The first step for low-stress entertaining is to make a list. A well thought out list will help ensure you don’t forget to bring along critical items and ingredients. At the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t go overboard trying to plan for every eventuality. Inclement weather? Yes. (Have the canvas ready and bring windbreakers.) Tidal wave? Probably not.
Unless you own a luxury yacht, it’s best to keep the serving casual and let guests help themselves. If you want to have a fancy dinner party, cook on land and bring the dishes aboard. Nothing can take the mood of a party down faster than a frustrated boat owner trying to cook something complex in a small galley.
Speaking of which, to increase workspace in your galley, fabricate wooden or starboard covers for the stove burners and sink. Keep equipment to a minimum: one skillet, one pot/saucepan. Even if there’s a large fridge on board, bring a cooler for drinks and place it in the cockpit or other key location. This will keep guests in the thick of the fun, where they should be, rather than in your way.
Bring along food that can be easily assembled on board yet is still a treat for the taste buds, like fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella, which can be simply sliced and plated. Salads that can be served at room temperature — such as cucumber salad — are excellent for warm-weather entertaining. Precooked shrimp is good to eat cold or tossed on the grill. Avoid serving greasy food that could lead to queasy stomachs and exacerbate seasickness.
We all know to avoid food that will roll around and fall from a plate. But in addition to the old trick of squaring off meatballs, melon balls and other round foods, realize that hamburgers are more stable than hotdogs or brats.
If you want to serve grilled corn on the cob, cut the ears into 1-inch rounds so they lay on their side on a plate. This makes them into handy finger food. Similarly, mashed potatoes make a better side dish than their baked cousins and allow guests to take as much or as little as they like.
If you’re looking for food that will go with many things yet will stay fresh for a long time in the galley, the answer is rice. Stored in a cool, well-ventilated place, rice will keep for months. Wash old rice before cooking to remove any starch buildup.
Never rely on catching fish; always have a backup plan. It’s better to have leftovers than to run out of food. That said, bring along your favorite spices for when you do have a good day’s catch.
Desserts can be as simple as fresh strawberries with whipped cream. Remember, everything tastes more exotic on a boat.
Don’t forget to ask boat guests if they have any food allergies. You don’t want to discover this miles offshore.
Beyond the Menu
Two other key considerations when entertaining aboard, especially during the height of summer, are seating and shade.
Make sure there’s enough of the former — and in the areas where you want it. If seating is at a premium, consider purchasing a few folding deck chairs. These are especially useful if you want to turn a large swim platform into a comfortable water-access “patio.”
Shade enhancement can range from inexpensive, compact, portable chair umbrellas for the aforementioned swim platform to extending the boat’s hardtop or bimini with a canvas awning to provide coverage for large groups. Having a stash of hats and sunglasses available for guests to use never hurts, either.
Once you’ve planned as well as you can, cast off and be sure to not stress out and have fun on the water — because that’s what entertaining on board is all about.
Author: Sandy Lindsey