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21 May 2018

Provisioning For A Voyage | Modern Sailboats vs. Whaling Ships


See that list above? It's from a list of "Stores and Outfits for a First-Class Whale Ship, For a Cape Horn Voyage." {You can see the full list here.} My mom is really into genealogy and does a lot of research on our seafaring ancestors who hailed from New England and made their living on whaling ships. So, from time-to-time, she sends me little tidbits about what life might have been like for them.

I love food. I love thinking about food. I love daydreaming about food. And I really love eating food. So this particular tidbit about the food provisions they would carry was right up my alley.

My great great grandmother gave birth on a whaling ship in the Marquesas Islands. Her husband was the captain, and one of the perks of being the captain is that you got to take your wife on long voyages with you. I'm not entirely convinced that that would have been a perk for the wives. Years onboard a boat as the only woman, hoping you wouldn't be attacked by sea monsters and sink to the bottom - no thanks.

I used to wonder how my great-great grandmother could have lived such a life, but then I saw that one of the provisions they stocked was 50 pounds of chocolate. I'm pretty sure that was intended entirely for the captain's wife's consumption.

It's interesting to compare the whaling ship list of provisions to what we take when we're out cruising. In many ways it's similar - chocolate, coffee, canned meat, flour, sugar, onions, rice etc.

But there were a few things I don't have a clue about. What is saleratus? And what do you do with a bottle of essence of spruce? If you know, leave your answer in the comments. Even if you don't know the answer, have a guess.

Are you interested in genealogy? Would you have voyaged on a whaling ship around Cape Horn? Know anything about saleratus and essence of spruce?

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30 comments:

  1. I wonder if the lemon syrup was their only source of citrus?

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    1. Lemon Syrup was used as a medicine to treat scurvy. Whole oranges and lemons were not practical bring on long voyages because of spoilage, so Lemon Syrup was developed by James Lind as a substitute.
      Interesting!

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    2. Very interesting - thanks for sharing :-)

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  2. Fascinating stuff! I wonder if the captain's children were also then raised on the ship or if, once they were born, the wife then stayed home/on land with them?

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    1. I imagine it varied. They might have moved to land on the islands for a while while the crew went whaling.

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  3. Don’t know what the spruce essence was for, but the hops are for “making” yeast.

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    1. I've always thought about hops in terms of making beer. I do like a hoppy ale.

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  4. spruce to make beer or wine. Saleratus for baking. What a delightful post. Who knew.

    Have a fabulous day, Ellen. ♥

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    1. Spruce flavored wine sounds interesting.

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  5. What a lovely post Ellen. I do have an adventurous soul so I might travel like that too. Ha e a lovely week, Ellen :)

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  6. I think I would have stayed at home, especially if pregnant! Chocolate notwithstanding.

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  7. Fascinating list! Saleratus is, i believe, either baking powder or baking soda, i would have to look up which.

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  8. That is a fascinating list and family history. I've just had to google essence of spruce too which was interesting.

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    1. I might have to start adding essence of spruce to our provisioning list :-)

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  9. I'm very interested in genealogy, but don't have the time and patience to really do it, so my cousin does it and I follow what she learns. I think it's funny they packed more coffee than water. Also, I find it odd how much fish they packed. No fishing?

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    1. That's a really good point about coffee and water. I wonder how that worked?

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  10. How interesting! I'd think they'd have enough of fishy tastes to pass over canned oysters and crab, but what do I know. No wonder you love living on a boot with a history like that...although I'd feel sorry for the wives too.

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    1. That is a good point - I don't think I'd want anything to do with fish after a while living on a whaling boat.

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  11. love the list. I notice there's no alcohol on it although there is 1200 pounds of coffee. I wonder if that meant each person brought their own supply of alcohol? Or were they on a "dry" ship? which might explain the stereotyped sailor reputation for carousing once they hit port.

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    1. Good question - I wonder if it was dry? Or if the crew brought their own booze with them?

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  12. Wow, you sure come from hearty stock, lady. Not sure I would've been willing to spend a couple years aboard a whaling ship with a bunch of horny men. (I'd be more concerned about them than the sea monsters.)

    As others have already said, the saleratus is a leavening agent like baking soda. Not sure about the essence of spruce. One thought is pine needles are the basis of an old-fashioned cough remedy, so maybe something along that line?

    Thank you so much for the awesome review. You rock! :)

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    1. You're very welcome! It was a very engrossing book. I'm impressed with how you can write in such different styles.

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  13. I have zero interest in rounding Cape Horn, in any size boat. I know others who have though.

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    1. I have less than zero interest in doing that as well.

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  14. I was tempted to Google, but... well, maybe I still have a bit of honor left :) Saleratus, eh? No clue, but it sounds like it might be related to salt. Salts. Salty? Honestly, no clue. And essence of spruce... maybe to keep those musty cabins smelling okay-ish? Or the sailors—ha! Or, if it's oily, maybe for maintenance of some of the more delicate wood? Pffff... How horrible to be so clueless :D Cool post, though. They really didn't have it easy in those days. A marvel that they actually managed to travel so far, and come back (mostly) in one piece...
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

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    1. Essence of spruce as an old fashioned room deodorizer - love that theory :-)

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