If you are going out for a day sail or to watch the sunset whether with friends or chartering a sailboat, folks often ask us what to bring for food. On Now & Zen, a 42ft sailing catamaran that is available for bareboat and crewed charter in the Jacksonville and Miami, Florida areas, we often have parties on board of up to 12 people who bring their own food. So, we have seen what works and what doesn’t. Space is limited on sailboats and even more so when you have a larger group, like 8 to 12 people. Here is what we have learned about food choices for eating while underway.
The criteria we suggest for a sailing picnic is “easy to eat finger food”. Something you can grab with one hand and eat in 1, 2, or 3 bites works best. Avoid anything that requires a knife and fork. Sandwiches are an obvious choice. Cutting up a submarine or grinder into handy sized pieces is an inexpensive and quick solution. Meatballs, sausage cut up into pieces, cheese, and veggie plates make good snacks. Rice crackers hold up in the humidity; water crackers do not. Sushi is good onboard if you’re not to fussy about getting the right proportion of ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce on each piece. We like to grill a pork tenderloin in advance, slice it and serve on sliver dollar rolls with grilled jalapenos. For something special we serve mussels with mango salsa topped with a splash of tequila. Fruit, brownies, and cookies are good desert choices.
Remember on a catamaran you can put out all you food and it won’t slide around, but a conventional sailboat heels over in the wind, so only put out what you’re going to eat.
Foods to Avoid
Potato chips will blow off your plate in any kind of wind and make a greasy mess when you step on them. Chicken wings and ribs are messy to eat, so they are not the best choice. Fried chicken is messy and produces lots of crumbs; likewise flaky crusts and crusty breads. Soups require bowls and spoons so they fail the one handed eating test, not to mention the spill potential, again there are better options. Unless you like working in the galley while everyone else is enjoying themselves, do all your prep before you leave and choose foods that you can serve at “room” temperature.
Packing Your Food
Try and pack all your cold food in a insulated bag or collapsible cooler (likewise for hot food). Transport your dry foods; chips, rolls separately from your cold food to avoid condensation. Almost all cold food (unless you are travelling a couple of hours to pick up your charter) will be fine unrefrigerated and will be put out shortly after boarding for munching anyway.
It is best to bring your favorite beverages. The average person seldom drinks more than 3-4 12 oz. drinks in 4 hrs. (OK, some beer drinkers are above average). If 3 or 4 couples are all bringing drinks, please try to coordinate and consolidate. Finding space for two or three 50 Qt coolers on a sailboat can be a challenge. On Now & Zen, we have a 50 Qt (60 can) hard cooler and a 36 Qt (48 can) soft cooler that you can use. Ice cubes are available at most marinas. Don’t expect that the boat will have ice onboard to cool down all your drinks. That said, most charter boats will have a good supply of bottled water. Now & Zen also has a water purification system on board. We also usually have some sodas like Coke, Sprite, and iced tea, for guests as a courtesy (but no guarantees).
What not to bring
Generally, you can leave the serving dishes and flatware at home. Most charter boats and private yachts will have a fully equipped galley on board. For example, on Now & Zen we have dishes, serving platters and utensils; plates, cups and flatware. Check ahead on your boat and see what is available. On Now & Zen, we help you setup your food and drink and clean up, but others, especially when there is no crew you will have to find your way around the galley yourself.
We hope these suggestions will help you plan a successful picnic on your next sailing excursion. And even if you don’t follow all our suggestions, I know you’ll have a great time, because nothing compares to gliding through the water on the wings of the wind.