Hi, my name is Voahangy and this is my blog. I live on a boat with my husband and 2 children. In fact, I have lived on boats most of my adults life. When Terry and I first met, we discovered that we shared a passion for travelling: he, as a mechanical wizard who likes to build boats and loves nothing better than being on the move (either flying a plane, drive a car or be at the helm of any boat!); me, as an explorer, with a predilection for discovering other cultures, particularly through food! Terry needed destinations to go to; I needed someone to take me places. Living on boat seemed perfect for both of us!
We started small, 26 years ago, with a 34ft sports fisherman and day trips around the Sydney waterways. Looking back one could say it was a test to see if a) we could stay together and b) enjoy living in such a confined space. Evidently our relationship survived and we both fell in love with the lifestyle. We needed a bigger boat though…Over the following years, we lived on 4 boats, all different in style and size: a 57ft timber trawler, a 70ft aluminium motosailer, a 50ft fibreglass sailing catamaran (LAGOON 500) and our current LAGOON 560, which is an upgrade from the previous one. Our time has been spent either actively cruising, or at the dock planning to! Either way, we’ve been live aboard, as land lubbers like to call us.
While my husband is blessed with engineering skills and had already built a yacht before, I had never set foot on a boat until we met. With no sailing experience, zero mechanical aptitude and only seasickness as a nautical attribute, I figured out that the only contribution I could make to our crew of 2, was to look after our well-being, starting with cooking. The only problem was that I couldn’t cook! Here I was, 21 years old, born and bred in France, newly transplanted in Sydney, Australia, unable to boil an egg let alone roast a chicken…
You see, where I was raised in Paris, everyone around me was a good cook. My mother (whose idea of teaching us to cook was for us to watch her and wash the dishes afterwards), my neighbour (who always had something brewing on the stove) and even the school canteen (which monthly menu we brought home so that our parents could cook something different for dinner), all provided me with nutritious and delicious food, requiring no more from me than to show up at dedicated meal times. Even when I left home at 18, I didn’t feel compelled to learn to cook: with so many markets-boulangeries-patisseries-traiteurs (marches-bakeries-pastry shops- delis) selling individual portions, why bother slaving over a hot stove!
Used to eat well, I assumed that everyone else in Australia did too, and it was simply a matter of “going to the market” as was done in France. Well…what can I say? I was young and naïve. It was 1988, Sydney wasn’t the foodie heaven it is now. It’s not that the food was bad, just that no one seemed to care about what they ate. Most locals thought that taking 45mn to enjoy a (light) 3-course lunch was an aberration, asking “what’s wrong with a meat pie and tomato sauce and a cup of tea?” Toast and vegemite for breakfast, BBQ sausages and spuds for dinner, iceberg lettuce with a tomato wedge and a slice of cucumber acting as greens when requested…this was my new culinary normal. French food, what I was so familiar with, was considered ”chic” and exclusive, I would have to drive for miles to the city (sometimes even to Sydney’s north shore) where most French restaurants where, to enjoy quiche lorraines, boeuf bourguignon, escargots or tarte tatin. This state of affairs lasted for a few weeks, when I grew frustrated with the commuting, forever searching for enjoyable eating places. Still a useless cook, I started to look for alternatives to not only French dinners, but also greasy take-aways (anyone remembers when KFC featured mushrooms fried in batter?) or toasted cheese sandwiches. What our suburb in Cronulla lacked in term of Parisian flair, it made up in diversity with a four or five “ethnic” restaurants as well as the perennial clubs (yacht, surf, RSL…) all within walking distance from the boat. I forgot about French food for a while, embarking on new culinary experiments. Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian, seafood,…we would eat a different cuisine every day making me realise there was so much good food to enjoy out there.
In the meantime, as an extension to our eating out, I developed an interest in cookbooks. It happened slowly, after I realised that we could not keep dining out forever. Surely, it couldn’t be that hard to cook, after all, so many people do it! I started to glance at Australian Women’s Weekly issues (back then the choice of food magazines was quite simple!), which offered no-nonsense recipes for the home cook, included step-by-step photos. Living on a small boat, I couldn’t collect too much, so I would flick thru the pages while waiting at the checkout, trying to find inspiration and remembering instructions. Back on the boat, I practised cooking eggs (every which way, boiled, scrambled, omelettes…), pan frying fish fillets, steaming rice…all along being thankful I only had to cook for the two of us. Terry went along for the ride: he enjoys good food as much as anyone, but while he is a master at the BBQ, he’s not a keen cook. So he supported me all these months, helped me clean up a few disasters (an oven grill catching fire from too much bacon fat, countless burnt pots, oversalting, cakes that didn’t rise…) never criticizing, always praising the dish when it was good, the effort when it wasn’t, confident ( hopeful at the time, I’d say) that one day the penny would drop.
And one day, it did. We were renovating our second boat, so it must have been at least a year after I arrived in Australia. It was the end of a busy day spent sanding, polishing, and we were having a few drinks with our neighbours, Andrew and Liz, who were also renovating an old boat (theirs was in a much worse condition than ours). As the evening went on, I decided to sneak in the galley (that’s boat lingo for kitchen, remember the word, I will use it a lot!) and quickly cook omelettes for everyone, so we would not drink on empty stomachs. The boys looked dubious when I presented my four individual fluffy cheesy omelettes, but ate them nonetheless. I knew I did well though, when Liz thanked me for “whipping up these delicious eggs at such short notice! That’s so French! I can’t believe you guys eat so well on board!” That was the beginning of my love story with cooking on the boat or anywhere else.
Daily living on a boat is not much different to daily living in a house. Sure, space is limited, your surroundings sometimes are moving (in more ways than one!), resources are not infinite (how many times have I run out of gas half way thru a roast!) but one thing stays the same: everybody needs to eat! Our travels have taken us half way around the world (so far!), and while I’m still mechanically inept, I have come a long way in the galley: not only do I enjoy eating, but I also love the whole process involved with providing and cooking good food. I know my way around supermarket aisles in Australia and the Caribbean’s, I have sighted many times around French markets unable to buy everything and bring back on board, provisioning for an ocean crossing is second nature to me now, so is the use of local produces in French Polynesia where the price of groceries is so high, …I have cooked conch salad in the Turks and Caicos, tasted my fair share of hamburgers in the USA, bought the best spices in Turkey and now that we are in Mexico, I look forward to add ceviche, tacos and moles to my culinary repertoire.
Our previous cruises have been documented over the years in simple notebooks (pre-internet days), and emailed logs. Our current trip is the subject of a travelling blog (www.sailblogs.com/member/steenrally) which covers everything and anything about sailing with a family of four. I have created this present blog in response to the frequently asked question “what do you eat on the boat?” and as a creative outlet where I can share my passion for food with like-minded people like you (you must be if you’re reading this right?) It is about my experience over the years as a budding home cook in unfamiliar territory, travelling the world on a home that floats, learning to plan, organise and adapt. Here you will find, anecdotes, tips, recipes and other food/travel related stories. I hope you will find it interesting and it inspires you to make the most of what you have wherever you are.