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.
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.
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.
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.
You might want to add a filter to your fresh water tap to avoid any nasties coming through from the tank. You might choose to fill up with bottled water as opposed to from a hose on a wharf. Add chlorine tablets to your tank or use a UV steriliser if you are unsure of the quality of water you are taking on board.
If the water tastes average from the tank then consider using tea or powdered drink flavours to make it taste better.
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.
Also have some containers with handles filled 3/4 full (so that they will float). Tie them all together with a clip at one end – this is your emergency drinking water if you have to abandon ship. Clip the end on to the grab bag or liferaft as you evacuate.
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.
of course you could always just drink champagne..?
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 spaghetti bolognese sandwiches. I make the whole thing from scratch, freeze 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!
When packing fresh meat – sort it in to enough for two meals for everyone on board and then vacuum pack. Cook it all at once and eat half as one meal and then the rest as leftovers the next day. (Saves having to cook twice!) For example: 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.
Check to make sure your crew don’t have any allergies or major food dislikes.
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!
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, beetroot, pumpkin, carrots, firm tomatoes, apples, oranges, limes, lemons, eggs, cabbage. Cabbage is best stowed wrapped in newspaper, and just peel off a leaf at a time as opposed to cutting through the layers. Check them regularly and chuck out or eat anything before they go off.
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 – in pasta on pizza or fried with garlic & cream, beans etc. Tinned tomatoes make a great salsa, tinned chick peas for making hummus.
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. Salami lasts for ages too.
Check out the freeze dried section of the supermarket too. Peas, corn, beans etc. And dried things like chilli, mushrooms, dried fruit etc.
Cheese lasts a long time too – especially cheddar, or those with a wax coating. Check the use by dates on soft cheeses.
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 stow flat and 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.
Powdered eggs are great in baking.
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, pre-made sandwiches, pasta salad, scroggin/trail mix, salami, cheese. Keep them in an easily accessible area.
Hot drinks make long night watches more enjoyable. 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.
What is on your list of must have provisions? Here are some more suggestions:
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.
Check out those socks and jandals – the next new thing in fashion… you heard it here first people!
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.
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! It is also not polite to throw food scraps in the ocean when you are anchored in a bay or a marina. Yes its biodegradable, but its not much fun swimming around the anchorage with slices of lemons or lettuce leaves floating around with you.
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.
Spare parts for your motor – oil, filters, impellers etc. Other spares for anything else that might break – batteries, electrical, plumbing etc.
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)