The Sailor's in the Kitchen

Friday, September 23, 2016

In a tiny galley kitchen, Lauren Weisenthal cooks dinner aboard their 42-foot sailboat, Nightingale Tune.

After packing up their Brooklyn apartment last summer, Lauren Weisenthal and her husband, Brian, did what many people only dream of doing. They sold everything, bought a boat and prepared for a life at sea. Living on their boat for three months in the New York harbor before pulling up anchor, the Weisenthals eased into this radical new lifestyle while still surrounded by family and friends.  She wrote on her blog, "We feel lighter now without furniture, excess clothing, books, and all of the other stuff that once filled our closets, shelves, and drawers. I’m so glad that we made this big change within the context of our jobs, friends, and all of the things we love about living in New York. Once we leave the dock this fall, the work and mental energy necessary just to cover our daily needs will become exponentially more complex, but thanks to our experience the last three months, will not feel overwhelming or intimidating."

"We feel lighter now without furniture, excess clothing, books, and all of the other stuff that once filled our closets, shelves, and drawers."

Then, at 4:00 AM on October 7, 2015, as the moon hung bright over Manhattan, their dream became reality as Nightingale Tune pulled away from the New York City dock. By the time the sunrise glinted red across the water, they had left the channel and entered the 6-foot swells of the Atlantic Ocean, beginning their voyage down the East Coast.  And after sea sickness, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and 3500 nautical miles, they are now tucked into a cozy harbor in Grenada, West Indies, where for the past three months they have been waiting out the hurricane season.

Life at sea has been a grand adventure for this young couple, now with a year of sailing under their belts. They've conquered fears, survived storms, mended sails, dealt with boredom and felt the keen ache of loneliness. They've also formed new friendships, explored islands and cooked with the locals. But life before that wasn't too bad either, as both held successful careers in the Big Apple. Brian owned a software development company and Lauren (a trained pastry chef and Certified Sommelier) managed programs for Etsy. So what made this couple ditch city life for boat life?

I was able to catch up with Lauren despite bursts of infrequent WiFi, and she graciously gave me the following interview. And to read the full story of their journey, go here. (I dare you to stop reading in the middle. It's like a book waiting to be published.)

Brian at dinner with their cat, Nico.

Living on a sailboat sounds like a dream. Tell us what prompted this adventurous life at sea.  Our life aboard began with an obsession of my husband’s. We were living in New York City, it was a terrible, snowy winter - the kind when it snows every single day -  and he was burnt out at work. One day, he read a book about a sailing adventure, and being a technically-minded guy, became hungry to learn everything about how sailboats work. That set him into a frenzy of positive distraction - he was reading technical sailing manuals before he ever set foot aboard a boat, and loving it! I decided we needed to get out on the water, the sooner the better, and booked a week long sailing lesson in the Virgin Islands. We lived aboard with an instructor and learned all the ropes. That trip clinched it for us - we were hooked after that. We started sailing every weekend in NYC and looking at boats for sale.

Mango season.

And before this fascinating change in lifestyle, what was your occupation? Prior to leaving New York, I managed projects and worked with sellers at, a job that I loved. Brian was the co-founder of a 12 year-old internet company, which he sold before we left. We made a deal that we wouldn’t work during our first year out sailing, but I haven’t exactly followed through on that promise. I’ve been lucky enough to freelance a bit, mostly marketing and writing projects, during our time away.

When purchasing items for their kitchen, everything had to be unbreakable. 

Where did you grow up?  Tell me something about your childhood.  I grew up in a tiny New Hampshire town, on a small farm with a few horses and a huge garden. Our family spent summers in Maine, at our cabin on a lake. My mother believes that busy kids are happy ones, so my sister and I were always on horseback or skis or playing music (I play the French horn), when we weren’t doing chores in the barn. 

Life looks different now for this former business owner turned sailor.

Have you had any funny experiences while cooking or learning to cook?  When we left NY we were really keen on learning to fish. Brian is a natural at a lot of things that he picks up - sailing, sports, dancing - and I think he sort of assumed that fishing would be the same. As soon as we hit warmer waters on our way down the East Coast, we started throwing out the line, and on the very first day, we caught something - but then what? We had absolutely no idea what to do with this 2 foot Little Tuny we’d snagged! With the fish flopping helplessly on the deck, Brian yelled for me to grab the one book we carried for the occasion, Fishing for Cruisers. While Brian did his best to calm the jumping, flapping fish, I thumbed through the index. One recommended method was pouring booze into the gills, but after wasting a nice bottle of rum, that damn fish was still moving. Next, it said, try an icepick through the brain. Um, where is that? We finally went with their third suggestion, wrapping the fish in a towel and knocking it out against the deck. It was a success, but the boat was a crime scene - I’m still scrubbing the blood out to this day. And I still feel terrible for that poor fish. Typical city folk - can’t even kill a fish without an instruction manual.

Grocery shopping.  

What is your favorite kind of food to cook?  We are dedicated to eating as locally as possible on the islands we visit. We make an effort to learn about local food, and shop in the places locals shop. Here in Grenada, the island where we’ve spent the past few months tucked safely into a bay, waiting for hurricane season to end, agriculture is alive and well. We’re being exposed to many fun new ingredients; callaloo, golden apples, christophene, green figs, chenet,  jackfruit, as well as the best bananas, avacados, and mangoes we’ve ever tasted. Grenada is the island of spice, and the cuisine is heavily influenced by Indian flavors. Whenever we encounter something new, we just ask the ladies selling in the markets “what is this?” “how would you cook it?” And then they tell you, exactly. There’s only one right way to cook the dishes of Grenada, but I still enjoy creating interpretations of local dishes in my own style of cooking.

Too big for dinner. 

What is the most exciting food adventure you have had while sailing?  One weekend, we met up with a bunch of our friends’ boats in one of our favorite places - Maho Bay in St. John, part of the USVI. Brian was gung-ho to learn to snare Caribbean spiny lobster, and he got his chance to learn from our friend Peter, who is a master lobsterer. I went along for the ride to snap some underwater shots of the action and ended up holding many squirmy lobsters on the end of the snares. 

The hunt is thrilling. The lobsters are hard to spot - but Peter knew the good spots - and you have to dive with nothing but a snorkel mask and fins, down very very deep and pounce upon the lobsters. 

Thanks (mostly) to Peter, we had enough to feed the whole crew of 12 adults and 6 kids - as long as we got creative. I decided pizza was the way to go - but the challenge was that there was no way to bake enough pizzas using my tiny boat oven alone. Being the one with restaurant experience, I organized a six boat plan to get the pizzas finished at the same time. I mixed a huge batch of dough and let it proof in our engine room. 

Using the VHF radio to communicate with our friends’ boats, I scared up 5 sheet pans, and some additional mozzarella and basil, all of which were delivered to me by dinghy. I shaped the pizzas, sauced them and topped them, and then, one of our friends came by to deliver the raw pizzas to each of the boats. Thanks to the VHF, each boat had been preheating their oven so it was ready by the time their pizza arrived. Once they were baked, we rendezvoused for dinner all together. It was the most coordinated dinner effort in the history of sailing, and a whole lot of fun.

A lobster party.

Have you had any scary adventures on the water?  The first time we chartered a boat by ourselves, we neglected to check all of the rigging and a line that controls the jib (the big sail on the front of the boat, the one you use to change direction) broke free in the middle of a gnarly cut between two jagged rocks. The boat was being tossed like a cork in 6 foot waves, the wind was howling, it was very scary. But, Brian and I took a moment in the middle of the chaos to stop and talk over our options. We calmly came up with a plan - that I would have to leave the safely of the cockpit and inch all the way to the front of the boat  and try to catch the end of the freed line on the end of a pole with a hook on the end. My mission was successful, we recovered control, turned on the engine, and got the hell out of there. Ever since then, we double check our equipment before heading out to sea.

Grilling at sunset.

"Life itself is the proper binge." - Julia Child.

Lauren posts their adventures on a well-written blog, Sea Biscuit.

What inspires you?  I am constantly inspired by the cooks, farmers, fishermen, and artisans we meet in our travels. The Caribbean especially is such a mutt of different traditions, cultures, and sensibilities about food. As we sail on, the cuisine shifts, and each island we visit is an opportunity to taste something new and learn how it came to be.

Nightingale Tune, Lauren and Brian's 42-foot ketch which they share with their cat, Nico.
For a tour of the inside, click here.

How long will you continue sailing?  Forever?  Ah, you've asked the million dollar question! We plan to be out for another year at least. I am desperate for us to spend a summer aboard sailing New England and maybe Nova Scotia, but you know what they say, a sailor's plans are written in sand at low tide.


Callaloo Soup 

Callaloo Soup

As we sail from place to place, I make an effort to learn local dishes and enjoy putting my own spin of them. Callaloo is a hearty, large-leafed green vegetable that is featured prominently in Grenadian cooking. This soup made from the leaves is my take on a classic dish, made more velvety with the addition of coconut milk and cooked to near-puree consistency. No two Grenadians make callaloo soup the same way, yet each cook will tell you that their way is the only way. For cooks outside tropical climates, chard, spinach, or a blend of the two, may be substituted for callaloo leaves.

3 lbs. callaloo, spinach, and/or chard leaves, roughly chopped
3 large yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped green onions
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped finely
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 12oz can coconut milk
1 cup water
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a large pot set over medium-low temperature, saute garlic and onions in olive oil, stirring frequently, until they are translucent and softened. Stir in thyme, green onions, and jalapeño. Pour coconut milk over the onion mixture and stir to release any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the chopped greens and simmer, until the greens melt and easily fall apart. Remove from heat, and allow the soup to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Chopping mangoes in preparation for baking scones. 

Mango Scones

A long time ago, I took a break from my career and studied classic pastry and breadmaking, which I adore. While it's too hot to work with the fancy laminated doughs I used to love, I do enjoy adapting old school, favorite recipes with fresh ingredients from the islands we visit. When we anchored in Guadaloupe, mango season was just kicking off in the East Caribbean, and we've been gluttonous mango eaters for the past few months. Fragrant mangoes were literally falling out of the trees onto our heads as we walked down the street. I started including mangoes in baked goods, like these buttermilk scones.

4 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, very cold
1 cup buttermilk, plus a little more for brushing on the tops
2 cups chopped mangoes, very ripe

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and stir to combine. Scatter the chilled butter cubes over the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender or the back of a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Be careful to work quickly with light hands. Work the mixture until it resembles a gravel road - blended with a smattering of irregular, pebble sized chunks.

Toss the mangoes into the mixture.

Add the buttermilk all at once along with the blueberries and mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. The dough will be just barely wet, and very crumbly.

Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Using your hands, pat each portion into a circular disk about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Brush the top with additional buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut each disk into 6 pieces.

Transfer the triangles to baking sheet. 

Bake until the tops of the scones are lightly browned, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow scones to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Makes 6 scones

Follow Lauren's journey on Instagram @seabiscuit and on her blog  Sea Biscuit.
Photos by Lauren Soutiere Weisenthal and used with permission.


  1. Fantastic storytelling as usual. Although I know I would be a complete disaster living at sea...these two make me want to give it a go!

  2. Fantastic storytelling as usual. Although I know I would be a complete disaster living at sea...these two make me want to give it a go!

  3. The sailors in the kitchen possess an intimate understanding of the sea's bounty. They know how to prepare freshly caught fish, bringing out the delicate flavors and textures that make seafood a favorite among sailors. Whether it's grilling, frying, or creating savory stews, they know how to make the most of their oceanic harvest.How many episodes of naruto shippuder are one netflix

  4. The Sailor's in the Kitchen is a delightful culinary treasure that takes diners on a journey of flavours and maritime with their exceptional seafood dishes and warm hospitality, they create a dining experience that leaves best effect. 10 Signs I Am New To Photography