Boat Food

So, we were not one of those people who got a puppy, a Breadmaker or a Pelaton during Covid. What we did purchase was a new boat (‘Bout Time), a very expensive “toy” that certainly came in handy to escape the germ-laden land and set out on the clear, blue sea.

When we talked about getting a boat (after we got bored looking at each other in our condo in Key Largo) my husband said he wanted to get one with a little cabin so I could make blender drinks in it. I’m not sure why this thought occurred to him, since I rarely make blender drinks at home, on dry land. I do like margaritas, but take them over the rocks, not frozen.

At any rate, we got an Open Fisherman (even though we’ve yet to fish on it), so it has fishing rod holders, but no cabin. We took ‘Bout Time out once to watch the sunset; I brought a simple charcuterie plate to go with our bottle of wine. After trekking out to Alligator Reef recently to swim, I really wished we would’ve packed a picnic lunch, since I became famished.

This all got me started thinking about Boat Food, and what meals are ideal for dining on the boat. Some boats have cabins in which to prepare a simple feast. We do not, so I wanted all the meals to be: easy to prepare at home, simple to transport into a cooler on the boat and easy to eat out on the water. Here are my suggestions.

  • Deviled Eggs, Cold Chicken (either grilled, baked or fried) & Watermelon Slices. All of these items are relatively easy to make, can be made the day ahead and are perfect served chilled. Use chicken thighs, legs or wings for easier eating.
  • Sandwiches, Chips & Apples. Another “no brainer” of a Boat Meal, the easiest option is to buy a Publix Sub. They are known for their Chicken Tender Subs and Italian is always a good option, but you can order whatever custom sub you want. But, if you want to go all out, make the Muffaletta sandwich (from the New York Times Food Section) Kelley prepared for our outing to Alligator Reef. The best thing about it? It gets better with age, as the seasonings and olive tapenade soak into the meat and bread. I like Cape Cod Chips (there’s even a lighthouse on the bag) and small Honeycrisp apples to finish the meal.
  • Sushi. When out and about in the deep, blue sea, it’s nice to eat some fish. Make it cold fish, surrounded by seaweed, chilled rice, with wasabi and ginger on the side, even better. Publix sells sushi (Sushi Maki) but I prefer buying it elsewhere, like Num Thai in Key Largo. This is something you want to buy the same day you eat it, as one-day old sushi is no bueno. To go with it, I would serve Edamame. You could make the Edamame ahead, toss with soy sauce and sesame oil and put it in a heat proof container or, serve it cold.
  • Jerk Shrimp. This recipe comes from my Mom’s friend Roxy Karnes and was in the Serve It Up! Tennis cookbook. It uses shrimp (Florida Key West Pinks would be great) and features tropical flavors like Jerk seasoning and mangoes. After you prepare it, it sits for a couple hours to let the flavors blend, so if you make it in the morning, it should be perfect for lunchtime. Serve with Tortilla Chips or over lettuce.
  • Ceviche. Ceviche is a no-brainer when it comes to Boat Food and, in fact, while passing the Sandbar last time, we saw a boat selling Ceviche. Serve in bowls with plantain or tortilla chips, with hot sauce on the side. I offered a Ceviche recipe in a previous Foodie in Miami post- Easy Shrimp Ceviche– on July 1, 2021.
  • Lobster Roll. A lobster roll is essentially lobster salad stuffed into a hot dog roll, making it a perfect, summer-time treat. Pack the lobster and rolls separately and serve with chips and pickles. Read my This is How we (Lobster) Roll, June 8, 2021, for more info.
Lobster Roll.
  • Crab-stuffed Avocados. I love Crab-stuffed Avocados, a very indulgent and Country-Clubby kind of treat. I would pack the crab salad in the cooler and halve the ripe avocados separately. Bring a small cutting board to slice in half and assemble. The salad pictures is from Riviera, where they served it on butter lettuce, with candied pecans on the side. Fruit salad and grilled pita bread would make perfect side dishes.
  • Orzo with Roasted Vegetables. My friend Martha serves this Ina dish as a side with Roast Meat or Chicken for dinner, but it would make a perfectly acceptable Main Dish, especially for vegetarians. If you want to make it more Main Course, add shrimp, grilled chicken or sliced meat to it.
  • Mezze Platter. My go-to Airplane Meal, this is an easy feast to throw together. Hummus, Pita Chips, Veggie Sticks, Cherry tomatoes, Olives, Grape Leaves and Tabouleh make for a varied and healthy Mediterranean Spread. Read more at A Moveable Feast, previous FIM post.
Mezze Platter.
  • Charcuterie Plate. Back to my original Boat Meal, if you have cured meat (like salami or prosciutto), a hard cheese (like Toscano or Parmesan), some crackers or a loaf of good bread, fig jam or honey, nuts and olives you are good to go! If you want to get fancy, you can add homemade Camponata or Pickled Eggplant (both featured in the Serve It Up! cookbook) that would be wonderful, but not necessary. A bottle of wine goes well with this meal.

Now, to drink on the boat we take water, Beer and La Croix (Key Lime Flavor) to which vodka can be added, making it kind of like a White Claw (which I find awful). You could also bring Iced Tea and Lemonade, to make it more festive and make an Arnold Palmer, if desired. At sunset, I enjoy a glass of wine, sparkling or otherwise, to drink.

Other add-ons to the Boat Food scene are Banana Bread, Muffins of any kind, or Cookies for dessert. Fruit Salad is always a welcome side, or dessert and can be purchased, pre-made, at most grocery stores. Tupperware, or some other reusable plastic container, is a good idea to pack the food in. And a picnic basket, or other bag, can be used to house the dry goods.

I usually use paper plates on the boat- I like the Chinet with dividers, so the varying components don’t blend together- but Melamine plates are a great idea and prettier than paper. And although I usually use plastic silverware, cheap stainless (like from the Dollar Store) or Bamboo re-usuable is a better idea.

Paper napkins are the norm, but cloth are better for the earth (and sea) and are less likely to blow away. If we have wine, I take plastic wine glasses aboard. Definitely avoid anything breakable (except the wine bottle) and screw-off tops make life easier, which is all about what life in the Keys is about!

Don’t forget a little garbage bag and some wipes, while packing your Boat Food. It does take time and energy to prepare to dine “a la sea”, but (kind of like camping) it just seems like everything tastes better when eaten outside. Turn on a little Jimmy Buffet, relax and enjoy your Boat Food!

My Mom’s Deviled Eggs

Recipe by Lyla Lee RiceCourse: AppetizersCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time





My Mom’s recipe for her famous Deviled Eggs (shown here at Courtney’s Baby Shower). It’s a perfect app for the boat, but I would rejoin the two halves for easier transport; you can even take them in the egg container they came in.


  • 12 Hardboiled Eggs (put 2 tsp baking soda in water for easier peeling

  • 1/2 cup mayo (Hellmans preferred)

  • 1/4 cup Miracle Whip

  • 1 teaspoon grated onion

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot dog mustard

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish


  • Peel eggs.
  • Slice in half and remove yolks.
  • Mash yolks, add other ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  • Fill mixture in egg white halves. Use pastry bag to fill for nicer presentation.
  • Decorate with paprika, parsley or pimento.


  • This recipe is in the Serve It Up! Cookbook, as are the Jerk Shrimp and Orzo recipes. A lot of tennis recipes work for Boat Food because they’re prepared ahead and last at room temp.

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Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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