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Provisioning and the Healthy Sailor

18 May 2010 | Gulf of Aqaba
overcast and hazy wind NW 15 knots
- Part 1 © 2010 Robyn Coulter -
May is panning out to be a month of guests. Our weather is already warm and it has been easy enough to entertain visitors with a day of sailing. With each visit I've been thankful for Yofy's excellent storage capacity. When her lockers are full, the makings for a spontaneous lunch or evening snack is within easy reach. All of which has got me thinking about provisioning.

Many articles have been written about provisioning a sailboat for an offshore cruise. Books have been written about stocking a sailboat's galley and cooking on board. While most of us profess that provisioning is really quite simple, the sheer prevalence of articles and books suggest that it is a subject worth studying.

Take any confident sailor who feels at home in their shore side kitchen and ask them to provision for a short sailing holiday and you are sure to stir up just a little angst. Suddenly the idea of being less than a short car ride from the nearest supermarket gets us all in a tither. What can we cook that will meet all the crews likes and dislikes? How many dry goods do we really need? And lastly where the heck are we going to store it all?

On board Yofy we ask another question. Does our provisioning list include healthy and nutritious food? Time and again I have watched in dismay as neighbouring sailboats load on supplies. All too often the large majority of their food shopping consists of crisps, cookies and alcohol. While I certainly understand the urge to nibble on watches, snack foods do not provide the nutrition and energy to sustain a crew on a sailing holiday, never mind an offshore leg.

Earlier this month a simple question posted on a popular cruising forum brought up the subject again. A woman sailor in the northern hemisphere was looking towards the summer sailing season and wondering what and how much food she needed to stock her galley with. People who answered her, suggested pre-meal planning, stocking up on canned goods, and even calorie counting. As I sat down to send her my two cents worth, I realized that I needed to write a blog. So, after twenty years of living aboard and a summer of provisioning and cooking for six to eight people, here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

The first thing to consider when making a provisioning list is - who's going and where are they going? It sounds obvious but your provisioning list is going to change considerably if you have young children or teenagers on board. Is the crew made up of mainly robust males with hearty appetites or is it a mixed crew with some dainty females who prefer to nibble throughout the day. Will you be sailing in colder climates where warm, heating food is needed or is this a tropical vacation where cooking over a hot stove is not very appealing?

Even if you only use your boat to go out for day sails and the marina is a short walk away from the nearest foods store, it is important to have a basic stock of food supplies on board at all times. This was driven home to me many years ago when we were sailing out of Toronto, Canada. Friends invited Manny and me to sail with them along the coast to the next marina where there was a pub and we could all have dinner. After dinner we would sail home. We picked a sunny Sunday and joined them on board. Out on Lake Ontario the wind didn't co-operate and after three or four hours it became apparent that we wouldn't make the pub in daylight, never mind sail back home. The weather changed a little and it became cold out on the water. The couple hadn't thought of food because we were due to eat out and there weren't enough supplies on board to feed us. We hadn't brought enough warm clothes. On the approaches to our home marina the skipper underestimated depths and we went aground. In the end, we didn't arrive back at the dock until well past midnight - cold, hungry and wiser for the experience.

Today, we always top up water tanks, check our fuel gauge and keep a basic supply of food on board every time we leave the dock. We have spare warm clothes on board too.


If you are provisioning for an offshore passage you will need to keep in mind the crew's food preferences. I am a vegetarian. Manny is not. When we have guests on board we try to offer a meal that has a vegetarian dish as well as meat or fish. It can also help to know how the crew manages in heavy seas. Are they prone to sea sickness? Or do they just get hungrier?

Friends of ours crewed in a rally that encountered high seas and rolly onboard conditions. The skipper hadn't thought to provision for rough weather and sensitive stomachs. The only dinner available was fried fish. Needless to say most of the crew went hungry. On Ellen we found that while underway, nobody could tolerate acid foods like tomato based dishes. Fresh fruit, however, disappeared at an alarming rate. In eight days, six people ate their way through four dozen apples, two dozen bananas, 2 dozen pears and a dozen oranges.

Living onboard Yofy, our provisioning routine is just as important as our maintenance schedule. Keeping provisions well stocked allows for last minute decisions to go sailing for a few days. Just as we keep backup spares for all our important boat systems, we also keep a backup for each of the basic provisions on board.

I keep Tupperware containers of all my basic dry goods in the galley lockers and also have at least an equal amount stored away in another locker as backup. So, if I have a large Tupperware container of Quaker Oats on board, I'll also have half a kilo of oats stored away in another locker as back up. The same goes for quinoa, cracked wheat, barley, buckwheat, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans and other legumes. I'll keep even greater supplies of rice, flour and pasta. We keep a supply of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. While we don't keep a wide variety of canned goods on hand, we do have plenty of cans of tuna and sardines and jars of peanut butter, molasses, jam and honey. I am always careful to make sure that we also have a couple of cans of beans in tomatoes sauce and a few packets of instant soup. These may never get eaten, but in a pinch they will serve as dinner. One can of powdered milk and a few cartons of a variety of juices and UTH milk round out the list.

Many visitors find it unusual, but onboard Yofy we also consider herbs and spices to be essential provisions. A basic meal of lentils and rice becomes much more palatable when spices are used in the cooking, but what many people do not know is that spices and herbs can provide essential minerals and aid with food digestion. We stock dried nettles, red raspberry leaves, and red clover blossoms to make nourishing infusions. Infusions are easy to make and one cup of nettle infusion provides 250 mg of Calcium, along with chlorophyll, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, thiamine, zinc, vitamins A, C, E, K. Our basic spices include turmeric, cumin and ground coriander. Among other qualities turmeric is an excellent blood purifier, when combined with turmeric, cumin is a very good digestive and immune booster and dried coriander seeds are known for lowering cholesterol levels.
Along with fresh vegetables and fruit, these basics will provide healthy and nutritious meals, even if we aren't able to stock up on other packaged goods, or fresh meat, fish, eggs or dairy products.

Below you will find a copy of our basic provisioning list. This is a list of what stock we regularly keep on board. Keep in mind that Yofy is a 30 foot sailboat, with a small galley and a top loading refrigerator. While we do have an oven, we do not have a microwave or a freezer onboard.

Yofy's Basic Provisioning List:
Dry goods only - 2 people living aboard with occasional guests

8 Tuna
4 Sardines
2 Tomatoe Paste
1 Whole Tomatoes
1 Pasta Sauce
2 Small Pineapple Rings
2 Tahini
2 Beans in tomatoes sauce
2 Corn
1 Peanut Butter
1 Jam
1 Molasses
1 Honey
1 Olives
1 Pickles

1 Pesto
1 Mayonnaise
1 Mustard
1 Hot sauce
½ liter Soya sauce
1 gallon (4 ½ liters) Olive Oil
1 liter Canola Oil

3 packages/kilos Brown Rice
1 pkg /kilo Brown sugar
2 pkg/ kilo Whole Wheat Flour
5 pkg Spaghetti
5 pkg Penne
1 kilo Dried Legumes (peas, lentils, beans)
1 pkg Couscous
1 kilo Quinoa
500 grams Corn Meal
200 grams Soya Flour
1 kilo Quaker Oats
1 pkg Granola
300 grams Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
200 grams Dried Fruit (dates, raisins, figs, apricots)
300 grams Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)
1 pkg Powdered Milk
1 liter UTH Milk
Baking supplies (baking powder, soda, vanilla...)
Spices (full spice jars + backup)

Bulk Herbs (100 grams each nettles, red raspberry leaves, red clover)
Several boxes Herbal teas (in bags)
1 box Black tea bags
1 box Green Tea Bags
2 Instant Coffee
1 pkg Cocoa powder
4 pkg Cup-a-soup
1 liter bottle Lemon Juice
3 boxes Juices
Lots of Wine
Really Lots of Beer
Bottled water

2 pkg Ryevita
1 pkg Burrito wraps
1 pkg Rice Crackers
1 pkg Other Whole Meal Crackers
1 pkg Pretzels
500 grams Popcorn
2 pkg Dark Chocolate
2 pkg Cookies
1 pkg each Candies (ginger, mint, licorice)
2 pkg Mint Chewing gum

Paper towels, toilet paper, wet ones, tissues, aluminum foil, strong trash bags, zip lock bags

Dish soap, laundry soap, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, bleach, toilet cleaner, vinegar, cloths, rags, scotchbrite, brushes...

First Aid Kit, batteries (all sizes), insect repellant, sunscreen, moisturizers for dry skin...

Stayed tuned for Part 2 where I'll show you how I store it all, share some recipes and provide tips for offshore provisioning with a large crew!

Vessel Name: Yofy
Vessel Make/Model: Fortune 30
Hailing Port: Red Sea
Crew: Robyn and Manny
Our names are Manny Kremer and Robyn Coulter. We have been living on, and mucking around in boats most of our adult lives. Manny, who is an electrician, marine mechanic and refrigeration and air conditioning technician earns his keep maintaining other people's boats. [...]
Extra: Sailing in the winds of peace
Home Page: http://yogaandboatmaintenance.weebly.com/
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Yofy's Photos -


Who: Robyn and Manny
Port: Red Sea