Cooking on A Boat

A few of you back home ask what we eat on the boat. Good question! It is not as easy to cook or eat as on land. Our equipment is not nearly as good, and resources vary, yet we still eat three meals a day and enjoy them. Here’s how I am handling cooking on a boat.

Challenges in Cooking on a boat

We have a Force 10 stove and a Magma BBQ, both which run on propane.


Cooking on a boat on the Force 10
Force 10 stove

The Force 10 is a common boat unit and has two burners: one only works very hot and the other simply simmers. The oven takes finessing to light sometimes and I never know if the temperature is accurate. Despite that, I make edible bread, banana bread, and even made very tasty cookies once! A cruiser friend calls it her “easy bake oven” which isn’t a bad description of this miniature appliance.


The Magma barbecue is outside on the stern of the boat. The only issue we have with it is lighting it when it’s windy or raining hard. Otherwise, as long as we have propane, it barbecues.

barbecue on a boat
Our Magma barbecue

Provisioning On A Boat

Some ports have better grocery stores than others, and the differences are vast! We have been to stores with no produce or anything fresh, and that’s the only store around for islands! We’ve also been to high end supermarkets with better selection and prices than back home. Now when we provision, we go in with no expectations and try to find something we can eat. Fortunately, Brian and I don’t have lots of food allergies or intolerances and we like trying new foods.

Every island is different. Sometimes items we consider staples are impossible to find or really pricey! What those items are varies a lot from place to place.

Asparagus is expensive in Grenada
Asparagus is not cheap in Grenada.

Making bread on a boat

Brian loves bread. Give him a charcuterie and cheese plate with some crusty bread and he is happy. Sometimes I think he won’t let us leave Martinique!

I had to learn some breadmaking recipes pretty early on in boat life due to the overwhelming lack of good bread on our travels. The first time was in Turks and Caicos when the bread we bought the day before had mold! With very limited ingredients I made a decent loaf of soda bread.

Now I keep the breadmaking basics in stock: flour, baking powder, and yeast. Even those ingredients aren’t always easy to find.

Eating on a Live-Aboard Boat Bread
Home, boat-made bread.

I went to a couple markets in Puerto Rico looking for yeast before an employee showed me where they kept it: in the locked cabinet with the pharmaceuticals and razors! In Puerto Rico, yeast is some kind of contraband!

Often, ingredients go bad or you get weevils. I had to toss an entire bag of flour in Grenada because of weevils.???? The heat and humidity does a lot of damage too. Snacks and granola go stale so fast! My solution is lots of storage containers with tight seals and I recommend that highly to any cruiser.


You can always find fruit in the Caribbean! We won’t get scurvy because citrus fruits are abundant.

Fresh fruits in a Caribbean market
Fresh fruits are abundantly available in markets throughout the Caribbean

It’s too warm here for berries but we hardly notice the lack with what else is available! A short list: pineapple, tangerine, mango, starfruit, grapefruit, mandarin, papaya, orange, passionfruit, banana, guava.

Chopped pineapples. Delicious

Mangoes are delicious, they come in way more varieties than I realized, but they aren’t always in season. My new favorite fruit is passionfruit, especially in yogurt!

One of many sailing superstitions is banning bananas on board. We know people who follow that superstition but too late for us! Bananas are just so common and versatile, and when they get old you can make banana bread.

Banana Bread cooking on a boat
I made this banana bread in my easy bake oven on the boat


The lack of vegetables in certain places has been a dilemma. Fruit may be commonplace, but sometimes the only veggies are starchy like potatoes and breadfruit. Bahamas was the worst for lack of good veggies, but Dominica and parts of The Grenadines also rank low. In fact, I remember a supermarket in Georgetown got a fresh shipment of arugula and you would have thought we’d all gone crazy! One woman grabbed three packages! We just took one as that’s all that was left.

We’ve made do with only potatoes, tomatoes, and onions. It makes us really appreciate when we come upon green beans and fresh lettuce, for example. Salads are a luxury sometimes.

Green beans and spinach
Green beans and spinach! Luxury on a live-aboard in the Caribbean


My favorite breakfast is yogurt, granola, and fruit.

Yogurt, granola, and papaya
Yogurt, granola and fruit

You would think that would be easy but even that isn’t when you are eating on a live-aboard boat in the Caribbean. Admittedly I make it harder on myself because I only buy yogurt in large containers. I refuse to buy single serve because of the environmental waste. We all have our lines in the sand. Many grocery stores in many islands only sell single serve yogurt; Bahamas, Martinique, and The Grenadines, for example.

yogurt in the Caribbean
The single serve yogurt selection is all they have in many markets in the Caribbean

So I get yogurt when I can. There’s other breakfast food out there.

Not Available

We are constantly surprised by the food we can’t find! Items which are common in Canada and the U.S. don’t exist on some islands. I expected that with perishables but we never know what we won’t be able to get each time we visit a new market or grocery store. Here are some examples:

  • Club soda. I can’t find this anywhere in Martinique! Yet they have half an aisle in the huge supermarket devoted to lemonade made with cane sugar.
  • Cat food. Guess they don’t keep cats as pets in parts of the Grenadines!
  • Mushrooms. Sometimes I get a craving and will buy a jar of mushrooms to add when I am cooking because in warm climates I can’t find mushrooms. The canned or jarred ones don’t work in salads, unfortunately.

Always Available

In addition to fresh fruits, several other food groups are readily available with huge selections.

Hot sauce cooking on a boat
Hot sauce occupies a lot of space in our cupboard
  • Hot sauce. We have at least 5 different hot sauces on board at any time. Since our first stop in the Bahamas, we have sampled this essential condiment everywhere we go. I think my favorite is the homemade sauce we bought at the market in Nevis but there are a multitude of options in the Caribbean and all are good, just different degrees of heat.
  • Coffee. The warm climate is conducive to coffee making and we’ve been enjoying the ground coffee everywhere. Filters for our Aeropress are not easy to find so if you’re coming to visit, you may have to add these to your luggage!
  • Chocolate. Oh yea, just like coffee, chocolate is everywhere and we love sampling the different dark chocolate bars, and visiting the chocolate growers, on each island.
  • Ginger, garlic, onions and seasoning peppers. Every market sells these essentials for cooking. They are universal!
  • Rice. And Beans.

Cooking Our Meals On a Boat

While I enjoyed cooking back home, I have to cook differently on board the boat. It’s almost always too hot for baking or roasting, so cooking on the stovetop or the grill are our norm. The variety of food still allows for a big repertoire in our meals.

Coconut curry on a boat
A recent coconut curry on board the boat

We like stir fries, especially when we can source eggplants and peppers, curries, grilled meats and veggies, pasta, rice bowls with seafood or sausages. I always prefer when I can do it all in one pot too for less cleaning. You know we have to conserve water on board!

Now you know we are not starving on board Sava. I’ll have to do some posts about pot lucks and eating out because we do that too.

Are you a cruiser or someone who spends time cooking on a boat? I would love to hear your go-to dishes or meals as I am always looking for ideas. Share in the comments.

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

2 thoughts on “Cooking on A Boat”

    1. Thanks Brenda! I think I have to devote a post to potluck food next. Look forward to seeing you and Thomas again soon! Congrats on the big Louisiana win!

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