Hello friends, below I leave you a small story of my experiences on a voyage as a yacht chef.
Crossings over the Oceans – leaving the old behind and getting ready for the new
It will take us sixteen days. Sixteen days without land. Sixteen days and Sixteen nights on a 58m Super-yacht of from Palma de Mallorca to the Bahamas. There will be stops in Gibraltar, Tenerife, Puerto Rico. but the total traveling time with around ten crew on board from 9 different nations consisting both women and men. The food has to be right, nutritious, and will need to cover the preferences of each of the souls on board. Not only that, the food has to satisfy the spirit of each crew member and adapt to their hard work and long hours on different shifts. This is not a joy ride. Ship and yacht transfers are as common in our industry as the care and maintenance of our ship. Our ship, home and workplace at the same time, becomes a mother for us and we live in her womb, she protects us and wants to be protected by us. I’m a yacht chef, in the business for 14 years (although I am not counting a short yacht Chef job in 1992). As I mentioned at the beginning, the food must be right, balanced and tasty, variable and energising, because mealtimes are a moment of happiness during isolated work such as seafaring is important so that body and soul feel in balance.
The challenge to cook on a yacht during an ocean crossing
At sea, the body can be exposed to extraordinary stress if the weather causes waves on this crossing. This journeys are in many ways a tour de force for the body and the mind. The rising and falling, the rocking, living in a narrow, sloping space, in many parts of the boat with no view of the outside, puts extreme stress on the body. Every muscle in the body is tense to compensate for the back and forth, the up and down. When you sleep, your body subconsciously prepares itself for protection. Especially if the sleeping cabins are located very far forward in the bow and the waves roll head-on onto the ship. The violent jumps and impacts of the water masses against the bow can cause the body to jump up violently in a horizontal position while sleeping. It was not uncommon for me to experience that on another crossing from Malta to Saudi Arabia. I was thrown up and slammed into the ceiling up to thirty times during the night, or that in the millisecond in which the body jumps, the boat shifts slightly in the sea, so that the body moves and falling is no longer above the bed but next to it – falling onto the cabin floor.
Talking about cooking and seasickness
Rocking for days, balancing, and restless sleep keep the body always active. The body is constantly moving during sleep, the muscles cannot relax, the brain mass swims like a jellyfish to the rhythm of the sea. Day after day. The art of overcoming the familiar tiredness as a result of seasickness is another task that the brain has to cope with while reeling under great concentration, stress hormones are released, headaches can occur, disinterest, mental emptiness, the body does not feel in its usual habitat.
Hunger and thirst, those natural needs that disappear or could increase due to stress. To prevent dehydration, the body absolutely needs fluids on a regular basis. When there is a swell of two meters – which sounds like very little – our appetite changes, the nervous system wants to calm down, and suddenly my normally very strong desire to enjoy coffee becomes less or disappears completely.
Anyone can be affected by seasickness at any stage of their life. Even sailors who spend years at sea can experience seasickness. On one of my Atlantic crossings I shared the cabin with an experienced sailor who had spent years on racing sailboats. He threw up first, then it was my turn because the stress of the situation overwhelmed me so much that my body wanted to get rid of the internal pressure.
Mainly the response varies depending on the main axis of movement. Vertical movements are less tolerated than horizontal ones.
The cause of seasickness can also be explained by the fact that the sensory organs provide incorrect information about the spatial position and movement of the body.
Food and drinks during a yacht ocean crossing
Supply your body with sufficient fluids and nutrition before the start of the trip. Providing sweetened hot drinks and soups for the journey is part of the planning. Alcohol is strongly discouraged. Alcohol limits the body’s ability to reconcile the conflicting balance information and exacerbates the problem. Fats and high-protein foods are too difficult to digest, although a connection with seasickness and heavy food is not always clear. I have seen many sailors, myself included, whose appetite for sumptuous food increased even as we were shaken and unattached furniture and objects whizzed past us.
As with other sporting challenges, the diet should primarily be based on easily digestible carbohydrates, such as potatoes, grain products and pasta.
Ginger, a solution for seasickness
Controlled studies have shown that taking 1-2g of ginger can reduce the occurrence of seasickness. Ginger helps to reduce the release of stress hormones, which act like panic attacks during seasickness and can lead to vomiting and shortness of breath.
How to stay safe while cooking at sea
To stay safe and to control the working pots and pans are held by a rack that is quickly installed as the waves roll higher . A kind of iron frame that prevents the pots from sliding. And everything can slip, you have to remember that. We use on boats rubberised non-slip mats. Cabinets and drawers have locking buttons. Everything has to be thought of, during work and afterwards, because if the sea gets worse and you still sleep exhausted in your cabin, everything should and must be secured. Whether with strong adhesive strips or cling film, which can be used surprisingly well to bind boxes and system baskets to permanently installed furnishings, nothing is left to the sea or chance, safety comes first. I will also always take a look in the refrigerators, because a poorly stored pot or Tupperware with liquid can fall, not nice as it is very time consuming to empty and clean a refrigerator
If there is rocking, kitchen scales work very poorly or not at all. Although I can easily measure recipes with the usual measurements such as cups, spoons, teaspoons, or milliliters and liter measuring cups, another help is to do the work of pre-weighing unequal weight measurements, packing them in zipper bags for food of different sizes and storing them labeled . I especially recommend this for the mini amounts for ingredients such as agar agar, dry yeast, baking powder, gelatine, soy lecithin, flour, sugar, so that I can always bake bread, pastries on the go, no matter what happens.
Motor yachts actually lie better in the water than a sailing yacht because they have stabilizers, which are fin-like structures on the underside of the ship’s hull that adapt to the currents underwater and compensate for the movements of the boat like a paddling dog. Sailing yachts do not have this system, they must have propulsion to stabilize themselves, by navigating the sails or by propulsion by engine power.
Crossing jobs for me are a welcome meditation in between heavy private Chef charter seasons and on a crossing you have the chance to finally read all the books you never finished during such hard working seasons, where 18 hour shifts per day are a common thing. We also become a well harmonised family as crew on a crossing, the time to sit on watch for hours on the bridge, while doing the important task of lookout, while navigating, creates comfortable silence, while watching the sea, the stars, the sun going up or down or even great conversations with people who share the same spirit of travelling.