An Interview with Carolyn Shearlock, Founder The Boat Galley

Diane: So, Carolyn, when did you start The Boat Galley? And what was your vision?

Carolyn: I began it back in 2010, when I was in the process of writing a cookbook for cruisers. There just wasn’t much information about cooking on boats, and I figured I’d write up 10 or 15 tips on things I got asked about frequently when we were cruising.

Diane: Well, it has certainly grown since then! Now, despite the name, you don’t limit yourself to just the galley, do you?

Carolyn: No, not at all. There are plenty of resources for learning how to sail and how to navigate. But there are very few sources for help with the whole “learn to live on a boat” thing – and that is where so many people get tripped up. So we’ve made it our niche.

We have 8 online courses ranging from The Basics of Living Aboard; to Eating Well With A Tiny Fridge; and Storage Solutions. We’re adding more, too – people keep telling us how much the courses have helped to smooth out that first year learning curve and say they want more.

Diane: I keep hearing you say “we” and “us” – The Boat Galley isn’t just you anymore, is it?

Carolyn: We have a team of 6 now, plus extras that help at the boat shows! I think we have a good mix of cruising styles and skills. 

There’s Nica Waters, who podcasts with me – she’s done an Atlantic crossing and has cruised the Bahamas and Caribbean on a 28-foot Bristol Channel Cutter with her husband and two kids. 

John Herlig is our extreme minimalist cruiser, single-handing a 50-year-old Rawson 30 with no refrigeration or pressure water. He also does deliveries all over US East Coast and Caribbean. Twice now, he’s brought an engineless boat back to the US from the Bahamas – once due to hurricane damage and once due to an electrical fire. 

Larry Webber got pulled into The Boat Galley fold when he joined John as crew from Jamaica to the Florida Keys. He’s had his boat for five years now, I think, and hates to sit in one place. He’s another single-hander with extensive experience all over the East Coast from the Florida Keys to Maine and throughout the Bahamas. Larry does the field research for our cruising guides.

Julie Tijerina is our graphics designer, and she cruised her Brewer 44 with her husband from Florida, through the Bahamas, and now for several years in the Caribbean. She uses her design skills to make the Quick Reference Cruising Guides super user-friendly. 

And then there’s Pam Douglas, our virtual assistant, who keeps everything running smoothly – not an easy job with all of us not just working remotely but also on the move. Pam is also a former cruiser, and also our expert on cruising with dogs. 

Diane: You talked before about the courses you offer, and just now you mentioned cruising guides. What all are you into?

Carolyn: There’s the original website,, with over 1,100 articles about living on a boat and 100+ boat-friendly recipes. 

We also have The Boat Galley Podcast, with information on just about everything pertaining to moving aboard, living aboard, and cruising. We’ve got over 700 episodes. They’re short, so the points are easy to remember, and there’s a new one every week.

Then, of course, there are my two books: The Boat Galley Cookbook and Storing Food Without Refrigeration which help to fill in the galley knowledge. For many people, used to a large land kitchen, their first glimpse of a typical galley raises all sorts of red flags about cruising as a lifestyle. We show them how it can work.

Now we have cruising guides and other references as well. All of our products – logbook, boat documents organizer, outboard troubleshooting guide, and cruising guides – came about because of our frustration with what was out there. One of our team members would want something, not be able to find it and would grumble, “Someone ought to make a…” Eventually it dawned on us: we could be “someone.” We probably weren’t the only frustrated cruisers!

For example, I spent days in office supply stores trying to find a good way to keep all our boat documents organized for checking into foreign countries and marinas, not to mention just for times we needed the information. Anything I found was either too small to hold thick insurance policies and surveys, had zero organization to it, or would be unwieldy to take to an office. We worked with a company to develop a true solution, including checklists of what should be included. It’s one of our best-sellers!

Diane: What’s the ONE thing that you’d tell someone who was just starting cruising?

Carolyn: When things get overwhelming, slow down, take a break. Take a day off and do something fun. Spend a night or two at a marina if you need to. If the weather is bad, head back to the anchorage and wait for better conditions. Even offshore, you can hit pause by heaving-to. 

Boat life is amazing, but it can be a lot, particularly when it’s all new.  For it to be sustainable, you have to find ways to remove the stress. Not just the big stressors but the little things too. We’d like to think that our courses and products do exactly that: eliminate frustration on a daily basis. We hope all the Salty Dawgs will try them out!