Food for the Long Haul

Cruising Life — 2003

Cruising Life — 2003
By W. Patrick Brown

Food for the Long Haul

Expert advice on how to pick the right food and keep it fresh for your next cruise.


 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Provisioning
• Part 2: Provisioning
• Cruising Tip

 Related Resources
• Cruising Column Index
• Cruising/Charters Index

My experience in food provisioning began long before I started working as a chef on charter yachts in southeast Alaska. It began even before my career in remote fishing lodges in the high Andes of Chilean Patagonia, the tundra of Northern Alaska, and the steamy jungles of Costa Rica. It even preceded my days as a river-rafting guide in the deserts of the American Southwest and central Mexico.

So what does packing food for a fishing lodge or a jungle have to do with provisioning a boat? Everything. The same basic rules that I learned then apply today. I still begin each voyage with the same time-proven rule: Plan your work, work your plan.

The Basics
Start by identifying potential food stowage areas--specific areas that will be used exclusively for food stowage. Pay attention to limitations such as exposure to excessive moisture, heat, or chemicals like oil, fuel, and cleaners.

Make a written inventory of what you have onboard and where it's located. Keep it handy to make finding items easier.

Write a basic menu. Keep it simple and be flexible, allowing for circumstances.

Don't believe it when the captain tells you he wants fish and is going to catch it. Go buy some. If he guarantees it, buy extra. Always have an alternative.

Working from your basic menu, make a shopping list and follow it. Avoid impulse purchases. Avoid foods with excessive packaging. You're going to repack them anyway.

Buy the freshest food possible. Find out what day of the week the store receives fresh produce. If you need to, ask for advice on how to identify freshness and which vegetables keep better than others. In foreign ports, shop where the locals shop and buy what they buy (remember to wash all produce completely in purified water).

Buy the same vegetables at varying degrees of ripeness. Buy red tomatoes for today, half-green tomatoes for next week.

Consider alternative fruits and vegetables that travel better and keep longer. For instance, try chayote squash (a pale-green pearish-looking vegetable), as it keeps twice as long as zucchini or yellow squash and can be prepared the same way. Jicama is another long-lasting versatile vegetable, as is yucca root, which makes a great mashed potato substitute.

Check the expiration date on everything you buy. Expired canned milk can be a major problem if you use it for baking, as it will not perform as expected. Other foods may not spoil, but they will quickly lose nutritional value after their shelf life expires.

Bag your own groceries. I always ask for boxes and separate my provisions before leaving the store, based on their ultimate stowage destination. Doing this will not only save you time later, but your food will arrive on the dock in much better condition. Even the slightest damage can become a big problem for an item stowed onboard.

Keep your grocery receipts because on your next extended voyage, all you'll need to do is just pull them out and go buy the same ingredients. No menu writing!

Next page > Cruising Life continued > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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