10 November 2011 | Durham, NC
Jenny / 49 & cloudy
So how does one go about stocking a boat with food & other day-to-day provisions? How do you know what to bring? And how much?
Wil & I still joke about our 64 cans of tuna fish. Last time we went cruising, we stocked the boat as though we wouldn’t be able to grocery shop for 8 months. Turns out we had more than enough food. When we returned to the states, we were amazed at how many cans were still in our storage compartments . . . including 64 cans of tuna!
Yes, we had gone a little overboard in the provisioning department last time. We had not taken into account just how often we would be catching our own fish and shopping at local markets. I’d had visions of days & days at sea without access to supplies. However, our longest time at sea was only 9 days. When we were in Belize & Mexico, we tended to live off the reef & uninhabited cays for weeks at a time, but we caught our own fish and traded with local fishermen. Beans & rice was also a popular staple dish.
Another provisioning lesson we learned from our previous cruising experience was that we didn’t need as many bottles of shampoo or bars of soap. When you’re on a sailboat with a limited water supply, you don’t take the daily showers like you do back on the mainland. Back in those days, we carried 100 gallons of water and didn’t have a water maker. Getting clean consisted of jumping off the boat to get wet, get out to soap up, jump back in to rinse off, and then complete a final fresh water rinse with the camp sun shower bag. Of course, that’s all fine and dandy when you’re anchored in clean looking water. I’ll never forget the day when a dead rat floated by as I was doing my saltwater rinse!
How did we figure out what to bring last time? For months ahead of time, I started dating food cans & other items that we used on a daily basis. That gave me a good idea of what we used per month. We were pretty accurate with our calculations for how much kitty litter or contact solution to bring. Baking supplies & boxed milk were pretty spot-on, as well.
As for provisioning this time around, it’s a bit of a new ball game for us. We have two rapidly growing kids, a bigger boat, more available water, we’re planning to go further distances, and visit entirely different lands. As I was first thinking about the provisioning process again, I thought for sure that I wouldn’t put as many large quantities on board this time around. However, after reading and talking to other world cruisers, we’ve learned that it’s difficult to find fresh vegetables in the remote areas of the South Pacific, and when you do, the prices are sky high. So my ideas on provisioning have changed again!
I started the provisioning process this past summer, approximately one year prior to departure. In my mind, we might as well buy things while we have an income. I have been taking my time to shop around for the best deals on bulk foods for long term storage. One of my first purchases was 5 cases of canned meats (bacon, ground beef, chicken, turkey, and pork). This is kind of funny because since then we’ve decided to become mostly vegetarian, only eating very limited amounts of meat (mostly fish, chicken & turkey). It’s like the 64 cans of tuna all over again! Although, this amount of meat should be okay because the cans are good for about 10 years, and maybe we can even use them in trading for other goods.
About 4 months ago, we decided to join Costco for one year, so we could take advantage of shopping in bulk. I have figured out what’s cheapest between Costco, Wal-Mart, Food Lion, and various online stores. Then, I wait for sales, as well as any appropriate coupons, before buying the items we need. At first Wil thought we would do one bulk shopping trip right before our departure, but I think I have him convinced that I’m doing this in a more cost effective manner. Not to mention that it’s a lot less stressful if we can spread it out over time!
This month, I purchased a vacuum sealer and began divvying up the large quantity of foods that I’ve accumulated thus far. All of this is becoming quite cute in the singlewide trailer that we’re renting! We have bags & boxes stacked along every wall waiting their turn for transport. Foods like rice, beans, quinoa, oats, coffee, buttermilk powder, chocolate chips, wheat gluten, soup mixes, and various dehydrated vegetables have been sealed thus far. I’ve also created a “pre-mix” of the dried ingredients for our beloved buttermilk pancakes, and labeled the bags with what ingredients need to be added before cooking. Maybe the pre-mix sounds a bit over the top, but when one is living on a sailboat, it takes time & effort to dig items out from deep down in a storage hole somewhere (All of which are logged on my iStorage iPad application for their location & quantity). One really begins to appreciate the simplicity of being able to take a box of food out of a normal cabinet!
As for final quantities? We’ve decided to provision for one year. We name the item and figure out how many we’ll use over the course of a year. There are some items which are considered special because they would take up too much space or money to stock the amount we would normally use. Those items will be given a limit of what we can use per month. If we run out, then we will have to wait until the next month before opening another. Nutella is one of those special items!
Most of our provisions will remain in their designated storage compartment until needed or desired. As we sail from place to place, we won’t hesitate to experience and enjoy foods from the various exotic cultures that we visit. But when those cravings for back home take over, we are more than prepared to treat ourselves to that special something!
P.S. Schoolbooks and supplies are another provisioned item. I’m trying to plan at least 2 years ahead of time, so we don’t have to pay for shipping books long distance.