Ernest Hemingway, a man who knew his way around boats, named his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.” It’s an appropriate label for boats as well since boats are perfect for entertaining aboard. Friends and family all enjoy gathering aboard a boat, moving or not, in a relaxed atmosphere with an ever-changing view.
Sure, you can enjoy a restaurant, but you wait for a table, don’t always get a great view, and the ambiance is anything but intimate. Boats are the opposite: no waiting, savor your conversations, have celebrations in private and just move if you don’t like the view.
Basic rule: keep it simple. You may be a whiz at beef Wellington in your own kitchen, but not on board. Think one skillet, one pan. Consider finger foods like Italian bruschetta (pre-mix the topping and grill the bread on board for a warm crunch). Make the foods stable on the plate, too. Hot dogs roll, but burgers and steaks stay put. Grilled corn is fun–slice it into 1-inch rounds for easy eating.
The boats we’ve picked for great entertaining all have country kitchens in the cockpit with all the basics: bbq grill, sink, fridge and more than enough counter space. Just as important as the chef’s territory is seating: don’t crowd your guests. The dining table will determine how many you can seat without jamming people in.
Another important feature is shade: no one wants to char along with the steaks. Many of these boats have either permanent or retractable tops so you won’t get Christmas cards from your dermatologist.
The SeaRay SLX 400 is a good example at MarineMax, with a full cockpit galley on one side, while guests enjoy a large dining table opposite. The table folds out for more guests, or it can be intimate for a couple.
The galley on the Monterey 385SE from Ultimate Marine is tucked behind the helm seat so it’s out of the way until needed, and guests get the benefit of a SureShade awning that slides out from the hardtop to keep UV rays under control.
Larger boats can (obviously) handle more guests, and the Princess V65, imported from Britain by Galati, makes the most of alfresco entertaining with sliding and hinged doors and windows that open the salon completely to the cockpit. This allows the inside galley to curl into the cockpit, with a seamless counter becoming the perfect buffet for guests lolling at the folding dining table and U-shaped settee in the cockpit. An extending shade from the hardtop keeps nature at bay.
The L-shaped cockpit galley on the Cruisers 38 GLS at Galati Yacht Sales keeps the chef out of the cockpit traffic flow. Since the 38 has outboard power and a fold-out side terrace, there is room to accommodate all your guests. Another notable feature is twin bar stools on the forward edge of the galley counter, allowing guests to sip and kibitz as the chef works.
Designers of the Aviara 36 at MarineMax knew that the grill is the heart of great entertaining aboard, and they provided two Kenyon grills side-by-side so you can cook fish, steak and kebabs without sharing any flavors. To back the twin grills are twin fridges underneath, so there is ample stowage for all your cold food.
The Aquila 36 catamaran, available for sale or as a charter in the British Virgins through MarineMax Vacations, has the added stability of twin hulls, plus extra deck space from outboard power. The chef benefits with an L-shaped galley under the protection of the hardtop. The two grills, sink and fridge are one step from the settee around the folding dining table, making serving easy.
Don’t get into a rut of thinking only the cockpit is fit for fine dining. The Galeon 325 GTO at MarineMax has a spacious forward cockpit with a removable table that is perfect for a leisurely meal or sundowner in a quiet anchorage. And the Galeon 640 Fly gives your guests a sweeping view from the seating on the flybridge and a dining table that easily seats ten.
Several tips for making your onboard entertaining a hit. As mentioned before, keep it simple! Make a list of everything needed and get it aboard before your guests arrive. The most forgotten item? A corkscrew. Overlook it and, unless a guest has a Swiss Army knife, well, you’re cork-screwed. It doesn’t matter how good you are as an angler, don’t count on catching the fish for dinner, so bring predictable cuisine. And even in a calm anchorage, stay away from greasy foods to protect any queasy guests.
Hemingway knew it and so do you: your boat is truly a moveable feast!
Chris Caswell is an award-winning writer and the former editor of several yachting magazines. He has appeared on Oprah as a boating lifestyle expert and hosted the Marine Voyager series on the Speed Channel.
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