I never thought I’d see the day – the day I stopped buying beer at the store. It’s a little upsetting, but I think I’ll get by. I’m not giving it up completely; I just won’t have it on the boat. See, I thought I’d get a head start on figuring out what I’m going to eat and drink while voyaging and make my sailboat provisioning list. I won’t be using my refrigerator while I’m under way, and that really changes the eating habits of someone who has been with refrigeration for 31 years. (Update: Nix that, check out my new electrical refrigerator).
But on the other hand, Man has been without it for millennia and I’ve been on plenty of long-distance camping trips without refrigeration. Luxuries? Whatever. How difficult can it be? I have a few specific goals in mind for this provisioning “project”.
Back in my “civilized” days, I loved cooking complex dishes with multiple ingredients (most of which come from the refrigerator). At sea, I’ll only want to cook “one-pan” meals and with minimal ingredients. Canned meats will be my friend.
Surprisingly, quite a variety of simple sailing recipes can be made with a few basic provisions. I’ll be carrying a lot of staples such as flour, oats, rice, beans, and pasta. I’ll bake my own bread and grow my own sprouts. I’m going to recreate what others have suggested and come up with a few things on my own, and see what I like and don’t like (or can’t stand!).
How do I do this while producing the smallest waste footprint possible?
Some things I’ll be able to throw overboard, like glass and simple paper, but other things like plastics and metals I’ll want to keep on board until I can dump it in a landfill (better than winding up in the ocean?). I’ll have to carry this trash with me until I reach port, and this can be a major problem when storage is at a premium. Some places also charge for trash disposal, and with more trash, the price goes up.
How will I store everything?
Any provisions in a paper container (grains, pasta, rice, etc) needs to go in a plastic storage container. These containers need to be impervious to infestations and moisture.
I’ll also want to split up my rations so that if one container goes bad, I don’t lose all of my provisions (i.e. I’ll have another container of flour). Ditching the packaging at port and transferring to reusable containers will also help reduce the trash I produce at sea. Multiple small containers are also easier to store than one large container, considering I’ll be finding some outrageous places to store these things! (Cereal behind the toilet? If it fits!)
How much fuel will I consume?
Right now I have a 20-pound propane tank (about 5 gallons), which is similar to your everyday portable gas grill tank. This tank has lasted me seven months so far, cooking on average once a day, boiling water for coffee and oatmeal, cooking a dinner dish, and even a Thanksgiving roast. I’m just waiting for its last breath.
Anyways, I imagine I’ll be cooking more when I don’t have options to eat out. I’ll be using it more, but I also have a pressure cooker in the mail which will reduce the fuel I use. Even though I’ll be cooking more, maybe I can still get close to a year out of one tank? This will be a difficult goal to measure objectively, but I should be able to make some good estimations of how much I’ve cooked so far and what I plan to cook in the future.
How much water will I consume?
My tank carries 20 gallons, and I’m going with a conservative estimate of using one gallon per day. I’ll need to avoid the foods that require a large amount of water, and the first thing that comes to mind is brewing my own beer. Too much water. And no refrigeration.
Dehydrated foods and beans that require a lot of rinsing won’t be very practical though I do plan on carrying them. There are also alternatives such as using the water in canned vegetables to cook the rice you plan on using with those vegetables. Let’s get creative!
How much will all of this cost?
Buying in bulk, and buying basic ingredients will really help with keeping costs down. One such example is homemade bread. A few pounds of flour cost less than a loaf of bread, and I’ll get more than a few loaves out of that. I’ll get a good idea of what my costs will be while provisioning in America, but costs could be considerably higher in remote areas. That’s why it helps to buy as much as I can now, and figure out…
How much will all of this food last?
This should be the easiest part of the provisioning planning. If I can figure out recipes that I enjoy and make meal plans, I should know exactly how much I’ll need for a given amount of time. I’ll also need to figure out how long specific foods will last. Did you know that eggs can last for a few months without refrigeration? Fresh never-refrigerated eggs, coated in vaseline and flipped once a week can last months down in the bilge. There are a lot of little tricks like this that I should learn to master before letting the shore slip from sight.
Oh, and what about the booze? Red wine and rum. Maybe I’ll add some vodka, Kahlua, tequila, and lime juice if I get bored.