Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Provisioning

Just how do you provision for a long passage? This post is more about food than engine spares or fuel but either way you first need to know how long you are going to be sailing for; Cork to Bayona is 600 nautical miles which at our passage planning speed of 6.5 knots (we may sail faster but you need to account for contrary winds and currents) that is approximately four days sailing. Add in a contingency of 100% for no wind, emergencies or whatever and you need to cater for eight days at sea. Cork to the Azores, our original plan, is double the distance and would have needed three weeks stores.

Next it’s easier to have some sort of structure to build a shopping list around so plan a day by day rough menu. List the days and the meals breakfast, lunch and supper then add in the ideas. That way you’ll be able to calculate some idea of the quantities required – and you’ll be surprised how quickly they add up, use an onion in every supper and that is eight, milk for cereals and hot drinks rapidly becomes litres per week even for a crew of only two or three. Storage space and product life has to be balanced against crew preferences – powdered milk is not our preferred option but fresh milk only keeps for a few days even in the fridge and storing sufficient UHT packs is not always easy.

This draft menu may not exactly match what we actually eat but at least if we fancy a chicken risotto we’ll have the ingredients or if we catch a fish we know what we can combine it with.  The Boat Galley has some handy spreadsheets but without a printer on board we find it easier to use a notepad you can take shopping with you. The list can also act later as a rough guide to the stores on board though on Temptress we have handwritten lists of tins and dry stores stuck inside a galley locker door for handy reference. At sea you are time rich so rather than complete meals take the ingredients – making bread or cake is an extremely satisfying way to pass some time and growing your own beansprouts or cress means unexpected fresh veg too. Ensure you have plenty of spices and condiments to vary the options.

With a fridge, coolbox and a small freezer compartment it is relatively easy to have fresh food for eight days. Salad like lettuce may start to wilt but pick a Chinese cabbage and it’ll last a lot longer than that. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes last for ever in the basket under the galley sink and make a good risotto or a nice addition to a chicken stew. Still there will be days when cooking anything is almost impossible due to stormy seas so plan a few tin meals – stewed meat, canned veg and potatoes can all be thrown into a single saucepan with a bit of fried onion and some dried herbs to make a warming, satisfying supper for hungry crew. Likewise corned beef hash with baked beans. 

Tinned meat is a boon on longer passages where even our tiny one/two star freezer can’t keep it long enough nor does it have sufficient space. However tins are heavy to carry from the shops so we prepared a menu several weeks ago and waited until we found a supermarket conveniently close to the boat (in Carrickfergus). Decent canned meat, as we’ve found in the past and so web sites for cruisers still highlight, is less readily available outside of the UK and Northern Europe. Temptress’ bilge stores contain more than even a single long passage needs with an eye to a future that will include an Atlantic Crossing from the Cape Verdes.

Tomatoes and milk in tetra packs, canned fish like tuna and “car crash” (sardines in tomato sauce), tins of veg like sweet corn, peas and carrots or new potatoes all add to the mix. Everything is stowed beneath the cabin sole in boxes with lids to keep water and dust off. Writing whats in the tin on its top with a marker pen helps speedily identify the tins you need later. Down there we also have bottles of squash (Susie has a predilection for hi-juice pink grapefruit), ginger beer, tonic water etc. Elsewhere a large dry store under the saloon seating contains pulses, dried beans and cereals, tea bags (hundreds of them) and coffee (several small jars of our preferred brand), kilos of bread flour, suet, rice and pasta. For treats we have oxo cubes (a mugful of hot oxo is delicious on watch in the middle of the night), hot chocolate powder and a basket of snack sized choccie bars plus packs of crisps and dried fruit. To save space most items have been stripped of any cardboard outers and packed carefully in labelled plastic containers to prevent contamination by insects or salt air.

Fresh provisions like fruit, veg, eggs and meat will be purchased as close to departure as possible. This list looks huge but we don’t intend to starve or live on basic rations for the entire passage, good food is good for crew moral! Risottos, curries, stews and more are planned, Kevin has been collecting recipe ideas from Susie’s magazines to try. The thermal cooker will be in almost daily use saving us gas; prepare and get the meal thoroughly hot by simmering for up to fifteen minutes then place in the large insulated container and leave until needed. It’ll keep food hot for up to seven hours and works like a slow cooker so stews are beautifully tender and chicken falls off the bone. We even intend to get around to baking bread in it. And, if speed is of the essence though I don’t know why it should be on a long passage, then there is always the pressure cooker.

Water is a bit of an odd one for us, one we are still struggling with. For years we’ve sailed round with more than the regulation cat 2 (offshore racing regs that is) emergency supply of bottles in the bilge, bottles which come up on deck to remind the crew to stay hydrated and are usually all drunk during the course of a passage whether racing or not. With a water maker and three tanks do we still need to carry bottled water? Our current preference is for two reusable water bottles (like these) filled from the filtered water in the galley. Presumably if the watermaker fails our tanks will be pretty close to full anyway as away from land we run it at least every other day to keep things topped up.

Five hundred and eighty litres dedicated to drinking and cooking only (we can use seawater for washing) so at 5 litres per person per day that is over 100 man days of water in the tanks – three crew could last a month. The only real need for bottled water would be the unlikely nightmare scenario of all three tanks contaminated and no water maker. On the other hand if we need to abandon the boat at sea for any reason the one thing we will need is fresh water so having some bottles in the grab bag makes sense. The question therefore is how many bottles do we really need for a genuine emergency? This is what we are still pondering and the answer will probably be governed by what space we have got left to fit it into.

Finally there are the non-edible but essential provisions like washing up liquid, cleaning products (do we really need kitchen and bathroom cleaners or is there one product that’ll do?), soap, showergel, shampoo, toothpaste, suntan lotion and deodorant. We usually have a one in use and one spare policy on board Temptress so eight days should prove no problem. The only thing to consider is will your favourite brand be available at your destination, washing up liquid should be no problem but moisturiser, toothpaste? We’ll add in an extra tube or bottle of those we can’t live without but there is only so much room on the boat.

So there you have it Temptress’ guide to provisioning – hopefully we’ll not starve or get scurvy and we’ll arrive at our destination sweet smelling and clean!

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