30 May 2014

Shakedown Cruise Review: Cooking, Eating & Provisioning (Pt 1/2)

Background - When we decided to become full-time cruisers, rather than buy our "forever" boat and set off around the world, we took a different approach and moved aboard our "for now" boat in New Zealand for the 2013/14 season. We used it as an opportunity to do a shakedown cruise to discover what works and what doesn't for us in terms of the cruising lifestyle before we buy our next boat. This is the first in a series of posts on how it all went. 

I've decided to start off the shakedown review with how things went in terms of cooking, eating and provisioning because I love eating. I spend my waking hours thinking about my next meal and my sleeping hours dreaming about inventing a watermaker that turns seawater into hot chocolate. There is probably going to have to be a couple of posts on this whole topic given how much of a focus it is for me whether awake or asleep. So here goes, some of the key things we learned...
1. You can live without a fridge, but why would you.

Beer tastes better when it is cold.
We didn't have a fridge on our Raven 26 and I did think it would be a struggle to live without one. But it actually wasn't that bad. There are a lot of things that I put in our fridge on land that don't really need to be refrigerated and you can live without the things that should be kept in the fridge. However, there were probably two big drawbacks to not having a fridge - our carnivore tendencies were curtailed and saving leftovers involved playing a form of Russian roulette with your tummy. 

In terms of meat, we're not actually the biggest carnivores out there, but when you live on land you can buy meat whenever you want and keep it in your fridge/freezer to eat whenever you want. When you live on a boat without a fridge, your choices are a bit more limited. We did find a great salami that doesn't require refrigeration and we kept that on the boat to add to pasta and have with cheese and crackers. And when we had access to a grocery store, we would sometimes buy sausages to cook and eat that day. We ended up adopting more of a vegetarian diet while on board, which I guess isn't the worst thing in the world. Although, it wasn't all that helpful for my borderline anemia.

The other big issue was around leftovers. You can leave some dishes out overnight and heat them up on the stove thoroughly the next day - and I know lots of people do this. Personally, it kind of freaks me out a little bit. I'm always worried I'm going to get some sort of tummy bug. Scott, on the other hand, happily played Russian roulette with his stomach and he never got sick. I just think it would be so much better to have a safe place you can pop your leftovers in and then have them the next day. It would save so much worry on my part. And there is enough to worry about a boat already.

You can read more about how I was got myself psyched up to live without a fridge here. It's safe to say that our next boat will have one and it will be well stocked with dead animals, cream cheese and cold beer.

2. Cask/boxed wine seemed like a good idea. It really wasn't. 

Does wine taste better out of a box or a bottle?
When you're trying to do things on the cheap, then you look for bargains wherever you can - even when it comes to wine. Back on land, the type of wine we drank always came out of bottles. But when you're trying to cut back on your spending, then sooner or later you have to consider buying your wine in boxes.

Scott is like a little human calculator. He'll stand there in the store and start calculating cost comparisons. So when he tells you that you can get a three liter box of wine for NZ$25.99 and it works out to just NZ$0.87 for 100ml, it sounds like a great bargain. You may have no idea what 100ml of wine looks like in a glass, but NZ$0.87 sounds too good to pass up. Even chocolate bars cost more than NZ$0.87. So you chuck a box in your shopping trolley and look forward to having a few milliliters with dinner.

The box promises you, "A soft velvety smooth medium red wine from selected classical grape varieties." You pour some in your glass, sit back and prepare to enjoy that velvety smoothness. If velvet tastes like sickly sweet, boozy koolaid made out of turnips, then the box is telling the truth. Personally, I've never tried velvet, but I'm pretty sure it tastes better than the stuff that came out of that box.

So here is the problem. If you're frugal type of guy, than there is no way you can throw away NZ$25.99 of smooth velvety liquid. No, you have to drink every last drop. So Scott did. He did point out that after the second glass, it tastes much better. That's because it takes at least two glasses of velvety, turnip flavored koolaid before your tastebuds are sufficiently beaten into submission.

After that little experiment, we went back to buying your average bottles of cheap wine on sale for NZ$8.99 (or $1.20 for 100ml). I keep reading about the great cask/box wine people buy in the States, so maybe we just picked the wrong box to experiment with. We'll be back in the Pacific Northwest in a few months, so let us know if you have any recommendations for better cask/box wine we can try out.

3. I'm an adequate cook. Unfortunately, adequate isn't all that tasty.

A bowl of perfectly adequate snapper chowder.
I really need to up my game in the cooking department. Because Scott knows so much more about sailing and boats than me, we've adopted those stereotypical pink/blue roles. He is in charge of all of the "outdoor" type of activities like the actual skippering of the boat and I'm in charge of all of the "indoor" type of activities like cleaning and cooking. To be honest, I would much prefer to be in charge of the "pink" stuff, but I would like it so much more if I had a cook and a maid. But when you live on a 26' sailboat and you don't have the biggest cruising kitty in the world, that pretty much isn't going to happen.

So most nights, I donned my pink apron and made dinner. Perfectly adequate dinners. Perfectly boring dinners. The kind of meals that never surprise - because you make the same recipes over and over and over again. My specialty is pasta with red sauce. Unfortunately, there isn't anything really special about it. 

When you live on a boat, and particularly on those days when you've had a long sail or a good hike, you really want to enjoy a nice meal when the sun goes down. So the big lesson for me this summer is that adequate is going to have to transform itself into something much, much better before we buy our next boat. No idea how this is going to happen. Is there a patron saint for adequate cooks I can call upon?

If you're curious, you can read about a week of perfectly adequate meals I made on our boat here. I don't think Rachael Ray is going to be asking me to appear on her show anytime soon.

Well, that's enough for now. I'm off to fix myself a perfectly adequate snack. More on cooking, eating and provisioning next week.


  1. Ha, man do I know about cooking. A Canadian friend who sailed with from Guatemala to Key West spoiled me and the rest of the crew were her amazing cooking. She could whip up a four-star meal with nothing but cans and dry goods. But alas, I enjoyed her cooking but never kept with the recipes. Although I am trying to get inspired by the Pardey's Care and Maintenance of the Offshore Crew book.

    1. Some people just have an amazing touch with cans and dry goods! I have the same Lin Pardey book - I think she has that magic touch as well. It's a really interesting book - fingers crossed some of the Pardey cooking magic rubs off on me :-)

  2. You are hilarious. I love your writing style so much. I feel like we're sitting down at a table with our turnip kool aid wine and chatting. I love creating recipes and cooking, so I'll be sure to share the easy ideas with you! :)

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