I have had thirty-eight years’ experience provisioning–for a family of five or for a crew of just my husband and me. Also, I have spent any amount of time, from day sailing and overnighting, to two or three-week journeys, to living aboard for five years cruising from Connecticut to Venezuela with long stays along the way. Each of you has your own criteria as to what provisions are necessary, and where and how you can store, freeze, or refrigerate your food stuffs.
Contrary to what many non-boaters and boaters think, your provisions do not have to be canned, dried, pre-packaged, or prepared ahead of time and frozen for later use. Yes, all of the above are ways of planning your menusfor the days and weeks to come. Preparing provisions does require some planning ahead, but don’t preclude your choices along the way. Some of the meals will be eaten ashore when you are in town, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Not only are meals to be considered, so are snacks and food and drinks to bring to a fellow boater’s boat for a joint cocktail party or meal. So, where do you begin?
There are so many experienced boaters out there, so a beginner to cruising would do well to stop and talk to some of them to find out how they do things. Everybody is not the same or has the same needs, storage space, cruising budget, or appetite. People traveling with children would naturally have a much different shopping list from that of a couple of adults.
Fresh milk, boxed milk, and canned milk are always needed. Canned or boxed chicken broth, vegetable broth, soups, canned gravies, beef ,and chicken are staples which should always be aboard when cruising. Oil and vinegar, along with a variety of salad dressings, are invaluable in preparing interesting meals, both as a dressing and as an ingredient in a sauce, or a basis for cooking chicken or meat in a pot or skillet. One of the most versatile vegetables to have on board, both fresh and canned, is potatoes. You can make sautéed potatoes, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, or addthem as a vegetable in soups, stews, or one-pot meals. They store and keep well if you are going on an open-ended trip such as the Bahamas or further south.
Keep an array of varied, interesting vegetables that your family likes. I have found the more interesting vegetables include: artichokes in oil and garlic–either fresh or jarred, asparagus packed in a jar, mushrooms, and red peppers–both fresh or in a jar. Check out this section in your supermarket. Over the years, I learned that these condiments or vegetables can and do add an interesting twist to your meals or hors d’oeuvres.
Preparing some meals does require planning ahead just as you would do at home. I have made soups, stews, meatloaf, sauces, one-pot meals, such as grilled chicken with peppers and onions and canned whole potatoes. Boat grills for chicken, steaks, hamburgers and the like are available in most marine stores. I rely on some ready-made meals that you can buy at Costco and our own Winn-Dixie or Publix. Yes, sometimes you are paying a premium for the convenience of ready-made frozen entrees, but it may be worth it.
How do I know just what to bring and when to bring it? First, I keep a fairly full complement of jarred herbs and spices on board all the time. No refrigeration is needed. Second, I keep a full supply of tomato sauces, Worcester Sauce, jars of gravies, and interestingcondiments to make my own sauces out of butter, oil, gravies and the like. This way I can whip up something that is really tasty in a hurry.
As I am writing this article, I am preparing for a 10-day trip to Marathon and Key West. Since we have a microwave, a 4-burner propane stove, and an oven we are pretty well equipped to cook aboard. Most boats today do not require you to cook and freeze meals ahead. Most often I cook fresh each day. Bring the ingredients that you like aboard, fresh or frozen, and store them in your freezer or refrigerator. For example, I can make chicken parmigiana with side dishes easily. Just have some fresh chicken breasts aboard whether frozen or refrigerated, a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, and some jarred tomato sauce. Sauté your chicken breasts in a skillet. Slice the mozzarella cheese and place it on the cooked chicken, cover with your favorite jar sauce and voila, chicken “parm” without the use of an oven. All you need now is a quick salad, small side of pasta or “nuked” potato, and you have a quick, great meal for your night at anchor as you watch the sun set.
Provisioning is such a broad subject. It includes medical supplies as well as food stuffs. I will address this later in another article.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island.