Boat Cooking & Cruising Life

I am not quite recently returned from Thailand, but recently recovered from the jet lagged stupor my journey left me with. My family and a few close friends rented a catamaran and went cruising around the southern part of Thailand, with a small amount of time spent on shore (or getting scuba certified!).

On a trip of this nature – away from restaurants, markets, & general convenience – everyone is expected to show up, be present, and pull their weight. This was my third cruising trip as an adult. On the first trip I helped out in the kitchen a lot, but don’t remember being in charge. On the second trip I was hesitant to volunteer my services as a cook, as I was working as a cook at the time and I wanted a vacation, damn it. Despite this, I found myself in the kitchen, helping to provision the boat, and preparing a lot of the meals. So of course this time, I leapt at the opportunity to take the helm in the kitchen.

We decided to use the provisioning service offered by the charter company, which I didn’t find to be adequate. They did a fine job, but there was a huge disparity between they were supplying versus what I wanted to cook. I was in Thailand, man! I wanted to cook Thai food with authentic ingredients! So we ended up doing a combination: utilizing the service & making a trip or two to the market. It was extremely difficult to rein myself in with buying unfamiliar ingredients and I wish I had taken more pictures at the supermarket, but it was packed & there was a lot on our list. The unexpected challenge was that we wouldn’t be able to fall back on beans, an extremely common ingredient when cruising the BVI and Bahamas, not so much in Thailand. The unexpected favorite ingredient of the trip turned out to be dried sweet chile shrimp. We picked them up because we thought they were fried shallots and we couldn’t have been more deliciously wrong! I used them in practically everything.

The boat was not small, but close quarters for any length of time with any amount of people is bound to start feeling small. The kitchen, or galley, on the other hand, seemed to grow with each passing day. As you adjust to new tools, new spaces, & new crews the possibilities of what you’re able to accomplish in the kitchen, and the types of meals you’re able to pull together from the relatively small amount of food on board really is astonishing. I was pleasantly surprised and amused when, a little while into the trip, two crew members expressed regret that they were hoping to cook more. My attitude towards that was well, hell, jump on in! Sometimes at home I’ll refuse help in the kitchen, but on the boat the kitchen proved to be less of a private sanctuary and more of a community space, with any and all help accepted.

The most memorable cooking night was towards the end of the trip. It had been a long day of sailing and snorkeling and we were nearing the end of the trip. Everyone was in a pretty low-key mood, probably tired, and we were in galley-clean out mod, trying to use up the pantry stock. It turned out we had the makings of a good old American barbecue dinner – drumsticks, mashed potatoes, hard boiled eggs. I taught my older brother how to make a janky, from-the-cupboard barbecue sauce, and my mom had conveniently brought some rub from Memphis.

It’s not that everyone on the trip wasn’t always helpful about getting food on the table and cleaning up – a non-stop job on a boat with 10 people – but this night in particular just came together with more ease. We took our time with preparing the meal, everyone seemed to be completely content in their chosen tasks and when we finally sat down on the deck together, everyone fell completely silent as they dug into their plates. It was a lovely moment, an amazing trip, and a pleasure to cook with those folks.

I’ll be back with some recipes from the boat & beyond soon, but for now, here’s a few pictures of the galley, crew members, & drinks! Click  the thumbnail to enlarge the image. If you follow me on instagram @ladydudebro, some of these might be repeats.

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