Not much saves the day like a good meal when the weather is bad or the fish don’t bite. Hot breakfast burritos are great hand warmers on cold mornings, and a fresh salad can cool down the burning pain of a days worth of wind and sunburn. All of this is well and good until a poorly planned meal cuts into serious fishing time. Plan accordingly for bad weather and cooking appliance malfunctions with backup food that is easy to prepare.
Practice recipes at home for an easy home run on those days when the fish don’t please your passengers. Eggs can be cooked ahead of time and frozen with good results, especially when made into a burrito or casserole. Noodles for spaghetti can also be cooked ahead of time so boiling water isn’t on the stove in rocky seas. I like to make breakfast casseroles with precooked ingredients then tightly wrapped in tin foil for the oven, just make sure your dish actually fits in a boat oven!
Avoid things that need to be prepped by doing them ahead of time. Salads can be pre made in disposable dishes to keep things easy, burgers can be precooked, and so on. Leave complicated meals for a day of the trip when you know you will be in a marina or on the anchor in calm seas, it just makes sense. All of these tips work for any boating trip, whether it be a cruise, delivery or sailing adventure. For fishing trips I think its even more important to have backup plans when it comes to the menu.
As a Captain I really get frustrated when its time to catch squid and someone is making a big meal. There is almost nothing worse than having the squid almost ready to crowd when the breaker on the generator blows due to an excessive load from the galley. Please make dinner before or after I have done my job, thank you. Offshore trolling for tuna or marlin in the early morning I especially dislike when someone comes up to the bridge to ask me to “please run downhill so we can cook breakfast?” Let me get this straight. We ran all night for a 100 miles to be on the fish and you want me to drive away so you can make breakfast?! C’mon guys!!!! Make me a Pop Tart, really.
Sandwiches work for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Want to get fancy? Do a lettuce wrap with a pre-made curry chicken and cashews, or a tortilla wrap with pre-cooked bacon and avocado. Just because the boat has a galley does not mean you can cook in it on a fishing trip. Long distance sailboat racers have this down to a science with frozen casseroles and vacuum sealed meals that just pop into the microwave. As much as I hate to admit it, we have a lot to learn from our wind loving brethren.
In closing I will list a few things I have seen on boats over the years that just make my life easier. Get a coffee pump, like the ones at your favorite coffee store and set the coffee pot to do its thing long before the anchor gets pulled. Make the joe, then put it in the pumper with a nice bungee strap so it can’t spill. Then serve coffee in short cups with lids to keep spillage to a minimum. Chicken soup works good in these pumpers too, just fyi. Bring enough food for the entire trip than does not need to be cooked, just in case the microwave does not work for some reason or the weather is horrible. Also, some foods can be heated on the engines exhaust manifold with the use of some tin foil. I grew up working on a boat where this was a common practice, and we had some great meals.
I wrote this because I just got off a couple of trips where the cooking was a hindrance to the fishing, and I see no point in it. While running uphill as the sun set I had just come into warmer water with birds up when a guest came up the ladder and asked me to “turn down hill while the water boiled for the spaghetti.” I had no choice but to oblige, but now I know to add that to the departure speech when we leave for every trip now. “Life jackets are here, fire extinguisher is there and PLEASE NO COOKING WHILE I AM WORKING!!!!!”
I can’t believe I actually have to tell someone that……..