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Galley Advice from

Barbara Theisen S/V Out of Bounds - Catamaran cruiser

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Author of Kids Aboard: a Guide to Cruising as a Family, Barbara has cruised with her family of 4 for 20 years aboard a Gulfstar 41 and a 39' Privilege catamaran.
Barb Theisen's Galley

About Barbara Theisen

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

Take Your Time

Give yourself a couple of months of using your galley and then decide on additions and upgrades. Jot down improvement ideas during this time. After using the galley for a bit of time, you'll see what works well and what needs improvement.

You may be surprised to find out that the galley didn't actually need that many changes. Rather you simply needed to make a few adjustments to fit yourself to your galley's layout.

Our daughter, who lived aboard since she was 3-years old, is off to college. She's renting a very small house with a tiny kitchen. She commented “This small kitchen is so much easier to use than the large kitchen in the house I rented last year.”


If you're still looking for your cruising boat, keep in mind that good ventilation in a cruising boat is essential, especially in the galley. A large overhead hatch that funnels a breeze throughout the galley will be much appreciated.


I think it's a misconception that a cruising boat should install a top loading refrigerator. The thought is that since warm air rises and cold air sinks, that when you open a top loading fridge, less cold air escapes, but when you open a front loading fridge, the cold air can all spill right out the door. This may be true, but I still think that a front loading fridge make more sense.

Here is what I don't like about top loading refrigerators:

  • On a cruising boat, counter space is at a premium and you need to clear the counter space on top of the fridge lid to be able to open the fridge.
  • The opening lid can be cumbersome to open and to free up both hands, you will need to have a way to keep the fridge lid open
  • Many units are located in areas where it is difficult, especially for a short person, to access. It may be impossible to reach the bottom.
  • Even when baskets are used, it is usually less user-friendly than a front opening fridge.


A front opening fridge is easier to organize and easier to access the contents and so usually the door is open for less time, thereby becoming more efficient than a top loading fridge. You will lose even less cold air and increase the efficiency of your front opening fridge if you install what is sometimes referred to as "frost air brakes". They are basically clear, heavy vinyl strips that hang down from the top edge of your fridge. You can get these at any home improvement store. 

Some front opening refrigerators may have a problem with contents shifting around while heeled over and then falling out of the fridge when you open the door. I've never had this happen but the fridge on our monohull had a door that opened forward rather than to port or starboard and it had a large lip to hold the contents in.


What is the best aspect of cooking aboard?

  • Cooking the fish and lobster that we catch ourselves and cooking with local foods (especially the wonderfully fresh and inexpensive produce)

    Kenna helps her dad with the shopping at a produce market in the Bahamas.
    Be sure to ask the local ladies at the produce markets for advice on cooking produce and other items that you're unfamiliar with.

  • and of course being able to do it all while anchored in the most beautiful places in the world!


What is the most challenging aspect of cooking aboard?

I think that getting into your own “groove” of cooking in your galley can be challenging initially.

But over time you add little touches (things such as adding hooks to hang your most often used cooking utensils, adding shelves, etc). You learn little tricks (get items out of your top loading fridge before using the lid as part of your counter space, or setting tall items that interfere with the opening of a cupboard so they aren't in front of that cupboard that you'll need to open). Knowing how to make the most of your galley layout will make life in the galley easier.

After 15 years aboard our monohull, I found the galley in our catamaran required me to find a “new” groove. But give it time and you'll soon find yourself dancing your way smoothly through meal prep.


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

pressure cooker

  • A pressure cooker will save you both time and cooking fuel.

    Generally speaking, pressure cookers cook foods in about 1/3 the time of conventional cooking methods. A 3 - 4 pound pot roast will cook in about 40 minutes, a boneless chicken breast in around 5 minutes and it will take a mere 15 minutes to cook up brown rice.  The reduced cooking time is a lifesaver when preparing meals in the tropics – less time with the stove on, means less heat buildup in the boat.

  • A pressure cooker will also turn inexpensive cuts of meat into tender, savory meals. 

  • If your boat isn't equipped with an oven, you will discover that you can bake in your pressure cooker.

  • And of course the cooker can always double as a large saucepan.

  • Some pressure cookers can be used as canners, as well.

    If you've been avoiding using a pressure cooker because you thought they could be unsafe, rest assured. Today's pressure cookers are completely safe to use. One food critic says, “today's totally safe pressure cookers - sleeker, speedier, more user-friendly than the microwave oven…”


(and husband who loves to cook on it)

The grill is another great way to keep the interior of the boat cool when cooking in the tropics and is a great way to cook fish and other seafood.


magic bullet

This is a small, versatile combination of a blender/food processor. I happen to be a fruit smoothie junkie and this is the perfect tool for me.

On our previous boat we didn't have a generator or an inverter and I never found a 12 volt blender that had any real power to it. On our current boat we have an inverter and so a regular 110 volt blender worked fine.

But when my husband gave me the Magic Bullet as a gift, I knew it was perfect for the boating life. It has a small base, two different blade attachments, a tall cup, a short cup and 4 drinking cups, and various lids. So I make my smoothie right in a drinking cup (less dishes to wash) or I can make everyone their own smoothie just how they like it.

The Magic Bullet grinds coffee beans, as well as grates cheese, minces garlic or onions, etc. and is perfect for whipping up salsa, soups, frozen drinks, etc. Easy to store and multipurpose. Perfect!

favorite recipes/cookbooks

Most people find that they have more time to cook from scratch when cruising, so having your favorite recipes and cookbooks is a must!

quality nesting pans with removable handles

Originally I had some inexpensive nesting pans but they only lasted a few years. I invested in a high quality set, which was more costly but has been worth every penny.

Mine is the Rapid Chef 21 piece nesting cookware set. They're stainless steel, store inside each other (takes up less than 1 cubic foot of space) and have detachable handles (not just easier to store, but fit better in the sink). The set includes plastic lids that fit over the pans, making them double as storage containers.


What items can you easily do without?

My husband and I started cruising with our two young daughters when we were in our early 30s. We didn't have much money but we wisely decided it was better to go cruising than wait until we could “have it all.”

We lived aboard for 10 years without refrigeration.

We've now had refrigeration (and a freezer) for nearly 10 years and I love it. Yes, it makes life more comfortable. But if I had to do it all over again, I would choose to go without many creature comforts if it meant the difference between going cruising and waiting. Bottom line, what's your comfort level?


What items are hard to find once cruising?

  • convenience/prepared foods
    These are either difficult to find or very expensive once you leave the U.S. Depending on your needs you can either stock up, go without or find ways to make these items from scratch.

  • garbage bags, Ziploc® bags
    Stock up on large boxes of these whenever you come across a Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. They're easy to store. I like to have a quality garbage bag (strong!) as we often have to store garbage longer then we'd like before we find a place to dispose it. And you'll never run out of ideas for using sealable (Ziploc®) bags.

  • tortillas
    are hard to find outside the U.S. and Latin American countries but are easy to make yourself. Buy a tortilla press (inexpensive and easy to store) and stock up on masa harina (found in most grocery stores in the U.S. and Mexico).

  • yogurt
    can be hard to find in some places but is also easy to make yourself. We use a thermos to make ours. You can use a bit of yogurt from your last batch as “starter” but just in case, you can have a backup of “Yogurt Starter Cultures” (needs no refrigeration) available from Lehmans, an Amish Hardware Store ( www.lehmans.com ).

  • fresh herbs and sprouts
    These can be grown aboard and add a wonderful taste of freshness when you've been anchored in paradise far from civilization for a while.


Can you describe your galley layout?

We have a catamaran with a galley down. The galley has deep, double sinks (one holds a dish drying rack), fridge (freezer in other hull), 3-burner stove with oven, fresh water tap and saltwater pump.

We don't have a generator but we do have an inverter, which runs my Magic Bullet (blender/mini food processor—see above).

I invested in stainless steel nesting pans and love them. I've also found some wonderful rubber collapsible items such as a funnel and a colander (from Avon) that store easily and I also like the expandable plastic storage containers from Rubbermaid® (they collapse to take up very little space).

The pressure cooker sees a lot of use! We have a grill in the cockpit.

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

There's currently 3 of us on board (our oldest daughter is off to college).

We generally all sit down together for all three meals. We might cook an oatmeal, egg, or pancake breakfast a couple of times a week but generally I make myself a fruit smoothie while Tom and Kenna have cold cereal or yogurt and fruit. Lunch is generally just as laid back (salads, sandwiches, leftovers). We usually prepare a nice dinner.

Meals are eaten on either the cockpit table or the main saloon table, depending on weather. We use corelle plates, silverware, and nice glassware.

We all share cooking and cleaning chores. Tom generally cooks breakfast and does the grilling. Daughter Kenna loves to bake and is a great cook, so is a big help in the galley.


What cookbook do you recommend?

Cruising Chef Cookbook by Michael Greenwald because he keeps me laughing! This is more than just a cookbook. It's filled with lots of great galley advice.

Seven Seas Potluck Favorites for tried and true cruising recipes (and not just because I edited it!). Potlucks are an enjoyable social event for cruisers around the world and this cookbook has great potluck recipes. Available at www.ssca.org at the Ship's Store or at Bluewater Books.


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

Pineapple Cake with Cream Sauce

from Barbara Theisen



2   cups flour
1 1/2   cups sugar
1   tsp baking soda
1   20-ounce can of crushed pineapple (with juice)
2   beaten eggs
2/3   cup brown sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Mix flour, sugar and baking soda.
  • Add beaten eggs and pineapple with juice to dry ingredients. Mix.
  • Pour mixture into a 13 x 9 inch pan that has been greased and floured.
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the batter.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes.



1/2   cup butter
1/4   cup cream
(can use canned cream)
1/2   cup brown sugar
1   tsp vanilla
  • Place butter, cream and brown sugar in a saucepan and heat.
  • Bring to a boil and boil slowly for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  • Serve warm sauce over pineapple cake.



We've been making this cake for potlucks for 20 years and it's always been a bit hit.

None of the ingredients need refrigeration, so it's easy to have the ingredients on hand.

It's also easy to make!

18 Boat Recipes

About Barbara Theisen

Barbara Theisen

Barbara has been cruising with her family for the past 20 years aboard Out of Bounds.

Her books Kids Aboard, a Guide to Cruising as a Family and the Frugal Cruiser will both be published by Sailaway Publications later this year (2009). Look for them, along with more cruising advice, at www.TheCruisingLife.com.





Barbara lived and cruised on a 41' monohull, a Gulfstar 41 named Out of Bounds for over 15 years before purchasing their 39' Privilege Catamaran four years ago, also named Out of Bounds.

Cruising grounds

They began cruising in the Great Lakes about 20 years ago. Since then they've cruised the East Coast, the Bahamas, and the Eastern and Western Caribbean. They are currently in George Town, Bahamas and will spend this summer in the Florida Keys.



Read also 0n this website:


[February 2009 - Updated September 2010]

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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