Provisioning is positioned as one of the most difficult things to do prior to setting off on a long voyage. You are told to grease your eggs, sprout your veg, and stock up on treats. As Maria recounts below, provisioning a boat for an ocean crossing is something of a challenge and an ongoing opportunity for learning.
We are making good progress and are now 781 nautical miles from Barbados. The sun is shining, the chocolate melting, but the rest of the bananas are ripening.
Maria: One for the sailors or the bakers. It’s all about the provisioning.
At first I was quite excited at being in charge of the provisioning on Lady Jane. I’ve never previously been interested in the sailing side, but as I had taken to cooking since living in Singapore, I thought “I can do this one thing with ease”. And I like food.
I read lots of articles about provisioning to cross the Atlantic, but there wasn’t anything that really told you what to buy. They all talked about having treats for people on night watch and how meal times are what everyone looks forward to (no pressure to get it right then!), and how you need lots of things for a large crew – nothing about quantities for two or three people. There were some recipe ideas but again for a large crew and written by people who had never suffered seasickness but thought that you could still sit on the floor in the galley and prepare vegetables. NB: people who really suffer with seasickness can’t do this!
The main theme seemed to be that “you must bake bread”.
Before we left Gosport I’d stocked up on the usual things, pasta, tins etc“, I’d filled the fridge and the freezer. Knowing that we would only be at sea for one or two days at a time, it was easy to plan: sandwiches for lunch, usually made before we set off, and a simple one-pot dinner .
We were to have six weeks in Santa Cruz, and I kept thinking I have plenty of time to stock up before we go and we can always provision when we get to Mindelo in Cape Verde. Until I was told “stock up here as Mindelo has limited resources”. This freaked me out a bit because I now had to plan for 3/4 weeks on board.
Allen stepped in and created a spreadsheet to help with buying and keeping track of where things were stored on the boat. It’s important to know where you’ve put the food.
The fresh provisioning was and still remains a bit hit and miss, mostly because you can’t see what is happening inside a vegetable or fruit.
You may buy 30 bananas but they will ripen too soon or all together. We kept some out of the sun, inside the boat, I brought up a few at a time to lie in the sun to ripen. Seven days later the ones in the sun were still hard but turning brown and the rest of the ones inside the boat had all ripened!
Peppers and tomatoes will turn to a mushy mess before you know it. Even hard white cabbage will go mouldy in the heat. But you can only refrigerate so much.
On a positive note, potatoes keep well if in a dark cupboard. Marrow also stays fresh, even if parts of it are cut off and used.
Cucumber, lemons, limes and oranges also seem to be ok.
What will happen if your gas cooker fails, have you bought tinned food that you can eat cold?
I made a lasagne before we left Cape Verde and we had bought Chilli and bean/tuna stew from Simpatico restaurant in Mindelo, we also bought two pizzas from the pizza restaurant before we left. This proved to be a good move. It made mealtimes so much easier.
It’s also not about having lots of food on board. It’s about having lots of the right food on board.
I am keeping a note of what foods we have eaten whilst on our crossing and what we have thrown away. And I’m maintaining a shopping list of what I want to buy the next time we find a shop!
Next time: what we actually bought and ate!