|Provisioning for Offshore
Remember, you're not camping out here - you're living aboard - and (most likely) you'll be living on your boat for a year or more . . .
The most common mistake first timers make is to buy way too much food, as well as all the wrong kind of food. So, make a list. Food
staples, such as raw pasta, rice, and beans should come first. These items can all be easily repackaged so that they take up a very small
amount of space for the bulk amount of cooked food they provide. Just remember, to leave the cardboard boxes of cereal, pasta, snacks on
shore. We NEVER leave shore with cardboard on the boat, and since we began this practice, we've never had a problem with roaches or bugs.
Next, you will want to stock your boat's pantry. Again, buy only those items you love to eat. Don't buy a prepackaged spice rack that has all
that stuff like allspice, alum, anise, coriander, cloves, or caraway; instead, just get what you like and will eat on a regular basis such as salt,
pepper, garlic powder, and Tabasco, etc. Snacks such as potato chips, corn chips, etc. are very bulky and take up an awful lot of room. We
simply don't have them on the boat. For sure, make a list, and use common sense, and not hunger as your guide for buying your food items. It
fact, it may be a good idea to eat out before going to the store. When purchasing your food, you want to keep in mind the available space in
your food pantry, and in your refrigeration unit.
Remember also, unless you plan to sail around Cape Horn, you will never need an entire months supply of anything. Other then sailing around
the Horn, your longest open sea passage without an opportunity to make landfall and provision your supplies will most likely be between
Galapagos Islands and Easter Island or Hawaii, and a good seaworthy vessel in the 40' range will make that journey in 20 to 25 days. So,
before you go stocking up for WW III - check you maps, check your destinations, check your points of landfall along the way and provision
For real emergency rations, and or your "sea-bag" or abandon ship bag, the very best you can do will be cans of Ensure. We
actually like the French Vanilla flavored Ensure and it's actually very good when cold. Now and then, we will take some out of float box and put it
in the freezer to get it real cold. It makes a pretty good Milk Shake. This works well on your boat, and in your sea-bag or float-box. Pound for
pound, space for space, you can survive at sea on 3 cans a day with no water. If you have an EPIRB, one case (24 cans) will last you and your
mate 8 days. If you have an EPIRB on board (and we certainly hope you do), this is more then enough to last until rescued and it takes up very
little space considering it keeps you alive and healthy for 8 days. Actual emergency EPIRB activated sea rescues average less than 18 hours
world wide. The reason? The EPIRB takes "the search" out of the rescue. UCSG, foreign, and Commercial and cooperating vessels get "exact"
(within 3 feet) of your location. Don't go off shore without one!
We keep cheeses, and butter in Tupperware boxes on a shelf we custom built that fits perfectly over the top of our cabin's air-conditioner.
Even in the tropics, they keep well for the 10 days or so it takes us to eat it. A container of Parmesan lasts much longer, but we don't know
exactly how long, because we have always eaten it before it has gone bad. Cooking oil, (we use virgin olive oil) keeps until we use it up no
matter how long it takes. Pasta in all shapes and sizes, rice, beans, and other staples all keep until we cook them and use them. We have had
all these items on our boat for months before eating them, and as long as you keep them dry in tight sealed containers, nothing will grow
sprouts or penicillin
We don't do canned meats except for Spam. With Spam, we always slice it very thin and fry it in a skillet just as you would bacon. In fact, that's
exactly what we use it for - as a bacon substitute. Jam and peanut butter, spices, garlic, onions, peppers, stock powders, stock cubes, coffee,
tea and soups are all good, and instant meals for the initial days of the crossing when seasickness might refrain everyone from wanting to cook
- comes in handy. All these items will last until you use them.
We mostly take bottled water for drinking. When sailing our beverages are limited to coffee, tea, water. An occasional Diet Coke, is a treat
because they simply (like chips) take up too much valuable space. Our practice is that we don't take any beverage out of the refrigerator, that
we don't put another back in. This works well, and we always have cold beverages. We suggest you take all the beverages you like and have
room for. Just never forget a survivable stash of bottled drinking water.
For cooking, we have a propane two burner stove top, a propane BBQ grill, a pressure cooker, a toaster oven. We wouldn't want to cruise
without any of these - though we could. We don't have an oven or Microwave on the boat. Ovens that come with boats create too much heat in
the cabin. So our BBQ grill on the stern gets the most use.
For coffee, we have an old fashion percolator. This works great for us. At night, we simply drop in 4 eggs, fill it up to the line with water, put our
fresh coffee in a filtered cup, close the lid, and set the timer. In the mornings, we put 4 slices of bread in the toaster oven, pour ourselves a cup
of coffee, and then with a pair of tongs, we take out our perfectly cooked, medium well hard boiled eggs. Wala! Instant breakfast with no pots or
pans to wash.
In the Tropics, you won't want to do much cooking. It's just too hot! For this, we more often are using our propane BBQ on the deck, rather
then the stove-top in the cabin. We also almost always, cook for two days. The fresh catch of today tastes pretty wonderful, on the next day's
lunch in the form of a cold sandwich.
If you like seafood, your in luck. At sea, God does provide and he does so abundantly. We always have more fish then we can eat. It took
awhile for us to get used to the fact we didn't need to "store up" fish. It was best caught fresh, cooked and eaten in the same day or the next.
We have never had a problem with catching our evening meal at sea. However, almost all the time we spend underway, we also spend with at
least one, usually two, lines out. We mostly use artificial bait, and we set our lines out so that we are trolling about 75 yards from the boat. Most
places in the Caribbean, (and in many other parts of the world) that offer less populated areas to anchor out or to go ashore, you only need a
good gig, spear gun or long handle net to catch all the lobsters you can eat. In fact, in the Caribbean, my oldest son often catches five or six
and then goes to a local bar & restaurant and trades them for an evening meal and drinks.
It is a scary thought to be all alone on a vast ocean, have an accident or become ill without the possibility to reach help. And that could very
well prove the case.
Fortunately it is rare for any sudden serious illness to incapacitate a sailor. Heart Attacks are virtually unheard of in Paradise, and certainly the
risks are infinitely greater in City, urban, and suburban environments. While medical dangers at sea are rare among pleasure craft voyagers,
they are usually a result of an accident, ie: head injury, or sprains, stumping a toe, puncture wounds, burns including sunburn and heatstroke.
Additionally we suffer from occasional seasickness, toothaches, cuts and bruises. And, in case you didn't know - at sea, the Common Cold and
Influenza’s don´t exist - there simply is nobody out here to catch it from, as no one has it long enough to get here with it.
Our recommendations: As mentioned before, see all your doctor's before you go. Our physician in fact, 'gave' us a 20 inch square box stuffed
with goodies he thought we should have that we couldn't get in an emergency kit. He also gave us prescriptions for some serious pain relief,
penicillin, and antibiotics, as well as all kinds of creams, lotions, antiseptics, along with tons of those "Sample - not for sale" bottles of everything
from Aspirin to Antihistamines, Antacids, multi-vitamins, and even sun screens.
Prescription Drugs: If you have a prescription drug you must take on a daily or regular basis, you need to talk to your Doctor before
shoving off. I take three medications my Doctor says I need to take every day for the rest of my life. For these, he gives me a prescription to last
as long as I tell him I will be outside the US. Not all medications can be filled like this. Narcotics have limited prescriptions, and some medications
require Doctor visits before they can be refilled. So make sure you check with your Doctor. Let him know of your plans and inquire as to how
your prescription medications can be handled.
| Before sailing, for sure you want to pay a visit to your Doctor,
your Optometrist, and your Dentist. Let them all know what you are
about to do. If at all possible, (and it usually is) you surely want to
leave any potential medical or dental problems at home. Tell this to
your Doctor and to your Dentist. We also strongly suggest you visit
your Optometrist. Unbalanced and uncorrected vision not only plays
a role in your susceptibility to getting prolonged see - especially
when it comes to those nights on watch with no clouds, no smoke,
and no smog that leave an absolutely beautiful perfect and
unobstructed view of the heavens.
Other then this, the main thing to remember when provisioning
your boat is this: If you don't eat it at home, you won't eat it at sea.
| In most cases, when provisioning your boat for
long-term, long-distance sailing, it is just as important what
"you leave at home", as what you take on the boat.
Remember, there simply isn't an affordable, safe size pleasure
boat made that has enough storage space. You will never have any
storage space. Plus, you will want plenty of large ziploc bags.
| If you want a bug free boat, NEVER, NO NEVER bring any
cardboard on your boat. Also never bring paper grocery bags on to
your boat. This is the main reason boats get infested with roaches.
On the water, both Intracoastal and on the ocean, the saltwater
and salt moisture in the air will eat and rust every metal non-marine
metal there is. Therefore everything from cheap Walmart tools, to all
tin canned foods will rust. So with foods in tin cans, if you are not
eating them soon, they will rust through. Tupperware containers are
great for many things. We use a lot of them. However, they take up a
lot of room. Lots of large Ziploc bags for keeping fish caught and left
overs are great, and they take up less room.
Also don't forget nets... that's right, hanging nets (both inside
and out) is a great way to store fruits and vegetables stay fresh
longer. You just need to be mindful of what should get some sun, and
what should stay in the shade.
|Provisioning for the Great Loop
| When cruising America's Great Loop you
will always be close to shore -
This voyage is an exception when it comes to provisioning
your boat. That's because (unless you choose to) you will never be
out of sight of land and seldom more than a stones throw from it.
As a result, for very few exceptions are you ever more than
one day away from such things as Marinas, Super Markets,
shopping, pharmacies, etc.
So for this voyage, you really never need more than a few
days worth of food and beverages. In most cases you will be
stopping for fuel and freshwater more often than food. Additionally,
you will cruise by tempting waterfront restaurants on a daily basis.
Cruising the Loop is actually more like taking an RV vacation -
only much better of course. Along the way, you will have ample
opportunity to pull over and stop to eat out, shop for food, clothing,
There is a world of opportunity for on shore excursions at over
50 of the top 100 most recommended places to visit to visit in
America's Great Loop is my very favorite voyage to make.
That's because it is close to home, close to Doctors, Hospitals,
Airports, rental cars, Kids, Grand Kids, Friends and Family, as well
as many super great places to stop, see and do. Additionally, it is
undoubtedly the very safest long distance voyage on the planet.
I've made this journey 8 times and have spent 18 of the last
24 years cruising around and living on "the Loop". It is my "Water
So for this voyage, it is just as important what "what you leave
at home", as what you take on the boat.
Remember, there simply isn't an affordable, safe size pleasure
boat made that has enough storage space. You will never have
You will want to take and keep some 'emergency' rations on
board for those days where rain and nasty weather keeps you
warm and cozy all tucked inside your boat.
On an offshore passage, food is much more than just sustenance. It can mark the passage of hours, become a highlight of an
otherwise unexciting day or preparation and the right mindset, provisioning and cooking on an offshore passage can be easily accomplished.
Unless you're already a gourmet chef, it's unlikely you'll become one when at sea, but there's no reason to sacrifice the quality of your food or
diet while cruising. Of course, you need to take conditions into account. This means matching the meal to the conditions, just like you would at
All passages have rhythms and the meals should support that. At the start of a passage everyone is getting into the groove, so try to keep
the meals simple. As you get comfortable living aboard, you can spend a little more time preparing meals and take advantage of fresh provisions
when and where available. As the trip wanes, dig a little deeper in the icebox or break into the canned goods.
Even if you are dead set against cooking at sea, you will need to leave the chips at home and eat fruits, veggies, good quality meats, nuts
and whole grains. And if you fish, you will "most" always have fresh fish. You'll feel better if you avoid processed foods. If even this seems like
too much work, and your passage is short, consider a Ensure or fitness shake to balance your carbohydrate and protein profile to keep you
alert, healthy and happy.
Beverages are a big topic, adult and otherwise. If you enjoy alcohol ashore you don't have to abstain onboard but keep things in control.
Alcohol can impair judgment but, almost as importantly, it can cause dehydration, will cause seasickness and make all matters worse if you are
already sick. A drink or two at captain's hour is fine if the captain approves, but any more can get you in trouble.
More than anything, it is important to stay hydrated on a boat and it's harder to do than you think. Drinking 64 ounces of non-caffeinated,
non-alcoholic liquid is good target, and even more if the weather is really hot.
Assuming that you have good refrigeration, do your body a favor by chilling the fridge before you fill it with food and then make sure the
food goes in as cold as possible. If you put warm food into a warm boat fridge it can take a two days for it to catch up. It is also wise to load a
fridge with the things that need to be the coldest near the heat-exchanging plates and the rest farther away to avoid frozen lettuce and
beverages not really cold enough. To keep the refrigerator as cold as possible, limit the number of times it is opened each day. Keeping drinks
in a separate cooler cuts down on opening up the fridge and makes more precious space for food, something you'll appreciate on a long
passage. In addition, one of our favorite 'tricks' is to put salt on the ice in our portable cooler. It lowers the temperature to near freezing and
keeps cold drinks colder much longer. Be careful however as too much salt will freeze your beverages and they will burst.
Onboard storage is typically at a premium so food gets stuffed into strange locations, and it is important that everyone know where
everything is. Have a special area reserved for on-the-go snacks grab at will. This makes sure no one gets hungry and also ensures that
someone doesn't eat a crucial dinner ingredient during the midnight watch.
As important as it is to make sure there is enough food on board, it is equally important to avoid over provisioning to avoid storage issues
and waste. When figuring out how much food to plan for, keep in mind everyone's appetite and remember that people are often more hungry at
sea than they are on land.
It's a good idea to stash a few emergency food items for when a passage doesn't go as planned. Tuna in cans or pouches is easy to
stash and offers a good dose of protein in a pinch, and can be extended into tuna salad, thrown into spaghetti sauce or just served on a
cracker. No boat should head out on a passage without dried pasta and a few cans of spaghetti sauce, which will keep indefinitely and taste as
good as served at your favorite Italian restaurant when you're really hungry.
Plan out your meals in advance and make sure you have the cookware and utensils you will need to cook them onboard. Grilled cheese is
very hard to make in a saucepan when the frying pan is onshore. And while it's good to plan ahead, a certain amount of flexibility is required
when cooking on a boat. If the boat is pitching and pounding and the crew is mostly just hanging on, a few crackers, cheese and sausage might
serve as dinner that night. When the weather abates, make the big breakfast feast that was planned for later in the trip.
Provisioning and meal planning for a typical passage might look something like this.
While everyone is getting into the rhythm of the passage, keep meals as simple as possible. Try to bring prepared food for the first dinner.
Grocery store rotisserie chicken is a healthy and tasty and you don't have to cook it.
Breakfast varies from fruit, to full scale country breakfast. Bacon and eggs are simple aboard, and pancake mix is very practical. Oatmeal is
good, especially on a tough passage. Keep fruit at room temperature in a little net hammock where most fruit will last about a week. Eggs can be
tricky to store in the icebox because they are delicate, but the egg vaults made for camping do a great job. Outside the United States, get eggs
that have not been refrigerated so you can save room in the fridge on the boat. Similarly, ultra high-temperature pasteurized milk like Parmalat
will keep for months unrefrigerated.
Lunch will typically be lighter, sandwiches, salad, maybe a cured meat and cheese platter. Traditional sandwiches can be difficult to make
after the third day because regular bread goes bad fast. However unopened flower & corn tortillas will last as long as it takes to eat them, and
work great for sandwiches, snacks and just about any food you care to wrap. Some hardcore cruisers will make beer bread, it's fast and easy,
but not something you will want to do all that often. Once opened, tortillas can easily tuck in the fridge for wrap sandwiches and keeps until you
Cooking hardy dinners like stews is best limited to times you are anchored out for a day or two. On longer passages, canned meats and
veggies replace fresh and frozen. Night watch snacks are important. Nuts, trail mix and granola bars are great energy sources. A cookie or two
never hurts either.
Drinks can be the lifeblood of a passage, so make sure to stock everyone's favorites. Taking away someone's favorite soft drink can be
as bad as depriving the one of coffee. Beer and wine are simple. A little dessert is welcome at sea, but try to keep this simple. Refrigerated
cookie dough makes fresh cookies pretty easy.
One final note, it is wise to plan and provision for passages, but if you are planning an extended cruise, assuming you are not going into
remote areas, you do not need to lay in months of food. People eat everywhere in world and there are always places to provision. You may not
find your particular brand of peanut butter, but you will find food, and likely make some new discoveries. Bon appetit!
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