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Photo by Vicki Lathom and Fran Carlson
Photo by Vicki Lathom and Fran Carlson

How to Throw a DOCK PARTY

If you believe dock party provisioning means loading up your cooler with beer and deli meats, listen up!

Living the cruising lifestyle means new friends at every port and many opportunities to celebrate those new friendships over shared meals or drinks. Here’s how to plan for the inevitable dock parties and potlucks that are bound to crop up if you’re cruising right.

Spice It Up

The first year my husband and I were cruising in the Bahamas, the only spice I brought was a bottle of dried basil. It worked well on fish and Italian dishes, but it didn’t do much for the stir fry. Now I include ethnic blends of herbs in my spice rack, which provide a variety of flavors without taking up much space. I also keep cans of peppers, mild to hot, to add a bit of sizzle to almost any dock party dish — when that sweet couple from down the dock brings a prized plate of eels and insists that you try them, it’s nice to have a bruschetta nearby that’s juiced with jalapenos to cleanse the palate.

If you’re cruising for longer periods of time, go home grown with a fresh herb garden in a few small pots on deck. Basil, rosemary, lemon, thyme and dill will go a long way to enhance the flavors of locally caught fish and bring an authenticity to your dishes that will have people asking for your recipes.

Sauce It Up

Packages of powdered rubs and dry salad dressings to be mixed with olive oil are a great way to keep flavor without losing space. Read the labels on your favorite sauces, tapenades and bruschetta and decide on the ingredients you really need. Reserve any glass jar purchases for top grade taste enhancers like green and black olives, roasted red peppers and capers. You can purchase quality vinegar, olive oil, honey, mustard and mayonnaise in plastic containers.

Cheese It Up

The idea of cruising is to have fun and relax. Cheese is the ultimate quick and easy snack in rough water or calm, and cheesy dishes are always the first to disappear at dock parties. I make sure I always have some onboard. When you run low on fresh products, canned items made palatable by your spice rack or cheese supply will substitute. Include a variety of multi-colored beans, diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts, so you can wow everyone with a spicy hot artichoke, bean or corn dip.

The day we took part in our first dock party, we were out of most fresh ingredients and had no crackers or bread. I used thick slices of large radishes as a substitute, topping them with dried salami, brie cheese and an olive to finish. Cheese is the answer to most questions in the galley, but in that case, toothpicks were my savior.

Grains

Stocking up on crackers, chips, quinoa, and grains is always a good idea. At the end of a hot day, quinoa mixed with green onions, carrots, and fresh herbs in a vinaigrette sauce and served cold makes dinner planning easy. Beware, though, as water can be an expensive commodity depending on your cruising location. In the Bahamas, water can cost from 8 cents per gallon to 50 cents per gallon depending on the island!

Libations

Some cruisers start drinking early and don’t stop, but I’m one of those people who just can’t function drinking in the hot sun. My secret weapon has become the sparkling water maker. Many of the brands available also sell flavor packets, which means you don’t have to stock up on heavy cans for the rum and Cokes for your guests. More importantly, I can add a slice of lime to my glass of fizzy water and join in the fun.

Now you’re ready to party. Remember, if you are bringing a dish to a dock party that requires the use of a plate, you are expected to provide the plates. And when the captain of that big yacht asks, “Who made this sublime bruschetta?”  take a bow. But be careful, you’re on the end of a dock! Bon Appetit.

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