Going for a sail and want some ideas for snacks that are easy, nutritious and delicious? Here are 11!

Snacks on Passage

Even if you’re just coastal cruising and not planning any major offshore passages, it’s likely that you’ll do at least a few overnight passages.  While our longest passages were all four days apiece, each year we’d do several other shorter ones as well.  And while we tried to have at least one “real meal” together each day around sunset, we found that we preferred to snack during our watches instead of making sandwiches or other meals.

We generally operated on a 6-on, 6-off schedule as we found we both did better with longer sleep periods.  And it was our rule that the on-watch person spend their time in the cockpit, watching — not down below and not reading.  While we might have modified our system had we been doing extended passages, it worked well for coastal hops where we always had a reasonable amount of traffic.  So having food that we could quickly grab worked well — and there wasn’t really an obvious breakfast, lunch and dinner time anyway.

So that Dave would know what was available to eat — and so that I wouldn’t be surprised that something had been eaten that I was counting on for another meal — we found it handy to keep a bin in the galley with “grab and go” snacks, and a list of other foods that were in the refrigerator.

Here’s our Top 11 Snacks on Passage — and they’re good on a daysail, too:

  • Rice Salad or Pasta Salad — maybe not really a snack, but this was one  of our core foods on passage as either of us could grab a bowl whenever we felt like it.  I’d make up a big bowl beforehand and keep it in the refrigerator.  I’ve also posted my recipe for a very easy Rice or Pasta Salad, with lots of variations depending on what you have available.  You  can also make it with couscous, which cooks very quickly.
  • Going for a sail and want some ideas for snacks that are easy, nutritious and delicious? Here are 11!GORPGood Old Raisins and Peanuts — was particularly good in rough weather, such as our “rambunctious” sail from the Bahamas to Florida in the picture at right.  You can see where I put GORP into plastic bottles that fit into the drink holder on the steering pedestal, and then we’d just grab a handful at a time.  A good mix is roughly equal parts peanuts, raisins and M&M’s, but you can use other dried fruit bits and other small candies as well (things that don’t melt in your hand are best).
  • Hard Boiled Eggs.  These are another snack that are good any time, but are particularly good if you get into rough weather as they’re easy to eat.  I’d boil a bunch of eggs and shell them before a trip (see tips for No Green Line on Hard-Boiled Eggs) and put them in a covered container in the refrigerator.  The generally accepted wisdom seems to be that even in their shell, hard boiled eggs shouldn’t be kept more than a day without refrigeration as cooking does something to the protein and they don’t last as long as when raw — but I can’t find any “official” source for this.
  • Raw Veggies.  Before leaving, I’d cut up a bunch of snacking veggies, such as carrot and celery sticks, broccoli bits, jicama and whatever else was locally available and put them in plastic bags or food storage containers in the refrigerator (add some water to carrots, celery and jicama to keep them crisp).
  • Fruit could work well, too.  Dave particularly liked having oranges that he could just peel while sitting in the cockpit.  Apples usually bruised too easily, but I’d get mangoes and papaya and cut them up and put them in the refrigerator for the first couple of days.
  • Olives.  In Mexico, single-serve pouches of green olives are sold in almost every grocery store.  I liked them as they were easy to store (no glass, no wasted space) and they made a great middle-of-the-night snack.  I’ve just recently started seeing them in US stores.
  • Crackers & Cheese.  Crackers go stale quickly in humidity.  I tried to buy brands that came in sleeves and just get out one sleeve at a time — and keep the others (even unopened) in Ziploc bags.
  • Peanut Butter & Crackers or Veggies.  When it was bouncy and hard to hold on to many things, I’d grab the jar of peanut butter and either some crackers or, more often, some veggies.  In the cockpit, I’d tuck the jar of peanut butter between my knees and find a place to wedge the bag of carrots, then just dunk the carrots right in the jar of PB.  That left one hand free for me to hold on to the boat!
  • Popcorn. In the Sea of Cortez, we were more likely to have too little wind than too much.  And so we motored.  And that meant that our batteries would be fully charged, even running the radar and auto pilot full time (we also had a lot of solar panels).  And so Dave would fire up the microwave for his specialty: popcorn.  If you do decide to indulge, be sure to do so at watch changes as it can really annoy someone who’s sleeping to suddenly hear the microwave or “pop, pop.”
  • Nuts.  I could frequently get almonds or pistachios at a reasonable price and when I did, I’d make up single-serving bags and put them in the snack bin.
  • Chex Mix.  Once outside the US, I don’t think that I ever found pre-made Chex Mix.  In fact, many times I couldn’t actually find Chex — but I could find similar cereals.  A few days before a passage, I’d make up my own Chex mix and put it into single-serving size Ziplocs.  Whatever you use, be sure to keep it in airtight containers as it will get stale quickly in humid air (you can refresh it by baking it for 15 minutes at 250, but this is hard to do mid-passage).
The first longer trip we made — 14 days helping a friend relocate his boat from the Bahamas to Rhode Island — we did a combination of sunrise-to-sunset motoring on the ICW with a couple of offshore hops when the weather allowed it.  And while I had planned for a few snacks, I primarily planned for normal meals.  I quickly found that keeping the boat constantly moving is tiring and trying to prepare more than one meal a day was hard.  By the end of the trip, I was exhausted as I was pulling full watches as well as galley duty.

Our next trip, we switched to mostly snacking, with things prepared ahead of time.  Not only did I have a much better time, we also were happier with our food as we could get what we wanted, whenever we wanted it — but we still had one “real meal” together each day.

So what do you do on passages?  And have you discovered any other good snacks?

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13 Comments
  • Mid-Life Cruising!
    Posted at 21 March 2011 Reply

    Great post! We won’t start our cruising dream until the end of next year, but I hate to cook and will need all the help I can get. Thanks for such a great and informative site!

  • Dave Skolnick on Auspicious
    Posted at 03 June 2011 Reply

    On delivery I generally crank out three meals a day for the crew. Still, the snack bag concept is very useful. It keeps crew from rummaging in the fridge in turn reducing power consumption and frustration when someone eats an ingredient intended for a future meal.

    In addition to your list, I include cookies (ginger snaps when I can get them) and chocolate (the small Hershey snack-size when I can).

    Since people often snack as much from boredom as hunger I don’t peel hard-boiled eggs ahead of time. Peeling the egg gives them something to do!

    A little off-topic, but the watch should be considered an extension of the galley. I often hand a small chore up to the watch like peeling shrimp, peeling potatoes or carrots, kneading dough, and other small tasks.

    sail fast and eat well, dave
    S/V Auspicious

  • Candy Ann Williams on Facebook
    Posted at 17 January 2012 Reply

    One of my favorite snack/watch foods is sunflower seeds (in the shell). I could put some in my mouth (I look like a like a chipmunk) and it would take longer to eat, the cracking kept me awake, and I wouldn’t over-eat. I agree with you about the veggies-I especially like carrots. 🙂

  • Georgina Moon
    Posted at 22 October 2013 Reply

    Some good ideas, thank you.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 22 October 2013 Reply

      Georgina, glad you liked them! Got any others you particularly like?

  • Jorge Bermudez
    Posted at 22 October 2013 Reply

    My wife’s specialty is banana burritos. Spread peanut butter on a tortilla and wrap a banana with it. Delish!

  • Jay
    Posted at 11 November 2014 Reply

    cheese chunks with fruit, usually grapes
    open a can of CORTAS brand baba ghanoush or hummus, and serve that with bread

  • Heather
    Posted at 23 January 2015 Reply

    We grab several loaves of French bread from Walmart before we head out! At only a buck a loaf, super deal! For breakfast, with peanut butter and jelly, lunch they get mustard and lunch meat, dinner they get thrown on the grill with garlic and butter

  • Jo Chamberlain
    Posted at 18 May 2015 Reply

    To keep hard boiled eggs longer, the next time you finish a jar of your favorite pickles drop hard boiled eggs into the pickle juice. They will keep indefinitely.

  • Sherry Matas
    Posted at 27 July 2016 Reply

    Depending on the length of the voyage, we tend not to eat much. We always have a container of Costco unsalted mixed nuts and clementines. Veggies and hummus are great too.

  • Katie Phil Clark
    Posted at 27 July 2016 Reply

    What about beer……….

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 29 July 2016 Reply

      We have a rule that we absolutely never drink alcohol when underway. Not until the anchor is down and set.

    • Sherry Matas
      Posted at 29 July 2016 Reply

      On a hot afternoon, we’ve been known to share an ice cold beer. Once we are anchored or tied up, my first job is to bartend and find snacks.

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