Brighton, UK to Lagos, Portugal
Provisioning for medium length passage: 5-8 days
For the seasoned cruiser, this post most likely will be remedial, repetitive, and redundant, again… However, just like any good nosey neighbor, sometimes it’s fun and even productive, to sneak a peak into other peoples’ medicine cabinet. In this case, I’ll open up our food lockers and give you insight into how this Galley Wench steels herself for a passage of unknown length, ever changing conditions, and differing destinations. The only things I am generally sure of:
- There will be five people (assuming no one goes overboard, nor refugees rescued and added to crew list).
- Ahab will never get seasick, and always be hungry.
- There will be at least one key ingredient that you swear you have stocked, but alas it remains hidden somewhere in bowels of the bilge.
So, where to start? My first choice is in a bar with a proper pint, and a spiral notebook…. A key factor is ”What’s your deal?” Is this an isolated trip with unknown crew? Do you live aboard with three sometimes starving, other times uninterested in food, tweenage boys? Perhaps something in between?
Our Leopard 48’ is currently our home (of course we legally reside in the fine state Florida). This means that it is stocked like a house as it relates to all manner of extended shelf life products (think: spices, oils/vinegar, basic baking supplies. Key Note: this is sometimes where the missing magic ingredient is in fact forgotten. “I swear I stashed two extra cans of sweetened condensed milk somewhere!”). The fact of the matter is, I really don’t do anything special if we are only going to be underway for less than 3 days. A year ago, I would have sold you different story. The fact of the matter is that we have enough canned/frozen/pantry food on board to last for weeks – even without filling up with the requisite fresh fruit/veg, bread, and milk. However, if we are going to be offshore for five or more days, I tend to put down the Suduku, and get a bit more organized than just cereal and granola bars. Here is how my brain sorts it through.
- Assess Current Supplies
- Set “Meal Plan”
- Dry Goods/Freezer groceries run (2 days out)
- Fresh Goods/Forgotten stuff run (1 day out/day of departure)
- “Meal Plan” Implementation/Improvisation
Assessing what Old Mother Hubbard has in the cupboard is a step not to be skipped or rushed through. For me, this is a chance to go through our floor lockers, pitch anything with bugs or that half eaten bag of marshmallows you were going to use for Rice Krispy Treats, but could never find any freakin Rice Krispy Cereal and the boys found the bag, ate half before getting caught, and you never threw away the rest of the marshmallows. I generally wipe all the food lockers out, and defrost the fridge/freezers in this stage. I am NOT one of those people who has a running inventory of all the canned goods, rotates them in alphabetical order, and has it all on spreadsheet. Apparently there are those folks who do that – bless their OCD hearts. Tried once, lost the list, couldn’t care less. That being said, going through what I have, and rotating, restocking from some of my deeper supplies (oatmeal, coffee, flour, snacks) ensures that I find the lost can of artichokes hearts.
Setting the “Meal Plan”, is really more of coming up with a guidance document. First, I take requests from all crew members as to what dinner/snack/treat they want. The reason “Meal Plan” is in quotes, as you can imagine, is because it is similar to a lesson plan for teachers. Basically, get yourself organized, plan for 125-150% of what you think you need, and when the time comes be prepared to take the plan, and wad it up in ball. Even if you don’t follow it, post it someplace visible, so everyone can see how many days until “Taco Night”. I don’t go into detail on the plan, just dinner, and a short list of some snacks. As a general rule, I keep breakfasts simple: cereal, fruit, yogurt, bread/muffin/bagel. Eggs are the exception. Now that we have been living outside of the US, almost all eggs are sold unrefrigerated. This might sound weird/gross to some, but it really helps to free up fridge space. I always keep a few dozen eggs on hand at all times. Prior to leaving, hard boil and peel a dozen (these then need to go in the fridge). They are great quick, clean, healthy snack or meal substitute, and also easy on seasick stomaches.
Once you have a good idea of what you want to serve, make your grocery lists after double checking your newly cleaned, bleach smelling, organized lockers. I always buy too much. In addition to the planned meals, I try to find some novel cereals, a couple hidden rolls of Oreos, and a new type of granola/snack bar for each passage. I try to have daily “Afternoon Delight”, and not like from the song. It might be a Scottish tea biscuit, Mars candy bar, chips & guac, pretzels & hummus – basically something each afternoon that the kids and Ahab don’t see coming. Be sure to hide your treats and set ration limits on granola/snack bars. My crew will clean out a bag of Cliff Bars in an afternoon if left on their own.
The day of, or before, departure (depending on departure time) is the time to reserve for final provisioning of fresh fruits, veggies, and bread. If you are lucky to be near a bakery, I highly recommend picked up fresh baguettes to pre-make sammies, as well as a batch of breakfast treats (croissants, cinnamon rolls – those also freeze great). In Bermuda, we had a huge haul that lasted all the way through to Germany. We didn’t have a great bakery in Brighton, but instead ordered bread from our favorite French Cafe Rouge. I pre-made ten ham baguettes (just a little mayo, no lettuce or tomato to prevent soggy woggy sammies). I also poached a half a dozen chicken breasts, made a big batch of tuna salad, chicken salad, and hard boiled eggs. If I had more time, I would have made some pumpkin or banana bread to make breakfast easier the first few days.
As for the pre-cooking all meals ahead of time, that really depends on your refrigeration situation. I have done passages where everything is pre-cooked and just needs to be heated. I have done nothing. My opinion, is that something in between is best for us. I generally tend to feel pretty crappy for the first 2-3 days, so I have to have enough food ready that the crew can fend for themselves. This means: pre-made sammies, cereal, granola bars, fruit. I generally have my first meal as some version of homemade chicken soup. This is great item to pre-make, or pre-cut all the veggies. This greatly reduces galley time, reducing wench nausea. By Day Three of the passage, I generally have myself pulled together enough to actually cook. This is where the “Meal Plan” comes in handy.
The implementation of The Plan, as I stated before, is really just a suggestion. I can honestly say I have never followed the plan as written. Often times, it changes due to unavailability of resources during provisioning. Sometimes, there is a great deal on lamb chops! If you know your standard, go to, never fail, can make with you eyes closed, one hand behind your back because you’re holding your ponytail off your neck while dry heaving – be sure to buy enough to make it twice. That way you can enjoy it, even if the first time, it winds up going overboard as fish chum. The other variables to consider during “implementation” will most likely include degrees of seasickness and “re-engineering of previously served food”. My kids hate leftovers, so I had to come up with another way to pitch day-old spaghetti. Regarding the seasick aspect, always keep a steady supply of materials to create chicken soup (this is decent use of canned chicken if you do not have any fresh or frozen; also a great use of a left-over chicken breast from last night’s dinner). Depending on the country in which you are provisioning, another must have staple to maximize recycling of previous cooked males: tortillas. My guys will eat anything labeled “quesadilla”. Just be sure to stock up on plenty of jarred salsa and sour cream too if you can find it.
This brings me to my next passage: Lagos to Grand Canaria. I still don’t know when I’m leaving, or how long exactly it will take to get there. The market here in town is a little challenging for me. I don’t want to sounds like a spoiled, bratty, prima donna, but I’m feeling a bit homesick for Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target – hell, at this point, I’d even settle for the Food Kitty in Buckingham. That said, we will be well stocked up with a steady supply of salted fish & ham, olives, and Portuguese Rolls.