To celebrate Chelsea’s 30th birthday, her husband organized a surprise overnight sailing trip with a small group of her friends. I was in charge of food for the group – lunch, dinner, and a breakfast the next morning.

Although essential for that whole “surprise” element, it was strange to plan an event like this without Chelsea’s input and assistance. Luckily, I had my sister Amy in town. We’ve been working together for a couple decades now, so she was a worthy stand-in. We also had a lot of help from our other crew members. Especially when I somehow managed to jam my utensil drawer during our intense prep sessions. Husbands to the rescue.

drawer emergency | a couple of amateurs

First on the to-do list: lunches for everyone upon arrival. They needed to be ready to eat, appealing to most palettes, and ideally they would not involve getting a bunch of dishes dirty (it’s not fun to do dishes on a sailboat). We decided to go with boxed lunches – sandwich, chips, fruit – which satisfied our requirements and had the additional bonus of being super cute.

turkey spinach bacon with cherry jam | box lunches | a couple of amateurs

The only thing missing was a little cookie! But don’t worry – another guest made (the world’s best) lemon bars for dessert. Chris crafted a welcome cocktail for everyone, and the party got off to a rolling start as soon as everyone was on board.

cruising the san juan islands | a couple of amateurs

The boat we chartered was called the Gato Verde. It’s a big catamaran with a super friendly and knowledgable captain. Captain Todd offers many cruise options. I recommend checking it out if you live anywhere near Bellingham. It was comparably priced to a night in a nice hotel, with the obvious added benefit of spending a full day out on the water and visiting islands that are only accessible via private watercraft.

gato verde cruises | a couple of amateurs

The boat had a grill on board (seriously, if you’re in Northwest Washington, check out Gato Verde) so for dinner, we did kebabs. Pork tenderloin kebabs were given a peri-peri rub, and chicken kebabs were marinated in a lemon-herb marinade. We chopped the meat the day before and marinated overnight, then speared it onto skewers in the morning before boarding. Veggies got speared in advance too – we paired broccoli with mushroom and onions with peppers, thinking those would be well-matched cooking times. Ziploc bags worked well for kebab transport.

kebabs to go | a couple of amateurs

We could have stopped there and made this dinner paleo… but we’re not that trendy. And is it really a party without carbs and cheese? I don’t think so. Anthony suggested pizza, as it’s one of Chelsea’s faves, so we par-baked a couple of pizzas the day before and brought them on the boat to finish them off. This was very experimental, as I’ve actually never heard the phrase “par-baked” before. But I figured that if “par-boiled” was a thing, then why not par-baked? We assembled the pizzas, baked at 400°F, and took them out about 5 minutes earlier than we normally would have. See picture below. They hung out in the fridge overnight, and then the next day they were popped into the sail boat’s oven and heated up to crispy, delicious perfection.

par-baked pizza - perfect when reheated | a couple of amateurs

I made a salted caramel layer cake for our dessert. It’s decorated with tall skinny candles and the number 30 (wedding table numbers from BHLDN). Bringing a tall layer cake aboard a boat sounds like an awful idea, I know, but my cupcake/cake carrier was up to the task. If you don’t have one of these, I strongly recommend getting one. I’m not being paid to say that. Our blog is not popular enough to make money from endorsements. We ate dessert, played games and drank wine while the sun set behind the islands.

30th Birthday Party - On a Boat | a couple of amateurs

We woke up the next morning to a bright sunny day – and no one had sleepwalked off the edge of the boat in the night. Success! We served fruit and quiche, cut and baked in advance, respectively. Quiche was a great choice – it’s a balanced meal in itself, and it travels and reheats very well. I made one vegetarian quiche – spinach and fontina – with an olive oil crust. This crust recipe is from Lee and Lou Cook. As written, it makes two so I halved it.

olive oil quiche crust

spinach and fontina quiche with olive oil crust

The other quiche we made had a sausage and kale filling and a potato crust. Check out that recipe here.

potato crust quiche | a couple of amateurs

We served them with sliced mandarins, navel oranges, and grapefruits. Another guest made some butterscotch banana bread, which rounded this brunch out perfectly.

citrus fruits | food to go | a couple of amateurs

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