WHEN IT COMES to eating on board, the habits of racing sailors and cruising sailors differ as widely as their reasons for being there.

For those who race, meals must be quick and hearty: Frozen lasagna, one-pot stews and huge skillets of scrambled eggs. They eat on the run and gulp an occasional beer--after all, they're in it for the gold. For the cruising sailor, though, eating is, ideally, a leisurely affair. Dinner begins with drinks and hors d'oeuvres; it finishes two hours later with fresh baked dessert and a quiet night.

Ask either sailor about the importance of food after a long day at sea, and you can bet it will rate up there with good winds and sunny days. Captains may be the bosses, but cooks are the royalty on the estimated 850,000 sailboats in the United States outfitted with stoves and galleys. When the meal is served, the crew wants hot food, and plenty of it. Cooks who don't plan ahead may find themselves walking the plank, because once you've set sail, if you didn't bring it along, you--and the crew--do without.

"When we're on a passage, food is one of the highlights of sailing," says author and world cruiser Lin Pardey. "I refuse to even budget for it, we spend so little on everything else." Pardey, 39, and her husband Larry Pardey, 43, have spent 11 of their past 14 years cruising and writing their way around the world in an engineless 24-foot, cutter-rigged sloop, Seraffyn. They've documented their visits to 35 countries in magazine articles and four books. Her most recent book, "The Care and Feeding of the Offshore Crew" (W.W. Norton, $17.95), was written during a 51-day, 4,548-mile trip from Yokohama, Japan, to Victoria Harbor, British Columbia, Canada.

The key to provisioning, she says, is to start with a list. Generally buy enough for each day aboard and then half of that amount again, just in case the wind dies. The Pardeys' shopping trips are daylong efforts; they visit numerous stores for their favorite cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables. "Avoid shopping at docks," she warns, where provisions generally cost more and vary less. Because they live aboard and their cruises are lengthy, finding good canned meat, vegetables and fruit is a constant challenge.

There is no menu planning aboard Seraffyn. "I tend to open the lockers and see whatever catches my eye," says Lin Pardey. When fully provisioned, their stores will last for three months of nutritionally balanced eating. And there is another month's worth of emergency food, which includes such things as rice, instant potatoes and noodles. Food is stowed in lockers by category: Condiments, vegetables, tomato products, fruits, main meals and treats.

Breakfast is light--Lin Pardey's own fresh baked bread, fruit and tea, but lunch and dinner are formal meals. Each evening at 7 p.m., they serve a cocktail, sherry for her, rum for him, and light hors d'oeuvres. Dinner is at 8:30. "Happy hour is important to us; it's the only time we see each other at sea; the rest of the time one is keeping watch and the other is sleeping," says Lin Pardey.

Provisioning Don and Susie Tate's 60-foot, custom-built racing sloop Cayenne is a world apart from the Pardeys'. Tate, an industrialist from Millersville, Md., and his wife stock food and water for each crew member in conformity with requirements set in advance by the race committee. Feeding the crew, which averages 19 in number and 22 in age, costs $900 for a four-day race. Breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are taped to the galley wall for all to see--on this boat there is no time for on-board culinary creativity.

Tates' shopping is preplanned and their grocery list is extensive. Four people make one trip to the store; each takes a section of the list, they meet at the checkout counter. Standard items include 4 1/2 gallons of milk, 16 cans of green beans, 3 large jars of mayonnaise, 12 cans of Pringles, 8 dozen eggs, 6 "packs" of chicken and 50 candy bars. There is always a bottle of cayenne pepper on board to use in Cayenne Stew--one of their standard meals, consisting of canned beef stew, canned brunswick stew, red wine, garlic and sour cream. Breakfast, though, is the biggest meal of the day and usually includes eggs, meat, bread and juice.

In addition, Susie Tate bakes large trays of chicken casseroles, lasagna or barbecued chicken, freezing them at home. She slices half of a 20-pound ham into thick dinner steaks and half of it thinly sliced for sandwiches. She hauls it down to the Annapolis Yacht Basin Marina, where Cayenne is docked, just before pushing off for a race.

Dozens of fresh fruits hang in small hammocks over the refrigerators. "The rule is, take what you think you can stow, at least double of everything. They will eat every bit of it," she says. "Those boys can eat, and you don't want a hungry crew."

"When you're racing, it's much easier if you have meals you can warm up," Susie Tate says. Even though their stove is gimbaled (suspended so it keeps a horizontal position when the boat is heeled), it's still tough to strap yourself in and prepare a complicated meal without falling into the stove.

Provisions are stowed under 11 bunks lining both sides of the cabin. Juices, soft drinks, iced tea, milk and beer are stowed in two engine-cooled refrigerators. There is a separate freezer for the casseroles. Foods are stacked in eating order, by date. On Cayenne's big ocean races, such as the annual trek from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda, alcohol is limited to one cocktail before dinner. "Everybody depends on each other out there," she says. But on the short Chesapeake Bay races, crew members are provided with beer when wanted.

On board Cayenne, the cooking is usually done by Susie Tate or one of their two college-aged daughters, Dorian and Holly, and another member of the crew. But for Lin and Larry Pardey the chores are clearly divided.

"I do all the domestic work below deck and Larry does it above," Lin Pardey says. "Everybody has a title on a boat," she says. "I call myself the CME, Crew Maintenance Engineer." She is the chief cook and he is the bottle washer (they do the dishes on deck with sea water), He is also provider of ice and fellow shopper.

The offshore floating kitchen aboard Seraffyn didn't suffer from a lack of equipment, though. A cast-iron aluminum frying pan with a lid, several Revere Ware saucepans, stainless steel bread pans, two flat lasagna pans and a meat grinder were all stowed within easy reach.

The Pardeys have spent the last three years on land in Bull Canyon, California building a new 30-foot cutter, Taleisin, and are readying the boat for a mid-October launching. When they put to sea again, headed downwind, Taleisin's new galley will offer such improvements as a hanging knife rack, three-inch insulated ice chest (extending storage of fresh meats and cheeses from 12 to 20 days), and separate shelves for onions and potatoes.

All of the shelves are lined with Neotex, a rubber material that looks like screen, allows for circulation around fresh foods and eliminates slippage of cans. Air extends the shelf life of potatoes and onions, which should be stowed on airy shelves or hang from the galley wall. One onion lasted nine months, Lin Pardey brags.

She repackages some items in plastic Ziploc bags to protect them against dampness that would eventually cause their paper and cardboard containers to break open. If eggs are turned every three days they'll stay fresh for six to eight weeks without refrigeration, Lin Pardey says. After that, they're still good to use in baking for another three months.

To extend the shelf life of bread, double bake it, she says. Bake it completely, let it cool and then bake again for 10 minutes. This produces a crunchier crust and kills any bacteria left after the first baking. Then take a piece of cheesecloth, lightly soaked in vinegar, and wrap the bread in it to stop the growth of mold.

Sweet food tastes great on the water, so be sure to buy lots of it, including cookies, candy bars, dried fruit and trail mix. Fruit juices, soft drinks and Gatorade are standard thirst quenchers out on the water. Along with dried foods, such as popcorn or saltines, they also serve as cures to seasickness, says Lin Pardey.

"There will always be a certain percentage of the crew who will be sick at one time or another," warns Dory Tate. "You've got to plan for it. Let's face it, if you're out there in a 30-knot blow, you're gonna eat peanut butter sandwiches and hope you don't throw up." Averting the possibility means avoiding spicy or greasy foods. Make food look good and smell appetizing, she says. "No cabbage or broccoli, and it can't be too sloshy. We serve Cayenne Stew over biscuits or rice." Still, there will be some finicky, seasick crew members. The Tates say they will never forget the crew member who could eat nothing but Fruit Loops and clam dip.

Table service is strictly paper plates and cups and stainless steel flatware aboard the Cayenne. The crew is divided for staggered watches around the clock. The crew going on duty is fed first, followed by the crew coming off.

While the evening meal aboard Lin and Larry Pardey's boat is simple, too, it is served on heavy china with stainless steel flatware. They drink wine from steel cups. On a particularly windy day, they'll soak a dish towel with water and set in on the table to hold the dishes in place. "This is our home," Lin Pardey explains. "We don't have a lot of fancy things around, but we do have all the luxury in the world--we're free." LARRY PARDEY'S DARK RUM (1 serving) 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 jigger dark rum Water

Mix all ingredients together in an 8-ounce glass. Add ice and fill to the top with water. Sip. LIN PARDEY'S WILD RUSSIAN STUFFED CABBAGE (20 servings) 1 large head cabbage 3 pounds ground beef 1 cup uncooked rice 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 egg 1 tablespoon water 1 teaspoon oregano 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 large onions, sliced 2 large rutabaga, sliced 2 bunches red beets, sliced 10 medium turnips, sliced About 2 cups raisins 32-ounce can whole tomatoes 1 cup coarse red wine About 2 cups water

Soften cabbage leaves for 15 minutes in boiling water. Saute' ground beef in its own juices until browned, remove from heat and drain off excess fat. Let cool. Add rice, cinnamon, egg, water, oregano and salt. Stuff each cabbage leaf with about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture, until mixture runs out. In a heavy pot layer the vegetables, using half of each of the onions, rutabaga, beets and turnips. Cover with half of the raisins. Put a layer of meat rolls over this. Drain canned tomatoes and reserve juice. Coarsely chop them and place half over the rolls. Repeat layering of vegetables and meat rolls. Add red wine, water and reserved tomato juice. Place a final layer of raisins on top. Shred any leftover cabbage into the pot. Simmer, covered, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove cabbage rolls and vegetables and arrange on a serving platter. Remove 1 cup of the cooking liquid from the pot and add a tablespoon of flour, whisking until smooth. Return liquid to the pot, stirring. Return to a the boil to thicken and pour over all. Serve with boiled potatoes. LIN PARDEY'S VERY LIGHT WHOLE-WHEAT LOAF (Makes 2 loaves) 2 cups warm water 2 packages dried yeast 1/4 cup honey 3 teaspoons salt 2 cups white bread flour 3 cups whole-wheat flour 1 to 1 1/2 cups instant mashed potatoes 1 egg white

Mix honey with warm water and activate yeast in it. Add salt, bread flours and instant mashed potatoes. Mix well until dough pulls away from side of the bowl. Do not knead. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down. Form into loaves and place in 2 greased 9-by-5-inch bread pans. Let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hollow when knocked on top. The crust should be deep brown and crispy. PEANUT BUTTER (Makes about 1 3/4 cup)

You can substitute almonds, cashews or filberts for the peanuts; a combination of almonds and filberts is especially good. Don't over-brown any of the nuts; filberts should be roasted just until their skins crack. After roasting filberts, rub off as much of the husks as possible. 3 cups shelled raw peanuts (about 1 pound) 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar 2 tablespoons peanut oil

Spread the nuts in a jellyroll or roasting pan and roast them for 20 minutes at 300 degrees, shaking the pan now and then; they should be light gold. Cool the peanuts.

For creamy peanut butter, first put half of the cooled nuts in the container of a food processor (or the jar of a blender) with half of the salt, sugar and oil. Process the mixture to a creamy consistency (stopping the action and scraping down the sides of the container often with a spatula), then empty the peanut butter into a bowl and process the remaining nuts, salt, sugar and oil.

For chunky peanut butter, use the processor to chop about one-third 1/3 of the nuts coarsely; set them aside, then process the remaining nuts to a creamy consistency with the salt, sugar and oil. Stir the mixture together with the chopped nuts.

Store the peanut butter in a covered jar in the cooler or refrigerator. It will keep about two weeks. From "Better Than Store-Bought," by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie MOLASSES COOKIES (Makes 24 large, flat cookies)

These are soft chewy, spicy cookies. They stay moist, in an airtight tin, for at least a week. 12 tablespoons sweet butter 2 cups granulated sugar 1/4 cup molasses 1 egg 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Melt butter, add sugar and molasses and mix thoroughly. Lightly beat egg and add to butter mixture; blend well. Sift flour with spices, salt and baking soda and add to first mixture; mix. Batter will be wet. Lay a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet. Drop tablespoons of cookie batter on foil, leaving 3 inches between the cookies. These will spread during the baking. Bake at 350 degrees until cookies start to darken, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven while still soft. Let cool on foil. From "The Silver Palate Cookbook," by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin