Entertaining family and friends on board is the No. 2 reason for owning a boat—right after the vessel’s primary use of cruising, fishing, waterskiing, etc. With so many holiday parties this time of the year, here are some tips for successful boat party planning.
The first step for low-stress entertaining is to make a list. A well-thought-out list will ensure you don’t forget to bring along important items and ingredients. At the same time, don’t overthink every possible worst-case scenario. 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 host a fancy dinner, cook on shore and bring the dishes aboard. Nothing can bring down the mood of a boat party faster than a frustrated boat owner trying to cook something complex in a small galley.
Speaking of the galley, fabricate wooden or starboard covers for the stove burners and sink to increase workspace. Keep equipment to a minimum: one skillet, one pot/saucepan. Even if there’s a large fridge on board, get a cooler for drinks and place it in the cockpit or other key location. This will keep guests in the thick of the fun rather than in your way.
Nautical Edibles for Your Boat Party
Bring along food that is easily assembled on board and still a treat for the taste buds, like fresh basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella, which can be simply sliced and plated. Salads served at room temperature, such as cucumber salad, are also excellent for holiday entertaining. Pre-cooked shrimp is good to eat cold or tossed on the grill. Avoid serving greasy food that could exacerbate seasickness.
Steer clear of food that will roll around and fall from a plate. In addition to the old trick of squaring off meatballs, melon balls, and other round foods, realize that burgers are more stable than hot dogs or brats. Do you want to serve grilled corn on the cob? Turn them into finger food by cutting the ears into one-inch rounds so they lay on their side on a plate. 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 accompany other things and stay fresh for a long time, the answer is rice. Stored in a cool, well-ventilated place, rice will keep for months. Rinse old rice before cooking to remove any starch buildup.
Freshly caught fish is a treat, but never rely on it; always have a backup plan. It’s better to have leftovers than to run out of food. That said, get your favorite spices ready for when you do have a good day’s catch.
Desserts can be as simple as fresh strawberries with whipped cream layered in a glass. Or, if you have the ingredients on-hand and the skills to bake, pies are always a holiday favorite. Don’t forget to ask guests if they have any food allergies. You don’t want to discover they do miles offshore.
Beyond the Menu: Preparing Your Boat for the Party
Two other key considerations when entertaining aboard are seating and shade. Make sure there are plenty of seats in the areas where you want them. 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.
Being outdoors always seems to heighten tastes and appetites, so prepare accordingly. Once your plan is set, cast off and have fun on the water—because that’s what entertaining on board is all about. quimbyscruisingguide.com
-by Sandy Lindsey, Quimby’s Cruising Guide, edited by Bonnie Schultz