How to bake bread on a boat

How to bake bread on a boat

Bring the aroma of freshly baked bread to the marina. With our sailing tips, anyone can do it.

Bread is an essential when sailing. For one thing, no one wants to make unscheduled stops and moor just because they’ve run out of bread. Plus, trying to find a good staple bread to your taste isn’t always easy when sailing the seas. So should you use sourdough or yeast? Is a boat's oven fit for the task? And is it possible to bake bread using seawater? Read on to find out!

Every sailor learns that their favourite bread brought from home spoils quickly due moisture and mould. Fresh bread can usually last a maximum of four days but in places like the Caribbean, where the humidity is even higher, it is usually just two. The answer? Try baking your own when you're on your next sailing adventure.

Sourdough or yeast?

Sourdough bread is unbeatable. If you already have a sourdough starter at home, you’ll understand how it feeds and grows like a little pet living in a jar in your fridge. But did you know you can actually take the sourdough with you on your vacation? Either dried or in a ball, it’s easy to transport to warmer climes, and then you can bake traditional sourdough bread wherever you sail. 


But, if you don't feel like regularly feeding a sourdough starter, there are plenty of recipes that use ordinary yeast too. For sailing, dried (instant) yeast makes the most sense for us as it's easy to transport, doesn't need to be refrigerated, has a long shelf life, and doesn't need to be activated. You simply add it to the dry ingredients. Although proving the dough is slower than with sourdough or fresh yeast, in bread recipes using dried yeast the dough often doesn't require kneading.

Yeast in liquid, in a dried state and in cubes.

Measure ingredients accurately

Practically all bread recipes measure in grams. And while you can eyeball ingredients when cooking, baking is a bit more like alchemy, requiring precision. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to take scales with you and there are numerous tables online to convert grams into cups or spoons. Another option would be to weigh out your ingredients at home and put them in resealable bags before you leave, or to make it even simpler, purchase ready-made bread mixes from the store. Normally, you only need to add water, they're quick to prove and you can even get organic or gluten-free variants. Try testing out the recipe and the quantities of ingredients at home first, where you have time to experiment. And if you aren’t taking baking paper with you, make sure to take along a bit of extra flour to spread on your kitchen countertop and baking tray

Simple bread loaf

  • 500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting 
  • 2 tsp salt 
  • 7g sachet instant yeast 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil 
  • 300ml water

Add your favourite seeds, nuts or seasoning to the dough. The only limit is your imagination.

*Recipe is from BBC Good Food.

  1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl.
  2. Add the olive oil and water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add another 1–2 tbsp water.
  3. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around 10 mins.
  4. Once the dough is smooth, place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to rise for 1 hour (or in the fridge overnight).
  5. Knock back the dough (punch the air out and pull the dough in on itself) then gently mould into a ball. Leave to prove on a baking tray lined with baking paper for a further hour until doubled in size.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 °C for about 25–30 minutes.

In the summer on the Adriatic, the dough will rise effortlessly on the kitchen counter. So, if you want fresh bread for breakfast and you’re leaving it to prove overnight, make sure to put it in the fridge to stop the dough rising out of the bowl. Conversely, in colder waters, it might be a good idea to hasten fermentation by heating it in the oven or storing the dough near the boat’s engine or boiler, where it tends to be warmer.


Sacks with different types of flour.

Seawater bread

Water from the boat's tank may be too chlorinated and as yeast is chlorine sensitive, too much of it means the dough won't rise properly. The answer to this is either to leave the water to stand, boil it, filter it or use bottled water instead. A few sailors have tried baking bread from seawater and swear by the fact that it’s not only possible, but that the resulting bread is delicious. The truth is that the salt to water ratio in most recipes is pretty close to the natural salinity of the ocean. If attempting this yourself, of course, there’s no need to add the salt in the recipe. 

Chleba z mořské vody 

Voda z lodního tanku může být příliš chlorovaná. Chlor oslabí kvasnice a těsto pak dostatečně nevykyne. Řešením je nechat vodu odstát, převařit, prohnat ji přes filtr nebo použít balenou. Pár jachtařů už zkoušelo péct chleba z mořské vody a přísahají, že to nejen jde, ale výsledný chleba je vynikající. Poměr soli a vody ve většině receptů se totiž blíží přirozené slanosti oceánu. V tomhle případě se samozřejmě do receptu nepřidává kuchyňská sůl.  

YACHTING.COM CHALLENGE: If you decide to bake so-called “ocean bread” or if you have a tried-and-tested recipe for us, send us a message on the Facebook page. We’ll be looking forward to it, as we’re sure all other sailing enthusiasts will. We’ll post your recipes to our social media and website.

Add a local touch

Of course, one option is to buy the ingredients on arrival or at ports along the way. Bread and its ingredients are staple foods everywhere in the world, so you’ll have no problem picking them up. It may take a bit longer to find yeast, however, so always check out what the locals call it first (HR – kvasac, IT  – lievito, GR – μαγιά [magiá], FR – levure, SP – levadura, etc.). 


If you find yourself at a shop or market in Greece, for example, take some inspiration from the local flavours. Olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts or even lavender are delicious both in and on bread. You're sure to come across local cheeses, cured meats, pâtés, herbs and preserves too, which are just begging to add a bit of local culture to your plate.

Family dinner with fried fish, potatoes, salad and bread.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you're ever guilty of letting your evening beer go stale, bake some beer bread to make up for it.  

Baking with gas vs. electric

On charter boats, you’ll most often find a gas cooker and oven. The oven is good enough for baking and, just like anything else, you can make bread in it without too much of a problem (we've even made a birthday cake, sweet bread and gingerbread). However, if you're going on a longer voyage or (you lucky people!) you actually live on a boat, it may be worth investigating taking a bread maker or a low wattage electric skillet (such as a Remoska). 


We recognise that space requirements are the biggest drawback with these appliances. There's never enough space in the car or on board a boat. Plus, they're not usable when you’re heeling and some bread makers are harder to clean. But both a low wattage skillet and bread maker can be interesting for their conveniently low energy consumption (significantly less than baking in an electric oven). Both have a delay timer so before bedtime, you can simply add the ingredients to the bread maker (or pour the dough into a skillet), set the time, and in the morning the whole crew will awake to the aroma of freshly baked bread. And you can bake and cook practically anything from rolls to pizza in them. It's probably no coincidence that both are becoming more and more popular among caravanners who, like us sailors, take energy consumption seriously. 

Kitchen interiors on a yacht.

Bread even without an oven

If your boat doesn't have an oven, it is actually possible to bake a loaf in a pan or pot on the stove. You wouldn't be the first sailor to try it and although it's a little trickier, it does work. The key is to use less dough and bake the bread over low heat for about half an hour on each side. However, then the question is whether you wouldn’t rather make homemade pita or tortilla in the pan, which are much quicker and easier to prepare.

A delicious tip to end with

For those of you who are sailing along Brittany and stopping off in Saint-Malo, the Borgier family has been making their legendary seaweed butter here for generations. This butter is sourced by top French chefs and we bet it won't go amiss on your crusty boat-baked bread. 

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