Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let the Provisioning Begin

Provisioning is the term we cruisers use when we are outfitting our boat with food.  Why we don’t call it grocery shopping is a mystery to me, but then so is the language sailors use for calling otherwise simple things by ridiculous names (eg. a bathroom is a head, a bed is a berth, a kitchen is a galley, and the list goes on).

Where does one begin provisioning for a long passage?  The task seemed even more overwhelming than when we left San Diego for Mexico in October of 2009.  Our next voyage will be at least 3 weeks long, but we need to provision for an even longer period of time since food availability is minimal in most places, and when it is available, it is pricey. My friend Behan on s/v Totem (currently in Australia) just emailed me that a dozen eggs in the South Pacific will set us back about $6.  She also blogged about spending $12 on a melon, because her crew hadn’t seen fresh produce for a while.

Back to where one starts.  Several blogs and the Pacific Puddle Jumpers’ website offer spreadsheets, as do several of my cruising reference books.  I opted for recreating the wheel, so to speak.  Well, not quite. When we came down to Mexico in October of 2009, I had created a list of things we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and shopped based on this list.  The list has now become my reference sheet for provisioning.  By the way, you will cook and eat on board the same way you have always cooked and eaten.  Just because you’ve moved onto a boat, that won’t change.  As in, don’t start buying dried beans to cook in your pressure cooker if you’ve never eaten dried beans before, and better yet, rarely if ever use your pressure cooker.  Although I’d recommend you start before you move aboard, as it is so much easier on your pocket book.

Okay, again, back to where one starts. I began my provisioning this time by taking an inventory of everything I had on the boat in the way of food, cleaning and washing supplies, medicines and toiletries.  Talk about a tedious job.  I was feeling depressed as Michael was crossing things off his list left and right, while I was still drowning in the hulls below the floor boards with my inventory sheet day after day.  Alas, it did get completed.

From the work-of-art known as my Inventory List, for items we use often, I made an estimate of how often we eat it.  For example, I make 3 cups of long grain brown rice at least once per week.  Multiply this by 26 weeks and we need  a lot of rice.  This gets tricky, since long grain rice is hard to come by in some places in Mexico, but it is doable.  For other items, I have just been winging it.  Like for soya sauce, or BBQ sauce, or for so many other items.  Do I get one extra bottle, or stick with what we have? 

This gets even trickier since we want to be left with almost nothing by the time we make landfall in Australia in 6-7 months.  The reason for this is that the quarantine rules are very stringent: the authorities will search your boat and take away things like fresh meat, vegetables and dairy, but more importantly, any dried beans, rice and grains, plant sources and even canned meats like tuna.  Then, hopefully, a few weeks after making landfall in Australia, anything that’s left must be made 'gone' if we are successful in selling our dear boat there.  Yet provisioning is not an exact science.  And there’s that psychological aspect that you MUST have enough food or YOU’LL STARVE.  It has one wonder what people living on these islands eat, no? 

Okay, so back to getting the provisioning started.  This inventory exercise took me a full week to complete.  I now have a 17 page document that lists every item on my boat, including the quantities, and where they are stored. A little overboard, perhaps, but it's done, and I'm loving the accomplishment, not to mention the system and how it works.

Next blog:  Heading out to shop.

-Barb in La Cruz


  1. Don't forget the Limes for the Scurvy (and for the Corona before you leave).

    Can't believe you guys are really doing this. We shall all live vicariously.

  2. So, while the rest of us prep for passover, without 17 page inventory lists, we will think of you. Please pity me a little, since I have not prepped for Passover in FIVE years, since we we have spent the holiday with you guys over that time- it certainly won't be the same - can you send me your inventory template?

    By the way, are you now crossing things off your list after every meal to keep the inventory updated? This gives new meaning to "calorie counting" :) Maybe you could scan items and have a barcode system...I am sure apple has an app for that.

  3. OMG! I have been following your blog religiously and can't believe you are off to the South Pacific. Hope there's no mutiny on the bounty! Your lives are so exciting and rich with the experience of a lifetime. i envy the quality time you share with your kids. Ours are typical teenagers-doing their own thing. Happy Passover-this gives new meaning to "crossing the sea." Only this time there is no bad Pharoah chasing you-maybe just a few dolphins huh! I will be following you on your exciting passage-bon voyage and safe sailing. All my best, Sheryl (Vancouver.)

  4. So there is no more hope of you coming to the Sea.....We miss you all so much, but are oh so happy and excited for you. We will be following you as you take this big leap. Look forward to seeing you and sharing stories when we meet on dry land in Lake Tahoe one day.

  5. Details, details, details - there is such attention and meticulous detail in all that you undertake! And, reading your detailed and descriptive blogs gets me to also enjoy all your adventures!

  6. I think there are some who are able to learn a new skill, never having used a pressure cooker to cook dried beans is really the BEST way to haul beans on your boat, never mind the heavy canned variety! It is so exciting to hear that you are making the jump-although we miss you. We are in Huatulco, having made the 300 mile passage from Z town in less than a week, we had our dear friends from Lady J aboard which made it very fun. We will spend 2 weeks here enjoying this wonderful town before heading across the T bay. We miss you and think of you often. Love you much, Vicki