Barbecuing and boats are a natural combination, and, when seasoned with fresh air, sun and good friends, you’ve got all the makings for a great floating party. Yet, as with so many skills in boating, you need to learn the basics before, as the Aussies say, “you throw the shrimp on the barbie.”
I’m lucky when it comes to food because my wife, Rhea, is a gourmet chef who has owned French restaurants and a party catering service. Just as important, however, is that she has spent a lifetime around yachts, and I have to admit that we have had some legendary parties afloat. Even if you don’t know the difference between hot dogs and beef bourguignon, it’s easy to entertain guests with a barbecue on board.
The starting point, says Rhea, is not just to buy some steaks and invite friends aboard. This summer, think about a gathering as an event, and plan all the details from the food to the drinks to the decor. Even something as simple as a paper umbrella in the drinks can change a gathering from just another meal to a colorful party.
To showcase some of Rhea’s tips, we decided to organize a casual gathering, and we chose a new Cruisers 48 Cantius for several reasons. First, it has a barbecue in the cockpit, which allows the chef to mingle with the guests even when grilling. Second, there is comfortable cockpit seating for alfresco meals, plus an inside dinette for more protection, and, on a nice evening, the opening sunroof would bring in the stars. The 48 also has a counter running along the starboard side of the salon that earned Rhea’s approval, serving nicely as a staging area for appetizers and drinks.
“One thing you have to remember,” says Rhea, “is that barbecuing isn’t like fast food. It’s about savoring the cooking process as an event that you share with friends. Plan your food so that each course can be enjoyed as the evening progresses. Watch the sunset, nibble on grilled appetizers, enjoy some special drinks.”
In this case, when our guests arrived, they were greeted with cheerful glasses of Blue Flamingos, a Rhea-devised drink similar to a daiquiri with blue curaçao for exotic taste and color, garnished with pineapple chunks on spinning pinwheel picks and tiny umbrella straws.
As our guests settled into the cockpit cushions, the first munchies appeared on the table, starting with assorted crackers and goat cheese topped with a chili pineapple salsa (see Rhea's recipes here). Adding to the color was a fruit and cheese platter with a piña colada pear dip that kept guests occupied while I turned to the barbecue.