Review: The Boat Galley Cookbook

The Boat Galley Cookbook

by Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons
435 pages


• Written by experienced cruisers who have a wealth of tips for making galley cooking easier
• Complete basic cookbook in a manageable size for limited space
• 800 recipes, including some remedies for common sailor’s maladies
• Focuses on getting the job done and feeding the crew rather than impressing foodies


The Boat Galley Cookbook is the book version of the galley category from the very popular cruiser’s website The Boat Galley. The book pulls out the cooking related information from the site, providing a print version that’s nice to have around when you’re at anchor and don’t have an internet connection.

Shearlock and Irons are expert at provisioning and storing food aboard boats. The sections that cover these topics will be especially valuable for new boaters. Cruisers about to set off on their first voyage will appreciate water and fuel saving techniques such as Thermos cooking, or living without refrigeration. What they’ve learned by trial and error, you get to know up front. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll enjoy your boating more. As a somewhat more experienced cruiser, I wish the ratio of this galley management info to recipes was more balanced.

It’s also nice that the two women who teamed up to write this book are different kinds of cruisers. Irons cruises part time, leaving her boat for extended periods,and blogs about that boating style at Commuter Cruiser. Shearlock is a full time cruiser and live aboard sailor. This means they bring both perspectives to the book, making it accessible for a wide variety of boaters.

The two authors also have different styles of cooking, one more prepared food oriented and one cooking more from scratch. What they share – at least in this book – is a fondness for the standard Western diet. Most of the recipes are similar to those found in any American cookbook (there are some vegan options.)

The authors talk about shopping locally, at farmers markets, and from fishermen. This of course, is a highlight of travel cooking. But the ingredient lists for most dishes contain many processed and canned foodstuffs readily available in stateside supermarkets. These products may be either expensive or not available in other countries. Thus, many of the dishes are organized around stored foods brought from home, rather than local foods.

When you’re cruising away from home waters you won’t always be able to procure fresh produce and meats. So the recipes have to allow for either canned or fresh ingredients. For example, their bean recipes call for either cans of beans or their Recipe Ready Beans, their name for pre-cooked dried beans.

Many boaters won’t want to go beyond basic American cooking. But for me personally, the American recipes are not enough and relying on stored foods defeats the purpose of the cruising adventure. So I use this book mostly as a reference. It’s important, of course, to have a store of basics – rice, dried beans – coffee – and obviously long term cruising requires some preserved foods, and to know how to use them. But as much as possible, when I visit new places, I prefer to shop where the locals shop, eat what the locals eat, and learn to cook the traditional dishes of the region – which sometimes gets me into trouble.

What kind of Galley Cook is this book best for?

The Boat Galley Cookbook is a standard, general cookbook slanted toward the boater. For those who only want to have one cookbook aboard, this is the one to choose. You’ll use it every day.

This will also be the cookbook of choice for boaters who prefer the ease of recipes that call for canned ingredients, those who stock up and keep their lockers full at all times, or for those who don’t like to cook and want a recipe to follow.

If, like me, you’re a boater who happens to like cooking, creating your own dishes and winging it, ignore the recipes and use The Boat Galley Cookbook as a handy reference guide to outfitting a galley and modifying your shore-side habits for cooking afloat.