Food for sailing: how to manage meals on board

Wondering how you’re going to eat on your boating holiday? Find out our recommendations on provisioning for a sailing trip — how best to cater for the crew, where to shop, what to cook and how to account for the costs at the end.

To avoid unpleasant surprises during your sailing holiday, it's always a good idea to be clear up front about how the meals are going to be sorted out — what you'll take with you, where you'll shop, and who’ll actually be feeding those hungry mouths on board. With our wealth of experience, we can advise you on how to do this and point out where the potential pitfalls lurk.

Meals on board: preparations before departure 

There are some things that need to be done before you leave or depart for your destination. So what are they? 

Allergies and diets... find out if any of your crew have dietary restrictions 

We recommend doing an all-crew meeting before departure. As well as establishing a relationship, it's a good idea to talk about what food allergies, intolerances or diets anyone has and how you will address these. If you have a celiac or vegan on your crew, you will need to adjust the diet accordingly. As one of our skippers experienced: "We once had vegetarians on board. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a big deal. We just always did one meal with meat and then the same meal without."


Also ask ahead of time if any of the crew are diabetic. This is very important in case of a hypoglycemic attack, but also because you'll need to rethink the ingredients and ensure the diabetic can eat smaller portions regularly throughout the day and without sugar. 

YACHTING.COM TIP: Responsible skippers don't rely solely on the ship's first aid kit, but take their own personal first aid kit containing over-the-counter medications for pain, allergies, constipation, diarrhoea and seasickness. But above all, it is essential to ask the crew if they suffer from any illnesses, what medicines they take and where they keep them.  Find out what to do if someone gets sick while sailing and how to give first aid.

First aid kit.

Bring along homemade food (within reason) 

It may seem old school, but many sailors cook and bring their own food along. The advantage of this is that you know what you're eating, you save a bit of money and you have a pre-prepared meal, a sort of homemade ready meal. But don't go overboard with the homemade stuff. It's also good to try out local specialities and experience local flavours. As one of our skippers recalls:"I once experienced a cruise with a boy from the countryside whose mother prepared just about everything in jars. From egg and cheese spread, to crackling, goulash and soup, and of course homemade cakes. And everything was in quantities for a crew of eight.  I've never left a ship so stuffed." 

Shop at home before departure 

If you have room and you’re travelling by car, it's possible to buy the things you like and are used to in advance. However, this method is not possible if you're flying by plane. Some sailors heading to Croatia, for example, might stock up on beer at home beforehand as they don’t like the local Karlovačko and Ožujsko beers as much.

What food items or galley supplies are a must? 

At your first meeting, it's a good idea to make a list of things you'll need in the galley during your week-long voyage, but it's not worth one person buying or carrying the whole lot. In our experience, it has worked well to delegate each crew member to bring one of the following items. 


  • Salt 
  • Sugar 
  • Coffee and tea 
  • Basic spices (pepper, curry powder, barbecue spices, herbs) 
  • Tea towel
  • Dish sponge and detergent 
  • Garbage bags

YACHTING.COM TIP: Are you wondering what other essentials to bring along on your sailing trip? Check out our recommendations and suggestions from experienced sailors to make sure you don’t overlook a thing — Sailing essentials: don't forget to pack these things.

Buy locally — seasonal and fresh

A little local shopping is unavoidable, even for those bringing food from home. We always recommend buying freshly baked goods, fruit, vegetables or perishables at the point of departure. The advantage of this is that you can sample local specialities such as ajvar in Croatia, feta cheese in Greece or smoked fish in the Baltic.  

Everyone stocks up differently and there are plenty of ways to get a good meal on board. We lean towards combining all of the approaches described below so you’ll not only enjoy the voyage, but also a gourmet feast. 

Supermarkets or small stores?

This depends on your approach, but also your schedule. In a supermarket you can find everything in one place and at a lower price, making it ideal for your first big shop before departure. It’s useful to do a bit of research about the local supermarkets and especially what the essential items are called in the language. In Croatia, for example, the most famous supermarkets are Studenac, Konzum, Tommy, but there are also global chains like Lidl and Kaufland. If you're looking for small specialty shops, it's important to know that meat is called masnica in Croatian, bakery is pekara and pub is konoba

Try local markets: a paradise for gourmets

If you want to experience true coastal life, head to the local market — it's full of smells, tastes and colours. You'll have to get up early though, as these are mostly morning and mid-morning events. The market offers the freshest vegetables, fruit and pastries, and the tastiest fish.

On the Adriatic, you will often find a fisherman waving at you, asking if you want to buy a fish from them. It's hard to get a fresher catch than this. Plus, fishermen usually don't want as much money as it costs in the store, so you’ll make savings. If you are a seafood lover, we recommend visiting a mussel farm. Just beware if you are considering fishing in mussel beds, in most countries there are very high fines for doing so, and even jail time in some places.

Vegetable market.

Catch of the day: here come the fishermen!

On the Adriatic, you will often find a fisherman waving at you, asking if you want to buy a fish from them. It's hard to get a fresher catch than this. Plus, fishermen usually don't want as much money as it costs in the store, so you’ll make savings. If you are a seafood lover, we recommend visiting a mussel farm. Just beware if you are considering fishing in mussel beds, in most countries there are very high fines for doing so, and even jail time in some places.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you have a keen fisherman or spear fisherman on board, you're in for a seafood dinner. The only problem is that if you're in the mood for steak, that's a little harder to catch.

Fisherman with a catch.

Get food delivered to the boat

In some ports and with some boat rental companies, you can also order food delivery directly to the boat. Just order in advance, and when you arrive, the food will be waiting for you on board. Ask our customer service or sales staff whether this option is available for your trip.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Most crews buy way too much food, making it a struggle to fit into the boat’s refrigerator. After all, this is not like the fridge you have at home and its capacity is limited. Therefore, shop in moderation. 

Approaches to cooking or having a hot meal when sailing

A nice hot meal is essential, but who will cook it? To prevent a crew member's voyage becoming an ordeal at the stove, we recommend combining the following. 

Rely on a professional chef 

The easiest way to get a hot meal is to visit a restaurant. And when you are travelling you simply must try the local cuisine! You need to go to a restaurant at least once, and that goes for even the most money-conscious. Most sailors eat on board during the day and in a restaurant in the bay or harbour in the evening. But be aware that eating in restaurants can get pretty expensive. Also keep in mind that in Croatia and Greece, you often can't pay by card in restaurants on the islands. It's always best to ask when you arrive there and have plenty of cash on hand just in case.

Fresh baked fish.

YACHTING.COM TIP: What is a summer holiday without sampling the local cuisine? Take a look at our guides to Croatian cuisine and what delicacies you should sample in Greece

Ready meals for when you can't or don't want to cook 

There's a whole range of ready-made products available in outdoor gear shops. From stew or chicken and mushrooms to various pasta dishes. You can even get self-heating meals, which typically use an exothermic chemical reaction to heat up the food in 10 minutes without having to use the stove. This is especially handy, for example, for yacht racers. The downside is that these meals are not so cheap. 

How to appoint a yacht's chef? 

If you have a person on board whose profession or passion is cooking for others, you win. But, unfortunately, it can also come down to the composition of the crew - if there is only one woman, she might end up becoming the ship's cook. 

YACHTING.COM TIP: Did you know that you can even order a chef on board? If you don't like to cook and want to enjoy your holiday away from the stove, a chef can be hired just like a captain or hostess. Get in contact to find out more.

If a bunch of friends are going sailing and there is no chef or cook among them, it is most practical to divide up kitchen duties. We have found it to be a workable solution to put one or two people on duty each day to take over the cooking, as well as the cleaning of the galley afterwards. When choosing this system, it's practical to agree in advance (for example, on a shared spreadsheet) who plans to cook what. This will avoid everyone making pasta with tomato sauce and getting sick of this galley classic after a week.

Plates with cheese, sausages, olives.

Simple sailing recipes: what to cook on board? 

So what should you cook on a boat? Here’s a bit of inspiration from our captains whose tips offer traditional as well as more unconventional ideas.  


Classics that never disappoint and are easy to prepare: 


  • Yellow melon with dried ham 
  • Caprese salad 
  • Spaghetti Bolognese 
  • Pasta with tuna 
  • Pasta salad with vegetables 
  • Stew 
  • Scrambled eggs 
  • Pancakes 
  • Roast chicken 
  • Grilled meat with potatoes


Delicacies with the "wow" actor: 


  • Tortillas with vegetables and beans 
  • Couscous/quinoa/bulgur with turkey 
  • Burgers 
  • Bean stew in bread 
  • Baked cutlets with potatoes 
  • Sponge cake 

YACHTING.COM TIP: Did you know that some sailors also bake fresh bread and other pastries on board? Read our article on how to bake bread on a boat.

Preparing tortillas on a boat.

Meal policy on board


Having regular meals is often forgotten about when sailing. Try to eat smaller portions regularly to avoid seasickness, but also because it is healthy. Those who have not eaten anything for a long time and are prone to seasickness will get the most sick on a boat. 

Lighter meals 

Seasickness can strike even experienced sailors. If you are expecting bigger waves, it isn’t best to eat heavy, meaty or fatty foods that take longer and are harder to digest. Don't be afraid to just make a simple salad every now and then. After all, in the summer sun, you won't even have the appetite for heavier things. 

Cleaning up after cooking 

Try to make a habit of always washing and clearing up all the dishes after cooking. Wind conditions at sea can get worse by the minute and a sharp kitchen knife or plates flying around the salon can be dangerous. 

Drinking regime 

It's often windy on a boat, and when coupled with being near the water you often feel you don't need to drink as much liquid. But the opposite is true. On a boat in the summer, more than anywhere else, you need to follow a drinking regime. We recommend that when buying groceries, allow for two bottles of water per person per day. If you're wondering where to put that many bottles on board, check the boat for floor storage and other compartments. Every boat has more storage space than meets the eye. 

YACHTING.COM TIP: Of course, you can drink the water from the boat's tank, as most marinas where you can fill up have drinking water. But you never know how clean the tanks on the boat are and whether there is mould or bacteria in them. That's why we recommend drinking bottled water on the boat and only using the tank water for cooking.

Accounting the food costs

Accounting for all the food costs is quite a challenge. But since good accounting makes good friends, it's best to keep track of all purchases and bill it up to those involved at the end. Here are a few tips on how to “keep the books”. 

Captain pays for everything 

Some skippers handle the finances for meals by paying everything themselves during the voyage, and then requesting everyone to pay their share afterwards. But only use this method when you fully trust your crew and know they will meet their obligations. 

Everybody pays for everything 

Each crew member pays for something, as you go along. It's practical, but the downside is that you’ll have to do some complicated accounting afterwards. Fortunately, there are various apps to do the maths for you. We recommend the app Settle-up, which has always saved us a lot of time and our nerves.  

Pool your money 

Before the holiday, everyone pools together the same amount of money. This pot is then used to pay for everything from food to mooring fees. Afterwards, the rest can then be divided up among the crew. It's the most transparent and convenient, but the downside is that in practice no one really wants to keep that much money around.

Která loď vás s přáteli nebo rodinou vezme do vln?

Although we can't put together a menu for you, we'll be happy to advise you on the choice of boat, route and captain.

FAQ What you don't know about the galley