As sailors pre­pare for the Round the Is­land race on the Isle of Wight next weekend, Laura Sil­ver­man looks at food for leisure boaters

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

For a se­lect boat­ing set, only cer­tain food will do: pack­ets of beef stew, pow­dered mash and cheap plonk. For­get that pa­parazzi no­tion you have of sun­bathing celebri­ties on su­pery­achts – Bey­oncé, Bran­son and, in their day, Jackie O and Au­drey Hep­burn – feast­ing on plat­ters of the fresh­est seafood and clink­ing their glasses of chilled white wine. Your aver­age yach­towner is likely to be too busy out­doors try­ing to keep the boat afloat to bother with such so­phis­ti­ca­tion. In any case, space for prepa­ra­tion in a reg­u­lar boat tends to be limited, while fresh in­gre­di­ents rarely stay ed­i­ble for long even in a cool box. Lumpy slop it is. This was the ex­pe­ri­ence of food writer Fiona Sims on sail­ing trips as a child. The fam­ily yacht, a 23ft Virgo Voyager, cruised not the Caribbean, not even the Mediter­ranean, but the So­lent, be­tween Southamp­ton and the Isle of Wight. Jour­neys had a ro­mance all of their own. One cold and rainy Jan­uary, Fiona’s fa­ther, Peter, made “beef curry” for lunch. It was, says Fiona, “tinned mince with a spoon­ful of an­cient curry pow­der stirred in”. The cook­ery books Fiona later bought him did lit­tle to im­prove the culi­nary reper­toire, sug­gest­ing such “hor­rors” as cheesy chicken bake and lun­cheon meat with tinned beans. De­li­cious. In her 20s, Fiona started to cook on board, scrib­bling down recipes for her fa­ther, from crab mac­a­roni cheese to penne with sar­dines. But her notes ended up scat­tered among the cush­ions, maps, sun­screen and Welling­ton boots be­low deck. And so The Boat Cook­book, in which she has com­piled 80 of her favourite dishes, was born. Fiona is tak­ing me on her fa­ther’s 29ft West­erly Kon­sort, Ze­phuros, to prove that cook­ing “real food” at sea is sim­ple. We meet at her cot­tage in Yar­mouth, on the west coast of the Isle of Wight, one sum­mer morn­ing. And as we stag­ger to the har­bour with loaves of sour­dough (it lasts longer than other bread), a tin of flap­jacks, some raw burg­ers and wine, it be­comes ob­vi­ous that prepa­ra­tion and a few short­cuts are key. Fiona made the flap­jacks and burg­ers the night be­fore, while the rest of the food is cour­tesy of a su­per­mar­ket de­liv­ery. “I al­ways do as much as I can be­fore I set off,” says Fiona. “If I think it’s go­ing to be a lively sail, I’ll even chop the veg­eta­bles and bung them in a re­seal­able bag.” I can only hope that with the weight of all our in­gre­di­ents, not to men­tion the bot­tles of wine, the boat is not go­ing to sink be­fore lunch. It is, thank­fully, a glo­ri­ous day: the breeze is gen­tle and the sky is an im­pos­si­ble blue. But even the rel­a­tively calm wa­ters of the So­lent can get rough, and only ex­pe­ri­enced mariners can nav­i­gate the Makes four por­tions 180g cooked and shelled brown shrimps 1 x 400g tin bor­lotti beans, rinsed and drained 250g cherry toma­toes, halved 1 shal­lot, finely chopped, or three spring onions, trimmed and sliced 1 hand­ful of flat-leaf pars­ley, chopped un­pre­dictable cur­rents. Even when the weather is fine, cook­ing on board can be a chal­lenge. One of the great­est hur­dles is lack of prepa­ra­tion space. “It’s a bit of a dance cook­ing in a tiny gal­ley,” says Fiona. “You have to wash up as you go and jug­gle your pans.” There can also be lack of in­cli­na­tion: in nice weather, you might pre­fer to sun­bathe or en­ter­tain your guests on deck than be stuck in the kitchen be­low. We are sail­ing about five miles to­day, from Yar­mouth Har­bour to New­town Creek, with Fiona’s par­ents and a fam­ily friend, Paul. Fiona will make three dishes: brown shrimps with bor­lotti beans and cherry toma­toes; spicy lamb burg­ers with hum­mus; and or­anges with pis­ta­chios and mas­car­pone. Can a three­course meal re­ally be achieved with­out fuss? Near the creek, we catch a buoy and Fiona puts to­gether the first course. “I only cook at an­chor or when the wa­ter is calm,” she says. “It’s no fun in the gal­ley when you’re rock­ing about on the open seas, even for those with sturdy stom­achs.” It is some­thing of a re­lief to know that we are not go­ing to have to tie our­selves to the stove with apron strings. But even when it’s calm, cooks have to ad­just to the con­stant sway of the sea. Fiona might be a fair-weather sailor, but she al­ways uses plates that won’t break and is care­ful to store knives safely. Fiona chops cherry toma­toes, spring onions and pars­ley; throws them into a bowl with canned bor­lotti beans and two packs of shrimps; squeezes some lemon; driz­zles some olive oil; stirs; and serves. It looks so easy, yet the re­sult is sweet and suc­cu­lent. From the boat, we watch

Stern stuff: the So­lent can get choppy, so Fiona Sims pre­pares much of the food be­fore go­ing sail­ing, and only cooks at an­chor

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