Like Armies, Sailors Travel on Their Stomach

photo courtesy of JNC68

photo courtesy of JNC68

An important part of preparing for an offshore passage is provisioning the ship. Depending on how well you plan, your voyage could be heaven or it could be hell.

There are plenty of good books available on provisioning, but most assume that you are leaving from North America, or a port in some other modern country. It’s a different story if you have to stock up on a little island in the South Pacific! That’s where you have to be flexible and be able to innovate.

photo courtesy of Hannes Auer

photo courtesy of Hannes Auer

It’s very common to go to a market in a foreign country and find all kinds of unfamiliar foods, as we did in the South Pacific. It pays to have done your homework, and you can’t afford to be shy about asking questions if you don’t recognize something. Otherwise you might buy a length of rope tobacco thinking it’s smoked meat!

As long as you have an understanding of the basic needs—carbohydrates, protein, and essential fatty acids—then all you have to do is find the ingredients to piece together to make your meals. The real challenge, though, is choosing foods that will last for the duration of your voyage.


photo courtesy of Hans Thoursie

You can’t always count on catching fresh fish to eat, so fortunately many yachts now have refrigeration that allows sailors to stock up on frozen meats. They are usually expensive but are becoming more widely available.

The main problem is that fresh produce you buy at the market will only last a few days in the tropics. In one of the chapters in Beer in the Bilges Bob explains the problem to his sailing mates, Hollywood actors Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter, this way.

photo courtesy of Fran Gambín

photo courtesy of Fran Gambín

You have to be careful with Tongan bananas. There’s a banana conspiracy going on. You turn your head for a minute, and when you look back, they all go yellow at the same time. You’ll have them baked, fried, mashed, raw, boiled, and when you feel a little brown stalk coming out the top of your head, throw the rest of them over the side!”


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