06 June 2014

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

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 second in a series of posts on how it all went. 

Yep, it's time to talk some more about food and living on a sailboat. Last time, I shared the key things I learned - the next boat must have a fridge, cask/box wine tastes like ground up turnips mixed with Koolaid and I am on a personal mission to lift my cooking from the realms of adequate to something so tasty you would pay me $8.98 to make it for you. (By the way, $8.98 is the exact price of two bars of Whittaker's chocolate. I will invest your $8.98 wisely.) Today, it is all about provisioning. Because unless you do some shopping you've got nothing in the fridge to turn into a gourmet meal and you don't have any vino to wash it down with.

When I first started provisioning, I tried to channel my mother and be super duper organized about the whole thing. I made spreadsheets, I labeled my canned goods, I had lists and I made meal plans. None of this worked. Chaos ensued.

The spreadsheets seemed like a really good idea. I love spreadsheets. They used to form an integral part of my days at work, along with PowerPoint presentations. So, I thought I was really on to something when I discovered how popular they are with other cruisers - like Windtraveler, Nine of CupsCommuter Cruiser and The Boat Galley. I checked out what everyone else was doing and created my own before we moved onto the boat. It was awesome. My cans, bags of pasta and condiments were in control. And I was the one controlling them. I was positively giddy with the power I had - I was Queen of the Provisioning!

One teeny-tiny problem - computers need electricity to run. The fact that we didn't have a way to charge our computers on our boat kind of made the whole spreadsheet exercise useless. So I decided to embrace the way of the Luddite and started a list in a notebook. I wrote everything down that we had, where it was located, how many we had in stock and how many we had used. That was the theory anyway. It was boring. And I kept forgetting to keep the list up to date. And we never did use that jar of coconut oil.

I soon abandoned any pretense of inventorying our food supply and started using my notebook to write down the weather forecasts on the VHF.

Once I realized that there wasn't any point in writing down the weather forecasts - because they were always wrong - I just started using my notebook to doodle in. I love to doodle. I did it all the way through school, during boring meetings at work and during the weather forecasts. You would think I would be better at it by now. That's an octopus by the way. He's frowning because the lady on the VHF said that the winds were going to kick up.

But back to provisioning. To be honest, it probably wasn't a huge problem that I didn't have this too well organized. Our boat was only 26' so there weren't a lot of places for the cans and bags of pasta to hide from me. We basically kept our food in few places - cupboards underneath the stove and next to the stove, as well as underneath the v-berth. We kept things like onions, lemons and other bits and bobs in containers on a shelf which ran along the galley side of the boat. So, even though it was a real pain to get anything out when it came time to cook, I could always find what I was looking for.

But our next boat is definitely going to bigger than 26' which means more places to hide. And I'm sure we'll be cruising in places where we need to stock up much more systematically on food - either because it is too expensive to buy there (like the Bahamas) or because you're in the middle of an ocean where what you eat is what you've already got on the boat. 

Our next boat is also going to have a way to charge our computers so maybe I can go back to using a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. Or we could bring my mother along with us - she would never let her cans and bags of pasta take control. Her spreadsheets would be a work of art. One tiny problem - she doesn't really like the water. Hmm. Oh well, tune in again once we get our next boat and see how we end up doing. One thing for sure, I will never buy another can of mutton stew. It started out on the list and it ended up on the list. We never got desperate enough to open it up and eat it.

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  1. Don't worry -- I created one of those spreadsheets and while I use it to first inventory what's on hand and then to go shopping, I NEVER updated it between big provisioning runs . . . and we had electricity for the computer :)

    1. Thanks Carolyn - that makes me feel so much better and less of a provisioning failure! Having said that I do need a better way to know what I have on the boat. I've been caught out a couple of times thinking I had a can of something only to find out I didn't. Certainly not as easy to easily see what you have on hand when everything is squirreled away in different locations and hard to get to.

  2. You make living in a boat sounds like a lot of fun, and your octopus is so cuuuuuuute even when frowning. ;)

    1. Glad you like the octopus! Living on a boat is generally a lot of fun - there are some days when it isn't but fortunately there are many more of the good ones!

  3. Oh my goodness, you sound so much like me! I love to be organized on paper, but I have a hard time sticking with it in progress. It doesn't help that we'll have 6 people (4 of them teens) who will have to participate in the cooking and such... and we have a trimaran with a lot of space. Thanks for sharing, though, its really good to hear your thoughts looking back on your first provisioning run... since I'm REALLY close to doing my first real one myself!

    1. I've been watching you count down the days until you all cast off - very exciting! I can't imagine the task that you have with all those mouths to feed. Wow! At least it's just the two of us, so much more manageable.


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