The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

The Boat Galley Cookbook: 800 Everyday Recipes and Essential Tips for Cooking Aboard

boatgalleyI have to admit that I was leery about writing this review of Carolyn Shearlock’s and Jan Irons’ fresh-off-the-press cookbook, since John and I do a lot of cooking, both on and off the boat, and are a long way down the gustatory road from making casseroles with condensed mushroom soup and dried onion soup mix, the type of ingredients many boat-oriented cookbooks have traditionally relied upon.

And, I have to admit, a lot of the recipes in this cookbook don’t really do it for us. For one thing, a good number of them call for sugar and prepared sauces or condiments, all of which we steer clear of. Also, we tend to serve meat and cooked vegetables or salad, instead of the one-pot meals that this book is focused on.

Now, it’s only fair to acknowledge that we have a large fridge and freezer and tons of locker space. Those in small boats without much storage space and with only a fridge face a much more difficult task than we do. And it is really for the latter that Jan and Carolyn have written this cookbook.

Their recipes call for ingredients that are easy to find in out of the way places and ingredients that can be easily stored on a smaller boat without refrigeration. Their recipes are simple and easy to follow and they give alternates within a recipe for when you don’t have the ingredient called for.

Their Food Substitutions chapter is a gem—a whole section devoted to how to make your own sour cream, how much dried herb replaces so much fresh herb, even several ways to make your own coconut milk, etc. They also have a very handy section on measurement conversions, something that is hard to figure out when Google isn’t within reach (e.g. how many pounds in a kilogram). As far as I’m concerned, those two sections alone justify adding this book to our cookbook shelf on the boat.

I can particularly see the benefit of this book for those who are new to living on a boat and (to add insult to injury), are also new to cooking. If you are in this situation, I advise you to put this cookbook in the locker with your lifesaving equipment!

However, if you are used to throwing a bit of this in with a bit of that, used to making your own mayonnaise and béchamel, and have enough storage space, along with a capacious fridge and freezer, to carry the ingredients you are used to using with you, the recipes in this cookbook may not work as well for you.


Jan and Carolyn kindly sent us a copy of their cookbook free of charge.


What cookbooks do you find most useful when you are out cruising? Please leave a comment.

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Bob Morris

I enjoy cooking, especially on northern voyages. The galley is a warm place and it is usually not far from the victuals locker which might be accessed if conditions are benign. My favorite cook books are a couple of volumes called ‘NY Times 60 Minute Gourmet’. As the title indicates, the recipes don’t take long to produce and almost all ingredients are readily available. I’m amazed that a dash of brandy or Madeira or some curry in baked rice or just a spot of mustard can change basic foods as they do. These books may be out of print but I encourage seeking them out used on Amazon.

John Harries

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the recommendation. So true about how just adding a dash of that or a pinch of this can improve a meal. Nigel Slater’s “Appetite” really helped us with understanding flavours and how the work together.

Marc Dacey

Phyllis, I am familiar with the authors through their website, which I have found useful less for the recipes (which, like yourself and John, do not always suit my taste and dietary choices), but for the quite helpful tips and stowage ideas therein. I referenced their site in my own blog post here:

and would welcome a broader discussion of stowage tips and techniques aboard your own boat (and not just in the galley) and on the boats of others either whom you’ve met or who are reading this.

John Harries

Hi Marc,

So noted. In the meantime, Phyllis wrote a couple of posts on provisioning and I as co-cook, can say she is the master at it.

Marc Dacey

Thanks, John. Given your larger boat and penchant for relatively remote cruising, do you ever buy a few extra crates of foodstuffs for trade or barter at the places you stop? I know people will trade jerrycans of diesel for various things, but one hears less about treasured foodstuffs traded for (perhaps in your case in the past) a nice haunch of caribou.

I ask because one of the reasons I am making part of our power generation portable is because I hope to trade useful favours in remote tropical islands for local foods. Like using my power tools to put a new roof on the local meeting house for all the roast pig and taro we can handle!

John Harries

Hi Marc,

I have never cruised to the kinds of places where the locals would care about a bit of canned food, so I don’t know. As to trading, I have not done that either. Somehow approaching a Greenlandic or Newfoundlander with a tin of tomatoes in hand that he/she can buy at their local store feels paternalistic and uncomfortable. We tend to give freely to people we like—boat tour, coffee, prints of photographs I have taken of their place or them, glass of wine (where appropriate)—without linking it to what they might, or might not, give us—seems to work in that we have friends spread all over our cruising grounds, and friends is what its all about, for us.

Marc Dacey

I was thinking of places where local stores in the usual sense do not exist in the way in which we understand them: isolated Pacific atolls, certain areas in PNG/Solomon Islands, etc. Places where the mail boat stops once every two months, maybe.

In some places, cultural norms might dictate otherwise and to give instead of trading might prove to be insulting. The key is learn in advance what actions on the part of the ostensibly “wealthy” visitors would be welcomed and which would be not. In some places, trading labour or services otherwise not easily obtainable for local produce would be welcome; other places, a gift of T-shirts, pencils and pads or cheap reading glasses is going to be a very nice thing to do.

The ground is ever-shifting, however, and one must remain up-to-date: I understand that Cubans and Haitians have all the used clothing they every want to see, and cruisers should cease giving such items to them

John Harries

Hi Marc,

Exactly, that’s why I limited my comment above to the places I know. The key is sensitivity and operating on the basis of the norms of the society we are visiting, not our own.


Hi Phyllis: I am in agreement with Mark, as a relatively new boat owner I struggle with storage and stowage on my boat.

Dick Stevenson

Marc & Stan,
One stowage tip that came quickly to mind (I also have a smaller boat, 12 m) when reading your comments was our use of what I think of as river rafting dry bags: the ones with fold down collars that clip. We use them for what we think of as “deep storage” meaning deep in the bilges often under or around other items. The thick plastic protects the grains, flour, cereals etc from puncture and from the damp. It also keeps things from migrating. I suspect we have 5-6 of these bags in various nooks and crannies. They come in various sizes and thicknesses and also help with the organization and access. Away from the galley, when we carried a years supply of oil, I put 1 gal oil containers in these plastic bags with the clear idea of what a mess I would have if the container chafed through or was punctured. This did once happen and the oil was contained and usable and the interior of the bag was the only clean up. But mostly we use them for foodstuffs.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

A good suggestion, Dick; thank you. As we are bicycle fans (I afford boats via not owning a car!), we have considered something similar, but with the ability to be secured to a bike’s panniers AND to be waterproof enough to bring laundry and provisions back and forth in the tender.

A combination of your idea for the boat and this product for transport to and from shore, as well as on whatever set of wheels you might bring or borrow ashore for shopping or other cargo, would seem to cover all the bases. It’s no fun in the galley if you can’t easily provision, and part of the fun of cruising is being able to buy in bulk when a bargain presents itself, so I am very much in favour of storage solutions that allow for these opportunities.

John Harries

Hi Dick,

What a great idea. We will get some of those bags as soon as we get back to the boat. Particularly good for us because our metal boat bilges run with condensation as soon as the sea water temp gets even slightly chilly.

Marc Dacey

Exactly. And, being intrinsically mountable, there may well be a few places in the boat where one could mount either conventional pannier frames or make ones from aluminum rod or light plate (bent on a jig and thru-drilled) on which to mount “cargo bags” such as this. This would get the bags off the hull, would eliminate most of the chafe and would not impede the progress of condensation to the bilges, reducing the chance of standing water where it shouldn’t be.

I met a pair of English steel boat voyagers a few years back, and I asked them what the worst problem they had was. They replied “chafe reduction” “Ah, of course,” I replied, “if the paint fails you get rust so quickly at sea”. “Not the paint”, they said, “the fabrics”. They then showed us thick plastic garment bags and flat bungees they used to secure all their “going ashore” jackets and pants. Apparently, before they had addressed this issue, all their tweed and corduroy clothing was being rubbed into threads by the movement of the sea!

John Harries

I lost a very expensive blazer that way.

Marc Dacey

So you can empathize, I’m sure!

It’s actually a bit of a problem because cruisers tend to bring only one or two pieces of “going ashore” items, like the ubiquitous Tilley gear, but keeping it sealed in a bag on passage can make it nasty. Of course, most people in the tropics between islands will wear a hat, Topsiders and a smile much of the time, but keeping a compact selection of clothes (beyond foulies and related boat gear) AND keeping them from getting damp or rubbed the wrong way is a challenge.

The “blazer and white trousers” issue is the sort of thing you wish to have when presenting some distant YC with your club burgee…otherwise I wouldn’t bother. You still need something better than cargo shorts to attend visa and zarpe-issuing offices, however.

RDE (Richard Elder)

For those of you who also have a home on the dirt with a bookshelf, one of my all time favorite coffee table books is “Culinaria, the Caribbean” by Rosemary Parkinson. ISBN 3-89508-902-8

Gorgeously photographed combination of island culture and history with local recipes. If you happened to find yourself a cook on a charter boat it would make you a hero or heroine.

John Harries

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the recommendation, sounds like a book we should get. As an Island Boy, albeit one further north, I love Caribbean food.


My wife and I have a large collection of Rachael Ray’s 30 minute meals from the Food Network. We pint them off and put them in a notebook and also on a thumb drive. We both make comments in the columns of the paper versions as to whether we liked the recipe or not and how we made it our own and substitutes in the recipes that work for us. We find that this and other chefs on Food network have quick, and some not so quick, recipes that are tasty and nutritious and are easy to prepare.


I love The Cruising Chef – funny, beautiful drawings and did I say funny. And great tips on storing fruits and vegetables. We were eating 4 week old oranges on the coast of Labrador. Also love Lorna Sass’s Cooking Under Pressure and Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. Delving into getting recipes I’ve collected onto ipad. If anyone has an app they like for that, please share! And yes I’ve found the tips on The Boat Galley very helpful. I vacuum bag items for deeper storage. No freezer, only an icebox.

John Harries

Hi All,

As co-cook on “Morgan’s Cloud” I am taking the comments on this post, particularly since Phyllis is buried under the admin load generated by our recent release of the latest version of The Norwegian Cruising Guide.

Niels Otto Wind-Jensen

A nice little handy recipe book from Mr. D was tried for a few of the recipes using a friends thermal cooker. The recipes (and the borrowed cooker) worked well and we have just invested in a Thermal Cooker with two pots.
The benefits of saving gas and having the meal ready to eat in 2 to 5 hours after a short preparation time, seems a treat on a boat. We are looking forward to put it to use on AUK cruising the North Scottish Isles in a couple of weeks time.