by Des Ryan
Smart provisioning can make the difference between a survival trip and a delightful experience, particularly if you enjoy your eating. Running out of food isn’t much fun, and forgetting the coffee can really spoil the tempers on board, no matter how wonderful the cruising.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are available everywhere
There are as many ways to go about this as there are cruising boats, but here are a few tips and products that we have found invaluable:
Keep it simple. Unless you are on a very special boat, you will not have a dishwasher anywhere near. Complex recipes that use many utensils and pots make life more difficult in a bucking sea, and also make lots of work for those who wash up.
Having said that, you'll probably like to eat what you eat at home. Let the rule be to bring on board, amended to suit, the items you use in normal cooking ashore.
Develop a standard list of all the stores that you like to keep on the boat. That way, when re-provisioning, all you have to do is check the list against the stores remaining.
After many years of cruising we find that we still have some tins on board that we started with. Whatever you are used to eating at home from a tin, you will probably use on the boat - maybe tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sardines etc.
provisioning working galley 2
Tins are heavy bulky things and they have to be cared for so as not to rust. Wherever possible, we use dried foods instead, which are lighter, smaller, and pack more easily. Examples are: dried fruit instead of tinned, dried peas and beans instead of tinned. We have found that fresh vegetables are available almost everywhere and much healthier and tastier than anything from a tin.
As tins are often used as emergency fare, they are often left on the boat for long periods. Develop a 'tinnery' or 'cannery',a storage place which is dry and warm, somewhere near the engine, if possible. The alternative is to varnish the tins. If it is inevitable that the tins will get wet, mark their contents with indelible ink, as the labels will soon soak off.
Provisioning fruit and vegetables
Wash all fruit and vegetables in a very very mild solution of bleach. Then put them to dry in the sun – they NEVER seem to go mouldy after that.
Use red onions instead of shallots which don’t last even in the fridge
Vegetables that keep the longest are green cabbage, Chinese lettuce, red cabbage, and of course, potatoes and onions. Keep potatoes in a dark place to prevent sprouting
Rewashing lettuces with fresh water every day and replacing them in plastic bag or container keeps them fresh for weeks.
Wrap citrus (after the washing process, see VEGETABLES above) in alfoil. I’ve had oranges last six months after this treatment - and be still a pleasure to eat!
Flour, Rice, Pasta etc
Vacuum pack (cryovac) everything in sight, not only the meat products. We have now obtained a vacuum pack machine - worth its weight in gold - and the muesli is still going strong after 3 years. Not only that, we have vacuum packed such things as a spare starter motor and other spare hardware items which may rust if left on board for long periods.
If you don’t have or get a vacuum machine, the next best thing to keep weevils out is bay leaves – just a few in the top of every container does the trick. Basic items such as flour, oats, rice, and pasta can be bought in bulk. I’ve successfully stored and used these up to one year after purchase. I froze them for 24 hours before packing them on our boat, and packed them into HTH (chlorine) containers, well-washed, of course - with the bay leaves!
Ezy-yo is one of the several brands of yoghurt starter, available in some big supermarkets, but not everywhere in the world. When you see them, buy a supply, as it may be a long time before you see them again. Yoghurt starter makes wonderful yoghurt if you can’t get a fresh yoghurt as a starter. The resulting yoghurt will then make about three or four good batches, before you have to use the starter again. You can also obtain a simple 'yoghurt machine' which regulates the making of the yoghurt, and needs only boiling water to make it work. However, you can also just put the yoghurt in the sun or in a nice warm engine room (not when the engine's going). If it hasn't gelled after 12 hours, it will after 24. If you do this, don't forget to tell the skipper not to turn the engine on in your 'Yoghurt Room' before warning you!
Meat Substitute: (if necessary,don't tell - they won't know)
Vegemince or another brand of soy chips makes a good very good substitute for mince, especially if you don’t have a deep freeze for keeping meat. It takes a little more herbs and onions and tomato paste to bring a bolognaise sauce to the great taste you’re familiar with.
Keep a supply of poppy, sesame, and sunflower or any other seeds on hand. Add these to bread and fritter mixtures, salads, toppings, and use them as garnishes.
Mung beans do NOT last as well as alfalfa. Alfalfa seeds, which last for many months and will still sprout, grow into the most wonderful salads, fresh, green and much tastier than other greens. We keep a 'garden' going whenever we're away from supplies even for a short period.
Fish Fish Fish:
Too much fish? Dry some and make 'fishtong.'(I think this is originally South African). The secret is to use red-fleshed fish such as tuna, skipjack, or bonito. We rig a line and use clothespegs to attach the fish, putting a newspaper underneath to catch any drips. It’s ready for savouring in two to three days. Here's the recipe:
Fresh fish fillets/ Powdered coriander, to taste/ Coarse salt, to cover fillets/ Barbecue spice, to taste/ Lemon juice
Layer fillets in coarse salt, coriander, and barbecue spice. Sprinkle with lemon juice and leave for two hours. Hang on a line outside in the sun and leave to cure for two to three days. Cut into pieces to serve.