwen's Hamlin's "Admiral's Angle".


Camryka is a 1983 Pan Oceanic 46' Pilothouse Cutter (A Ted Brewer design) built in the Philippines and outfitted in the US. In her early years she flitted from marina to marina on the Chesapeake Bay. They bought her when she was 12 years old and turned her into a bluewater-ready lady. She got all new standing rigging and chain plates, solar panels, a wind generator, SSB, radar, a second self steering gear, cruising sails, yachta, yachta, yachta.

Cruising grounds

Mary and Carl have rattled like a loose marble about the Caribbean Basin since 1992. They've spent most of that time in the southern Caribbean (Trinidad, Grenada, Venezuela, Curacao) and the western Caribbean (Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama.)

Although far from finished with cruising, Mary and Carl recently claimed Bocas del Toro, Panama as home ground and built a small house where cruising friends are readily welcomed for potluck on the porch. They are now cruising part time.


Mary Heckrotte also contributed to our article "Refitting the Galley: 12 Experiences": you can read what she had to say here.

[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