Dock Lines

Provisioning for a long or short cruise

SAN DIEGO — When Arv and I kept our former boat on the Chesapeake Bay we often went for weekend or longer cruises. At first I was totally clueless how to lay in enough food to feed us well without risking spoilage, especially since we didn’t want to operate our generator continuously to keep our refrigerator running and didn’t have an inverter.

Eventually I learned how to plan for an adequate number of meals, snacks and impromptu get-togethers with fellow cruisers. I also figured out how to use coolers and cold packs to keep critical foods cold for extended periods and discovered which produce I could safely leave out of the fridge, as well as what to avoid.

Now, cruising in Mexico, I’ve learned a few rules about provisioning for extended cruises, since only small tiendas exist between Ensenada and Cabo. With eating habits changing little on board, select only foods your family and crew actually like, not just practical, nutritious choices. For us that eliminates tofu (which I won’t eat) and chicken (which Arv avoids).

Calculate the number of meals and number of people you need to feed over the given period, allowing generously for extra snacks, and add about 20 percent. That ensures you have adequate food in case of delays from weather or mechanical breakdowns. Be sure to generously stock up on beverages.

While I primarily cook with fresh or frozen foods, for that “extra 20 percent” you may never need you can rely on creating meals from canned or dried stores, including canned fish, meats and vegetables, plus canned or dry beans and pasta. On one 10-day cruise I was grateful I’d added an extra vacuum-packed smoked turkey breast, which, along with canned tuna, fed us well during a breakdown at an isolated cove while Arv undertook repairs.

To avoid infestations, especially in tropical ports, never bring cardboard boxes aboard and avoid paper bags if possible. Hard-to-eradicate pests and their eggs may be lurking in those paper seams.

Now I’ve found several favorite “go-to” cruisers’ cookbooks filled with advice on provisioning and meal planning, including scheduling use of fresh produce, meats and fish.

I’ve recommended these resources previously: Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons’ “The Boat Galley Cookbook” (plus Shearlock’s website, which contains downloadable provisioning spreadsheets and a host of other useful recommendations); Kay Pastorius’ “Cruising Cuisine,” filled with provisioning insights along with 450 gourmet recipes, developed aboard; and Capt. Michael Greenwald’s “The Cruising Chef Cookbook,” with detailed provisioning plans and adaptable recipes.

I’ve learned you don’t have to refrigerate eggs and many fruits and vegetables. For longer shelf life, buy fresh from farmers whenever possible and choose never-refrigerated products. Previously refrigerated produce tends to rot from the inside out. While it’s hard to find unrefrigerated produce and eggs in the U.S., try farmers markets.

Select firm and un-bruised produce.  Buy it in various stages of ripeness to extend its availability, particularly tomatoes, avocados, pears and mangoes. Transport produce gently to prevent damage.

For salads, look for recipes based on cabbage, which can last up to two months if wrapped in paper towels or newspapers and kept dry. Other cooking staples are onions, garlic and potatoes, which also keep well.

Carrots and celery will last up to two weeks outside the fridge, if wrapped in aluminum foil, with a small escape hatch for moisture. Soak them in water to revive them if dry.

For fruit, store apples away from oranges to avoid over-ripening. Citrus will last up to a month if washed, dried and wrapped individually in foil.

With careful planning your crew can dine well however long the cruise.

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