Perfect Provisioning for a Passage

So, you are sailing off to a lovely tropical island… great! But what are you going to eat on the trip? Especially when you can’t just nip down to the supermarket and grab some extra supplies – (Not that I do that anyway – I hate supermarket shopping – the un-steerable trolleys, the dawdling people, the queues, the multiple handling of items, etc etc)

Sure yes, you can easily last for a week without going to the supermarket, but how about when your fridge (if you are lucky enough to have one that works) is only the size of a small chilly-bin? And how about when you go to turn on the tap – you are using up your own precious water supplies, as opposed to having unlimited flowing water as you would in a house…?

Well yes that’s where it gets a bit more complicated…

How long is it going to take?

Tip # 1 – Firstly you need to figure out roughly how long you are going to be at sea for, so you can make sure you provision accordingly.

On Wildwood we can do anything between 5-15 kts. With 15kts being absolutely terrifyingly fast, and on the other end of the spectrum we tend to turn on the motor if there isn’t much wind and we are going any slower than 5 kts.

More about the motor later – but say our worst case scenario is that we are doing 5kts (or 5 nautical miles per hour) Then in a 24 hour period we will go 120 miles (5 x 24 = 120) – hopefully in the right direction! (That is the other issue – if the wind is coming from directly where you want to go, or if you have got an opposing current, then you possibly won’t be 120 miles closer to your destination at the end of the day…)

120 miles in a day is a pretty conservative figure for us when we are doing a coastal passage, and some boats will go slower and others faster but it is best to base your provisioning requirements on worst case scenario.

So if for example you were sailing from Opua to Tonga – which is a nice round figure of around 1000 nautical miles, you could estimate that if you can do at least 120 nautical miles in a day then it might take you about eight days to get there – if you don’t stop anywhere interesting along the way, have terrible weather, or have something break along the way.

Add at least a couple of extra days (or weeks) worth of provisions depending on the length of your passage, on to your estimated duration to allow for bad weather or any other dramas – it would be bad to have issues and then also run out of food as well…

Once you have bought all your food divide your fuel, water and fuel supplies in to thirds. Now figure out where on the passage is half way – in miles. Use the first third of your supplies for the first half of the passage. Then when you make that half way point, you can start on your second third of supplies. Save the final third for emergencies.

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What is at the other end?

Remember – that if there are people at the place you are heading to – then there is going to be something for them (and hopefully you) to eat.

But perhaps you are cruising to remote locations, and there might not be a well stocked supermarket at your destination. Or you might not be able to get your favourite food things there, or they might be really expensive? Do some research, it might be worth provisioning more of those particular items from home before you go.

Also though you don’t want to take too much – in New Zealand there are very strict regulations with what kinds of foods you can bring in here. Particularly fresh vegetables, meat, honey, nuts, seeds etc – as they can contain various insects pests that aren’t already in our beautiful island nation. It is a shame to have to throw all these things out, so check the regulations for the country you are sailing to and make sure you eat up anything that isn’t allowed before you get there.

Tip # 2 – do some research before you sail.

Water

Do you have any idea how much water you use in a day? Imagine how many litres are going down the drain as you stand in the shower trying to wake up and motivate yourself to go to work, while you are brushing your teeth, flushing the loo, cooking, washing the dishes, turning on the washing machine, and finally – drinking it!

According to the internet – the average house dweller uses about 150 litres of fresh water per person per day.

On a boat we are a bit more conservative. We have got a salt water tap in the galley which is handy for rinsing the dishes and washing dirty hands. We don’t have a shower every day – hell we don’t even have a proper shower! The toilet is flushed with salt water too.

Hopefully we will have a shower along with a water maker on board the new boat, which will make life easier – especially as the carting of water bottles to and fro which isn’t much fun.

The boat we want to buy has a 200 litre water tank. If we head back to our Opua to Tonga example, an 8 day passage would mean we could use 25 litres of water a day – without either carrying more water or using the water maker. This isn’t a lot although Carolyn from the Boat Galley said that two of them and a dog can live on this amount – about 7 gallons a day.

Drinking water is obviously the most important. You often hear people quoting that you should drink 8 glasses of water a day. This equates to nearly 2 litres a day. That is just on an average day. If it is hot and you are exercising, then you might need to drink more than that. So if you work back the other way, budgeting for 2 litres of drinking water per person, then you will need at least 32 litres of drinking water for a couple for the 8 day passage to Opua.

On Wildwood we have got thick soft drink bottles filled with water that we use for the drinking water and then we use the tank water for all the washing and cooking. It is hard to measure how much is left in the tank, and so we are never really sure how much we are using. Also it means our drinking water is isolated from the main tank. So if for any reason that becomes contaminated, then our drinking water is still safe. You can also purchase specially designed thicker water carrying containers which are less likely to spring leaks like soda bottles can.

Tip # 3 – We have named drink bottles that can be easily stowed in one of the cockpit cubby holes, which makes getting a drink easy for people on-watch and there is no waste and washing up of cups.

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of course you could always just drink champagne..?

Food

Andrew and I are just so compatible! – he likes cooking and I like eating – we just work so well together.

Keeping your crew well fed is super important. On our jaunts up and down the NZ coast we seem to eat the whole way, our most favourite meal is Andrew’s fantastic spaghetti bolognese sandwiches. He makes the whole thing from scratch, freezes it and then we re-heat it and serve between two thick slices of soft fresh buttered white bread – OMG delicious! There is nothing quite like a hot meal in your tummy when you on a long passage. Especially when it is cold and rough. You don’t want to be down below chopping up onions while trying to hold on for dear life!

Tip # 4 – Make as many pre-prepared meals that you can just heat and eat – you can either pre-make them yourself and freeze or if you get really desperate then you can get meals like Back Country Cuisine – where you simply add boiling water, leave for 5-10 minutes and then eat.

If you have a freezer add things like pre-made casseroles, pies, lasagne, curries etc. Make sure the meals have plenty of carbs – pasta, rice, potatoes, bread for energy and plenty of volume to fill up tummies!

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If you have limited fridge/freezer space, then there are some fresh foods that store better than others without refrigeration – for example; potatoes, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, oranges, beetroot, carrots, firm tomatoes, lemons, eggs. Check them regularly and chuck out or eat anything before they go off.

When cooking consider making extra to eat the next day – i.e. cook a whole chicken for dinner and then have chicken sandwiches the next day. If you are boiling water for pasta, then use the water to hard boil some eggs in after you have finished cooking the pasta.

Tinned vegetables are good in stir-fries – think corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans etc – Tip # 5 – taste everything to make sure you like them before buying up loads of tins.

Tinned fruits work well on cereals or as desserts – peaches, pears, apples, pineapple, berries are all good. Write on the tops of the cans in permanent marker what is inside incase the labels get wet and fall off.

Tinned meats are also not bad – consider tuna, chicken etc.

Herbs and spices are always good to have on board for adding extra flavour to meals and they can sometimes be difficult to track down in foreign countries.

Sprouting beans add extra crunch to salads or sandwiches. You can also grow herbs in pots if you have somewhere to keep them where they won’t spill out all the time.

Preserved things in jars – cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes etc. Stow glass with care.

Sauces – curries, pasta sauces etc are always handy and usually have a reasonably long shelf life.

Long life cream, milk or powdered milk is great on the cereals, in smoothies and you can make it in to yoghurt as well with a yoghurt maker.

Learn how to make bread and pizza dough. Pre-packaged wraps/tortillas last for ages. Packets of crackers for days when baking is too hard.

Stock up on pasta, rice, noodles, couscous & breakfast cereals, throw out all the plastic and cardboard before you leave the dock to get rid of as much rubbish as you can, and store them in airtight containers.

Have plenty of snacks – great for warding off queazy stomachs and keeping yourself awake at night on watch – ginger biscuits, fruit cake, muesli bars, nuts, crackers, chips, chocolate, sweets, pretzels, fresh & dried fruits, mini pies, hard boiled eggs. Keep them in an easily accessible area.

Hot drinks make long night watches more enjoyable. See below for Tip # 7 – have soup sachets, 2 minute noodles, coffee, hot chocolate, blackcurrant and tea bags available in your night watch survival kit too.

Catch some fish! Nothing like some fresh sashimi – keep the soy sauce and wasabi close at hand!

Tip # 6 – you could make a meal plan and have all your meals and snacks set out for the voyage. Handy if you have lots of people on board, or if you might have a rough trip.

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Gas

Life is going to be pretty miserable without hot food, so make sure you fill up your gas bottles before you go. I cook at home using a standard BBQ gas bottle and it lasts me months, so it is easy to forget to fill these. Make sure you have at least one full spare bottle. A proper gimballed stove with pot clamps is essential for cooking on a boat, however if you are planning on doing any adventures ashore you can also get these cool camping stoves called Jet Boils – which I absolutely LOVE. They boil water in 2 minutes flat, and you can cook on them too. Great for camping too, but a bit tippy to be using on a rough sea.

Tip # 7 – Get yourself a decent stainless thermos flask, and whenever you boil the kettle, put the remaining hot water in the flask. This can then be used for washing the dishes, or more hot drinks, soups, noodles etc in an instant and you save precious gas too.

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Check out those socks and jandals – the next new thing in fashion… you heard it here first people!

Fuel

On Wildwood, we use about 1.5 litres of fuel an hour. We have only got a 12hp motor, which pushes us along quite nicely at about 5kts. On recent trips up and down the coast we have motored quite a lot of the way. We are usually making a mad dash in between weather systems and work/kid commitments.

So if we motor for a 24 hour period – we are probably using about 36-40 litres of diesel. Of course we are a yacht and our main aim is to sail – not motor. But imagine you are half way between Opua and Tonga – about 500 nautical miles or 4 days from anywhere, and your mast breaks, and you lose the lot over the side and can’t make a jury rig. It would be kind of nice to be able to motor either back to where you started or on to your destination. Otherwise – well – what else are you going to do? (Read here about insurance and salvage!)

So say you have got a bigger motor than us, our new boat certainly will have, and say it uses 3 litres of diesel an hour, and you want to have the option to motor at least 50% of your journey (that is if you lost your sailing ability half way to your destination) – 3 litres x 24 hours x 4 days = 288 litres of diesel. The boat we are looking at has got a 130 litre fuel tank. So that is quite a few extra jerry cans to have on board!

Tip # 8 – Sail as much as possible to conserve fuel (and don’t break your mast)

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Rubbish

Sailing around with loads of rubbish on board isn’t much fun. If you remove as much packaging as possible from all the food you bring on board – stow everything in your fantastic sistema containers. And take all your rubbish ashore before you leave, you can drastically reduce the amount of rubbish that you have to carry along for the passage. It goes without saying but you must never throw any plastics in to the ocean!

Other things to Remember

Non-slip mats can be helpful for stopping things sliding all around the galley while you are preparing meals.

Sometimes supermarkets near marinas here in New Zealand offer free delivery of items or they will even come and pick you up! You can also shop online and have things delivered, which can be handy if you are without a car.

Prescription medications – for the passage and the rest of your travels as well.

Check the contents of your first aid kit – replace anything that has been used up or expired.

Check your grab bag is stocked and add in fresh water and some food if you have space.

Sunscreen & insect repellant.

Toilet paper – don’t run out of this! and other sanitary items including baby wipes – great for a baby-wipe shower when you can’t have a shower!

Rubbish bags, dish washing liquid and hand soap.

Paper towels are handy in the galley.

Cleaning products.

Spare parts for your motor – oil, filters, impellers etc. Other spares for anything else that might break – batteries, electrical, plumbing etc.

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And when you arrive in the tropical island you can have fun trying all their delicious foods – like these amazing cheeses in New Caledonia!

There are lots of great books and resources for provisioning ideas. The Boat Galley is a great website, Carolyn sends out a newsletter with all sorts of provisioning and boat living tips. You can also buy her Boat Galley Cookbook.

If you have any other provisioning wisdom – please do share in the comments below. (This is all part of my Ocean Yachtmaster study topic for tonight and I love your real life scenarios)

37 thoughts on “Perfect Provisioning for a Passage

  1. Great post, Viki, and it comes as we’re beginning preparations for our big hop down to the Med. On our SO379 we opted for a 2nd water tank of 130L. Like you, we drink bottled water and use the tanks for everything else. For the cooking gas, we can go about 20 days for 2 people at 3 meals / day (not necessarily all hot meals, but there’s always a tea or a soup here and there…). This year we’re buying an electric deep-dish pan for cooking in port. No need to use cooking gas if electricity is available. For rubbish on long passages, we generally stow the trashbags in the anchor locker to get them out of the way. We fish as much as possible but tend to catch only mackerel (not my favorite), so we never leave home without ample supplies of wasabi paste and soy sauce !

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  2. Don’t rely on catching fish – at best it is a welcome supplement to your supplies.

    We nearly ran out of food on a cargo ship crossing the Pacific because the company employed a local taxi driver as the cook. He had never been to sea and didn’t realise the trip from Buenos Aires to Whangarei didn’t have any shops along the way. Towards the end he would spend many hours anxiously tending his fishing lines in the hope that we he might be able to stretch our supplies out. We made it with some food to spare, but the quality was dismal!

    Thankfully we were well stocked with “Quilmes” beer which took the edge of the hunger pangs.

    Needless to say I had my bag packed and headed ashore with the first heaving line – never to return!

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    • Oh no! Lol – that doesn’t sound like much fun at all!!
      We catch quite a few fish here and in the Sounds, but you are right – we shouldn’t rely on there being so many fish to catch in the rest of the Ocean. I guess we have the lovely quota system here to thank for that. 🙂

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  3. fantastic, Viki, great post! I guess I have mentioned it before but you should really move into training/teaching about sailing… very informative and funny at the same time, an excellent mixture.
    Am not so sure about the fashion-success of those pink/purple socks/tights 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      • I was more than happy when the pink&purple era of my daughters came to an end… now you really got me frightened, I’d need to go on a three times non-stop circumnavigation when your fashion vision turns into reality… 😉

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    • The spag bol sandwich is a revolution in sailing meals – the rich hot sauce, combined with the pasta providing great carbs and then wrapped between the soft buttery bread – yummo!
      Actually the bread bit came about quite accidentally. It was quite rough and raining when we first had this meal. The sandwich idea was more to save washing up, and being able to eat dinner one handed, while the other hand carried on steering or holding on.
      Needless to say that everyone on board thought it was a fantastic meal and since then it has become a tradition. In fact I think the spag bol sandwiches are the only reason our crew members all over to come with us on that passage up the coast!

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  4. Hi! I’m writing a short blogpost on provisioning and cooking on board, for Teena Clipston for her CruiserTV blog. I’ve made lots of references to The Boat Galley too. Please can I have permission to use some of your food photos? I’ll of course give you credit. Perhaps I can give a link to this great blog post you’ve written? Also, do you have any interior galley photos that might be suitable for my article? Thanks in advance for your help! Regards, Georgie.

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      • I think some places are saltier than others – not sure if that is a fact or not, but sometimes I feel saltier than others. I personally am a big fan of baby-wipes, or a flannel in fresh water does the trick too.

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      • Thanks Viki! You’re right, the water does hold more salt in some areas – I suspect in part due to temperature. It’s significant enough to effect the draft restrictions for big vessels going from-say – the Caribbean to Maine! They’s sit deeper here because the salinity is lower.
        We’ve used the wash cloth (flannel in your language!) too – seems the most efficient use of fresh water.

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      • I guess I should qualify my comment by saying that I was relating what we used to do when we sailed in warmer waters. Back then we usually just toweled off – the towels got pretty salty and we had to change them every 5 days or so, but that pretty much dealt with the salty feeling on the skin. My hair got a little itchy but I was only 21 years old and things like that don’t seem to matter much when you’re that young 🙂

        Now that we’re a little older, sail in places where we find it too cold to take on-deck salt showers, and have a desalinator, we tend to take a lot more fresh water showers, or at least fresh rinses and that’s pretty wonderful, have to admit!

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      • Hi Viki,
        Probably the best measure would be our Pacific crossing from the Galapagos to Marquesas, which took 27 days. On that trip we used 135 gallons – we know because we lugged every one of them in jerry cans and buckets from a spigot on shore to the dinghy to the boat. It was actually a good fun chore – can’t really beat just being outside in the beautiful Marquesas! Anyway, most of that was for drinking (we each drank at least a gallon per day, often more on hot days, of which there were lots! – we find it helps stave off seasickness) and the rest for cooking or rinsing metal dishes. Back then we kinda prided ourselves on being primitive sailors, but I have to admit that I really like having the little desalinator now – this summer we didn’t fill from shore in 7 weeks but even took fresh water showers occasionally! Bliss 🙂

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  5. Great article with fantastic advice. All our off-shore voyages stocking up were based on 120nm per day best case. And a bit more. We always had plenty of food and water – we always over-shopped, until the Red Sea where we pretty much ran out of food due to weather beating us back so much. We were allowed to stop at a port and go shopping except we had to stay in port and they sent locals off to buy us food – and charges us a fortune for it – even though we had our visas already!
    I tell you, noodles and peas can become very tiresome! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jackie. In that case, I think I will adjust my best and worst case distances down a bit. At present we always seem to be rushing from one place to the next, but hopefully once we set off we will be in cruising mode and not have so many time constraints as we do now, so a few extra days at sea won’t be so bad if you have got lots of great food to eat!
      Noodles and peas does sound a bit dire!! I imagine it is quite fun and also challenging shopping in new countries when you can’t read the labels on things!

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      • We always over planned just incase – yes Noodles and tin peas is dire! lol! but we survived and were so grateful when in some small Marsa the local Egyptians gave us some unidentifiable fruit juice in exchange for coloruful magazines! I agree with Seth and Ellen – it is all fun and something grand about self-survival – you feel so alive, and they are quite right – plenty of water helps seasickness. Your blogs are wonderful I just wish more magazines would publish this incredibly useful information! Thank you!

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  6. I was surprised by how quickly my fresh food went off in the tropics. Also vegetables in the fridge froze, too. Green bags were not helpful either.

    As I write this from a remote island location, You learn quickly when the boat arrives to replenish the stores. Scoring fresh vegetables makes your day, believe me on this!

    Be sure to stock up on dried food, we have enjoyed dried fruits like dried mangoes.

    Great post, as always, Viki!

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. When in port on shore power I take advantage of cannable fruit like peaches, beets guavas etc, and can/bottle them. Also a tip for veges which go off quickly, blanch them then chop them into a good size and refridgerate them. They last 3 times as long. Use Carrots, spinach zucchini or any veg. I also use the shore power to bottle beans, ratatouille and salsa. This saves your gas when on the hook or out there.
    Don’t forget to drop them into iced water after blanching!
    “KIND” make a brilliant natural nut bar in many flavours, mostly held together with honey, not the usual synthetic binders.

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  9. After a (slow) 20 day Atlantic crossing with 4 adults on board, we still had food for 3 to 4 weeks, 80% to 90% of our fuel tanks, and probably 3 to 6 weeks of propane. We had 3 bags of 40-50 litres of trash, having sorted excess packing at the shops directly. Glass and metal cans are better off at the bottom of the ocean, than populating plastic bags of tropical trash dumps, because do not expect these guys to have trash processing capabilities. They have other problems to fix first.
    For a BVI to Panama (1000miles, 5 adults + 2 kids) crossing, apart from toping up fresh vegetables and fruits, we did not bother about provisioning.
    Anyway, as a live aboard, we always have 1 to 2 months of total autonomy, if not more. But the weather forecast always dictates the route and the timing, provisioning is a side topic of very simple math.

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  10. In the asian section of the supermarket you can find dried shiitake mushrooms (in Australia anyway – Woolworths – not sure about Coles as there is none nearby). I find these great for adding some protein, flavour and bulk to any sort of dish. I sometimes put them in as they are or soak in water first. They are great especially if you like the flavour of a strong mushroom.

    In this section there are also rice noodles which are vacuum packed so are already soft and come in lovely big fat pieces.

    We are very lucky and are able to buy packaged fresh noodles which last for ages – (have a very big Vietnamese community nearby) . I love them and (will def. be trying them with your spag bol sandwiches!) they add so much to any dish. They come in many different types.

    I def. think you are ahead of your time in relation to your fashion however I will be wearing crocs and not thongs (Jandals) 🙂

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