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Galley Advice from

Gwen Hamlin S/V Tackless II - Former Charter Chef

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One of the hosts of Women & Cruising, Gwen writes the Admiral's Angle column for Latitudes & Attitudes magazine from their CSY 44 in Australia. Before cruising, Gwen was a charter captain/chef in the Virgin Islands for 8 years aboard her former boat Whisper.
Smokeless grill dinner

About Gwen Hamlin

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

If you like to cook, plan to cook onboard the way you like and bring what you need to do it. Likewise, if you set a nice table at home, do the same on board. If neither are a big deal for you, then keep it all simple.

For me learning to cook onboard was a baptism by fire. I came from NYC apartment / restaurant lifestyle, by way of 2+ years on a liveaboard dive ship with a 3-man Jamaican galley staff, to suddenly having to be the chef as well as the captain on my own charter boat! 4 gourmet meals a day – breakfast, lunch, happy hour hors d'oeuvres, and dinner – were de rigueur, and what a shock that first grocery bill for food for 6 for a week was! But it was a great indoctrination to what could be cooked on an actively moving sailboat. It didn't have to be a question of make-do.

Of course, provisioning in the Virgin Islands with all its charter boats was pretty luxurious. When we sailed away to parts unknown, I was sure we would never eat well again, so I seriously overdid my provisioning. I've since learned that there's no need to overstock; basic staples are available everywhere, and although you won't find everything you are used to, you will find most things.

That said; restock essentials and favorites whenever you can. For example, Mexican basics like tortillas, salsa and jalapeños can be found almost everywhere, but not green chilies, enchilada sauce mixes or chipotle peppers! Most processed and canned food products are okay to bring into most countries in your or guests' suitcases, as long as it bears no resemblance to seeds! (Check before you leave!)

HINT: Put bay leaves in all dry stores like flour, rice, sugar, oatmeal, etc, in other words everything you can imagine might attract a bug (or even might come with with weevils.)


What is the best aspect
of cooking aboard?

You can make whatever you like to eat pretty much anywhere.


You have the time to try new things, and usually plenty of friends who will help you try them out at group dinners and/or potlucks.

You are spoiled by getting the freshest of fish.

What is the most challenging aspect of cooking aboard?

Counter space.

And sometimes finding and keeping fresh, green gringo vegetables!


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

the inverter
to power small appliances

salad spinner
(I have the bulky kind, but you can get ingenious plastic bag spinners)

Salad spinner

thermal coffee carafe

good galley utensils
(short enough to fit in the drawer!)


good knives
a good chef knife, an Eversharp serrated knife, a filet/boning knife, and a good paring knife

We keep our knives on a double magnetic strip!

cutting sheets
I am a recent convert; can't imagine how I did without them.

plastic egg carriers

vacuum sealer
essential in a galley without refrigerator


What items
can you easily
do without?

microwave, handy but not essential

bread machine, very handy, but not essential

cast iron stuff, too much work to maintain


What items
are hard to find
once cruising?

  • bread machine
  • plastic egg carriers (camping stores)
  • good coffee carafe and cones (filters you can find)
  • heavy duty aluminum foil
  • green veggie bags like Evert-Fresh bags
  • things you won't think about: yogurt cultures, rennet if you want to make cottage cheese or jam, gluten flour if you want to use a bread machine for heavy grain breads


Can you describe your galley layout?

Preparing enchiladas

On Tackless II we have a Pullman-style galley, in other words it is along the outboard side of our starboard walk-thru into the aft cabin. It is not as safe underway as a U-shaped galley, but I have never actually had a problem.


We have a front-access fridge and freezer which is great at anchor, but tricky on a starboard tack. All my shelves have lips, but I stand my plastic cutting sheets on end across the opening to help keep stuff in. (Works in cupboards, too!) We also have a 60 liter Minus 40 12v chest-type freezer around which we rebuilt our salon table. A terrific investment.

All 3 fridges (we don't use the front loading freezer, but it's great back-up) are Adler Barbour 12v air-cooled units, which means they will continue to work without interruption on the hard or if you leave the boat unattended for several days.

We use Radio Shack wireless temperature senders in our boxes that transmit to a display on the mast. Great way to remember you forgot to turn the refrigeration back on after the morning SSB/Ham nets. (Many 12v fridge control units interfere badly with HF radio!)


Double stainless steel Skandik sink with a regular household pull-out faucet/sprayer combo for pressurized water and a fitted cutting board over half the sink. Pull-out faucet is handy for filling big pots underway. Cutting board (with cutting sheets) is indispensable for slicing and dicing and easy cleaning.

Since our sink is on the outboard side of the galley, we installed a standard macerator (with 3-4 feet of hose) on our sink drain to pump waste water overboard and keep sinks from back-filling.

No salt water tap; No manual pump. Have never once missed it. Salt water is hard on stainless, and with watermaker and a replacement house pump in spares, we've never been without fresh water.

Stove & Oven

We have a Force 10 3-burner stove with broiler which has been transformed from most disappointing purchase (for years couldn't keep top burners lit when oven or broiler were in use) to a happy tool with installation of new-design burners last year. We also have a microwave which we use most in marinas, but it makes a good bread box!



Pots & Pans

  • Stainless steel nesting pots (mine were marketed as Cuisinart in early 90s, now in WM from Magma) Mine came with a steamer insert and extra lids. One large deep Teflon skillet , a wok , a square Teflon griddle which I use for toast, bacon, toasted sandwiches, pancakes, French toast etc! (I should have spent for a Calphalon-quality one, rather than cheap coated-aluminum which deteriorates quickly), a pressure cooker, a Teflon pan reserved for omelets, and a smokeless grill (great for 2 people and for when you don't want to bother with the BBQ). I have others but I don't use them.

  • Pyrex round casseroles with lids for the microwave, a Pyrex loaf pan for meatloaf and tea breads (metals ones rust) and a square one for brownies and enchiladas! If I were starting now, I would trade all oven ware for silicone. Oh, yes, 2 good quality pizza pans, a roasting pan and cookie sheets (Be sure you buy small enough ones for your oven!).

  • We use a large insulated coffee carafe with a Melita cone and filters for coffee or, if it is too rough for the Melita, a metal French Press! (or instant!). I also have a proper china teapot, which travels wrapped in bubble wrap

    Also, lightweight nesting mixing bowls, and lots of small bowls for dips etc. Rubbermaid and Click-Clack bulk storage canisters.

Small appliances

Appliance row
  • coffee grinder
  • Breadman bread machine
    (new ones will pick up where they left off when someone accidentally turns off the inverter!)
  • Oster blender
    for smoothies, salsa and margaritas(really holds up!)
  • medium-sized food processor (mine's a Krups)
  • Foodsaver vacuum sealer
  • microwave
  • digital kitchen timers (Radio Shack)


We had a custom stainless steel propane BBQ from Tailblazer in Tortola that was indispensable for cooking in our charter days (4 people). For the 2 of us, we almost never use it; we broil or use our smokeless grill instead.


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

We eat well and interestingly most all the time. Never waste calories on something we don't like! Usually have full meals, a holdover from charter days…a habit I am trying to trim back. We try to eat healthfully, but subscribe to everything in moderation…including moderation. No matter what, always lots of veggies and fruit when available. Thanks to the freezer I can always have some frozen veggie on hand.

Sushi party
Gwen and papaya

We eat 99.9% of our meals in the cockpit, enabled by a ingenious cockpit table and an enclosure for foul weather. Make sure you have a really good, usable cockpit table!!!

We start each day with a long leisurely coffee together (this is “board meeting” time), then breakfast (currently fruit, yogurt and muesli or toast and peanut butter), salads or sandwiches (or fish tacos in Mexico !!!! ...oh, I miss Mexico !) for lunch, cocktails or afternoon tea depending on the mood or if we are underway, and a cooked dinner with lots of veggies or soup for dinner. We are incorrigible snackers (actually…we repent all the time, we just don't reform!) Major culprits cookies and peanuts or a gorp-like mix of nuts and dried fruit. We keep a hammock with snacks.

For passages, I usually precook and freeze things that can be easily reheated – usually warming and gooey comfort foods like enchiladas, meatloaf, chili, lasagna, ratatouille. We've been known to put on weight on passage!

We use Galleyware white plastic plates and bowls (big and small) with non-skid rings on bottom. These look like nice china but won't slip when underway or break if dropped. We use bowls instead of plates underway. We prefer china coffee mugs and good quality stainless flatware, but make do with plastic wine glasses (just couldn't find a good place to stow glass safely). We love our tall Tervis insulated tumblers for cocktails and water. We are BIG water drinkers and keep 3 liters of water in the fridge at all times.

We use cloth napkins, (or paper towels for messy stuff), but don't bother with place mats or a table cloth. (I always admire those cruisers at potlucks who have all that stuff.) We also have a small insulated ice bucket, since we can freeze ice trays in our Minus 40 freezer; this makes us very popular at potlucks.

Dishwashing : the rule on our boat, as it was during our charter days: whoever cooks doesn't do dishes, with the proviso that the cook cleans as she/he goes along and doesn't leave it all! The exception to this rule (since I do most of the cooking these days except for coffee) is, if Don is into a major maintenance project, I will usually cook AND wash up.


What cookbook do you recommend?

I love cookbooks! I find that I like having one basic reference, and several specialty books for specific styles of cooking.

  • For example, Joy of Cooking is my basic reference cookbook.

  • I use Cruising Cuisine by Kay Pastorius, next most often (Based on her cruising in Mexico, the book is one I find very well tuned for cruising cooks anywhere. Lots of recipes for home caught fish, too.) and Jay Solomon's Taste of the Tropics , which has collected recipes from tropical cuisines around the world.

  • I also have a pressure cooker cookbook, a stirfy cookbook (Australia 's Family Circle's The New Stir fry Cookbook), a bread machine cookbook – The Breadman's Healthy Bread Book, a microwave cookbook – The Good Houskeepings Microwave Cookbook , as well as some specialty books on pasta and curries.

  • My husband also had an old looseleaf cookbook called The Cruising Cook by Shirley Herd Deal that gives me ideas of what to do when I must resort to old-style boat cooking with canned products. Some of that stuff will surprise you at how good it is!

  • Plus I use the Mastercook computer program (and a bulging loose-leaf notebook) to track all my own recipes and those I collect from friends.


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

Fish Sausage

from Gwen Hamlin


6   cups of fish, ground into mince
1   tsp garlic powder
1   tsp ground thyme
1/4   tsp ground chili pepper
1   tsp ground sage
1 ½   tsp ground pepper
2   tsps salt
2   tsp poultry seasoning

Mix all ingredients together. Form patties to whatever size you desire: large ones for sandwiches or small ovals for hors d'oeuvres. Sauté in a little oil until cooked through. Serve with a dipping sauce of minced chipotle peppers (remove the seeds) mixed into mayonnaise.


If you want Italian flavored sausage , change the spices to 1.5 tsp fennel, 1 tsp pepper, 1.5 tsp salt, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp garlic powder. I have rolled this into tiny balls to put on pizza! Yum! (I pre-cook the sausage balls!)

The first time we were served this at a Sea of Cortez happy hour, it was called Roy Rogers Fish Sausage, because it had been made with trigger fish (HAH!).

But we have since made it with many different kinds of firm white fish.

It is a very versatile thing to make!

You will, however, need a grinder, a food processor, or a lot of patience and a sharp knife!

18 Boat Recipes

About Gwen Hamlin

Gwen Hamlin

Gwen Hamlin, one of the hosts of Women & Cruising, writes the Admiral's Angle column for Latitudes & Attitudes Magazine and maintains a web site of their travels at www.thetwocaptains.com. A former charter captain and dive instructor in the Virgin Islands, Gwen and her husband Don Wilson have spent the last 10 years slowly cruising the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific.


Monohull: Csy 44 walk-thru, center-cockpit cutter. Great cockpit for entertaining with hardtop, sun awnings and enclosure.

Cruising grounds

From Caribbean, through Pacific Central America and Mexico , across Pacific to Australia.



[February 2009]

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