More Practicalities of Onboard Style

An event planner turned cruiser shares some tips for entertaining aboard. Supplement to "No Place Like Home," from our May 2008 issue


Keeping a cake pan, candles, and party accessories on board will prepare you for the impromptu birthday celebrations that inevitably occur when you're out making new friends in new places.Shauna Boughton

So much of my professional and personal life was centered around good food and entertaining, that it's now second nature for me to keep Zia Lucia, our Puvieux 47-foot cutter, well stocked with tasty appetizers and goodies as well as supplies, dishware, glassware, and serving pieces that make a meal special. The following tips are in addition to the ones included in "No Place Like Home" in the On Board Living column in the May 2008 issue of Cruising World.

• You'll often have other cruisers over to your boat to enjoy the sunset with appetizers and cocktails, so you'll need a dramatic platter for whatever appetizer you're serving. You'll need small bowls to go on the platter for serving dips or nuts. You could use plain cereal bowls, but would you do that at home? You'll need a serving plate for cheese, and small serving spoons for sauces. You should also have appropriate platters for pizza and lobsters.

• Keep some fun, specialty dishware on board, which immediately surprises people and makes for an instant party. On Zia, for instance, we have tall, sea-foam-green tiki-god glasses that are perfect for serving tropical drinks, and they keep beverages extra cold.

• Keep small bottles of cocktail olives and cocktail onions onboard for making martinis. On Zia, we have a martini shaker and silver picks. Martinis never tasted so good.

• Put a little thought into the things you'll need to make your dinner table sparkle, such as matching place mats, a beautiful tablecloth that compliments your boat's decor, salt-and-pepper shakers, dishes, serving plates, and a low, stable vase for flowers.

• If you're a tea drinker, there's nothing like the civility of having a nice teapot and cups as well as a cream-and-sugar set. Keep a selection of interesting teas aboard. After an active day of snorkeling, having tea in the afternoon with new friends is a joy.

• Wherever possible, add alternative lighting options to your fluorescents. We installed sconces with dimmers in Zia's saloon.

• Below, candles can be too hot if you're cruising in the tropics-and dangerous should they tip. I use battery-operated tea lights, which are cheap and long lasting, and I place them inside colored glasses for a romantic effect on the table and around the main saloon. Abovedecks, they won't blow out in the wind.

• Lighting is an important mood enhancer for entertaining aboard. Select an interesting subdued light for al-fresco entertaining in the cockpit: On Zia, we use a standard Davis 12-volt cockpit light that hangs inside an authentic Turkish lantern, which casts a beautiful soft amber light over the table.

• There's a constant need to thank other cruisers for help; and to celebrate birthdays and holidays, so keep some all-purpose gifts, wrapping paper, cards, and ribbon aboard to make the occasion special. Also keep a cake pan, birthday candles, and a few unique cake decorations on hand.

• Wherever you're cruising, it's great to celebrate local holiday customs and to purchase available decorations as keepsakes. But bringing a small quantity of supplies to celebrate American holidays, such as the Fourth of July, is always a crowd pleaser.

• It's not difficult to create a memorable party aboard. Select a theme -Mexican Night, for instance-then play salsa music during the evening, serve a specialty drink, such as margaritas, and keep all the food within that theme. Making an occasion out of what would've been just another "join us for dinner" evening is part of what makes wonderful memories while you're cruising.