by Pete Green
As a seasoned victualler who has organised food on-board yachts from 25 foot to 100 foot, and from cross channel to round the world voyages, here are some top tips if you are given the unenviable duty of organising food for your next sailing adventure or yacht delivery. I actually enjoy the challenge of it, but if you don’t I hope that some of the information here will help you.
Top 10 tips when provisioning a yacht
1. Delegate it to someone else!
Victualling is always seen as the hardest job on the boat; I enjoy it as I like to be organised and like to cook, but some find it stressful and overwhelming. Make sure that if you do the organising, don’t be left doing all the cooking too. Share everything out in the galley from food prep, to cooking, to washing up afterwards. You are a team, so all should contribute. If you have crew that are unable to cook due to general inability or incapacity, give them the easier meals of breakfast and lunch to rustle up, which should be easier than the main evening meal. Try to make everything as easy as it can be; don’t include complex recipes or weird food that just only you would like. If you can’t live without Marmite, Fray Bentos pies, chocolate digestives or HP Brown sauce, take it with you!
2. Be organised.
Plan your menu and make a detailed list (or if you are like me, lots of lists!) but keep it as simple as you can, so everyone can make meals not just you. Don’t just go to the supermarket and buy what you fancy, especially if you are hungry! Your bill will be huge and you will end up with food that doesn’t match and you will certainly forget something! It’s very important on a longer voyage to make way for creativity – have a basic menu but also make sure that there are items that can be used to mix things up a little. Don’t create a 7 day repeated menu, as the last thing you want to do is always remember Fridays as Spag Bol day! An 8 day one works well, or if you are super organised a fortnightly one. Maybe plan a surprise meal every now and then, with ingredients you have kept apart from the rest of the general food, and don’t forget birthdays on-board – a time to get creative! Remember, the weather plays a very important part in the environment when it comes to cooking on a yacht so simple is always best. Always over estimate what food is required by 10%, just in case the weather stops you cooking some meals along the way. You can then always revert to tins in a one pot meal if you have to. Laminate a stores list and/or menu, and also a hot drinks list so all the important information is shared. If you are on a long voyage, don’t forget to draw a stowage plan so you know where all the provisions are kept that can’t fit into the galley area. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you have extra mars bars or loo roll but for the life of you, you can’t remember where you put them!
The hardest job I had victualling a yacht was during a round the world race. We had a 9-week leg from Rio de Janeiro to Hobart, Tasmania with 14 crew. Although we had some products shipped out from the UK (mainly dehydrated meat meals) everything else had to be sourced on site, which was a unique challenge especially not speaking Portuguese! It was in the high 30’s, and without refrigeration on-board, all fresh food had to be delivered on the day before departure. When it arrived most of it had already past its best and ended up been given to the yacht club workers or thrown away. Our tinned stores ended up being very random, and what we thought was tinned butter for a really nice treat ended up being condensed milk syrup, and don’t get me started on the cheese in a round tin – how do you open it?! Kept us occupied for days! So the moral of the story is, however organised you are sometimes you just have to go with the flow!!
3. People are always hungrier at sea.
Fact. After a long watch, and especially if it is cold, crew will eat like horses – it’s got to do with all that fresh air and extra activity. Remember that for the first couple of days’ people may not be feeling at their best so don’t plan heavy meals or strong curries early on, as sensitive stomachs may complain! If starting your voyage from the UK, try to pre-cook a few meals if you can and bring them with you. Good idea for this are Lasagne and Pies (travels well as are solid) or something tasty such as Chicken sweet and sour. Once settled into the voyage, make sure the meals include plenty of carbohydrates for energy (Pasta, rice, potatoes) and plenty of volume to keep those tummies full.
4. Check what facilities are on-board the boat before any food planning.
On your own yacht or one you sail regularly, you know what is available in the galley, but when on a delivery check with the owner first if you can. Most yachts have just a basic oven with a 2 ring gas hob. Remember on a new yacht delivery, the oven is not normally used just the 2 ring hob so one- pot dishes are a must. Great meals for this are corned beef hash, mined beef and onions with potatoes and vegetables, biryani’s (curry and rice cooked together), pasta pesto. Also check there is cutlery, crockery and mugs – you may have to bring your own.
5. Check what your fellow crew mates eat (and what they don’t!).
It’s pointless spending time and effort preparing a detailed menu plan and shopping list for crew that are all meat eaters, and find when they turn up they are vegetarians or have a restricted diet such as gluten free. Remember British supermarkets nowadays have really good ranges for Gluten intolerants, but you may find it hard when abroad. Ask the crew member to let you know what they like to eat and suggest they bring with them anything you suspect may be difficult to source on the trip. Share the responsibility.
6. Make sure you have plenty of snacks.
This is very important – don’t just buy chocolate! Snacks are a brilliant morale booster especially in the middle of the night when energy and motivation is low. Also good for those feeling queasy for the first few days if they aren’t able to keep much down. Ginger biscuits, cereal bars (no chocolate), ready salted crisps, boiled sweets and crackers are all good for seasickness. For the rest of the team, fruit cake, fruit and nut mix, flapjacks, brownies all go down well. If you have a fridge, the boys also tend to like savoury snacks such as mini pork pies or mini-pasties. These can be eaten straight from the packet without having to re-heat; you don’t want to be rummaging in the galley and using the oven during a night watch when others are sleeping. Get your family or friends to bake something for you before you leave such as brownies, flapjacks, ginger cake etc – it gets them involved and they feel a part of it. After racing around the world, we still had fruit cake in the last few days after 9 months at sea – it really did the trick in the lumpy Western approaches! Don’t forget an apple a day keeps the doctor away and your gums healthy. A good variety of fruit is advisable. Ribena is a good source of vitamin C when you run out of fruit. It’s also good as a hot drink at night too. Always make sure there is texture to some food – a lot of boat food tends to be soft and mushy so mix it up a little and add ingredients that have a bite to them.
7. Don’t forget the tea bags.
It’s got to be Yorkshire tea! (I’m biased). Take them with you if you are travelling to a foreign port as the tea is never as good abroad. Lipton’s just doesn’t hit the mark! Instant coffee you can get in most places as well as ground coffee but if you go ground coffee, don’t swill the grains down the sink as you are liable to block the hose and put a brown stain down the hull – also don’t forget the coffee pot!
8. Storage is at a premium.
For a longer trip don’t buy too much fresh food as keeping it fresh will become a challenge if it doesn’t fit in the fridge. Hard root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, hard cabbage, parsnips all keep well in a dry locker somewhere as do hard apples such as Granny Smith’s and Braeburn’s. Soft fruits such as oranges, bananas, pineapple, mango etc will not last long in the heat, so buy sparingly and eat first. Eggs can be kept out of the fridge – it is a myth that coating eggs with varnish or Vaseline to seal them makes them last longer.It has been proven that letting the eggs breath naturally actually prolongs their life. If you want to check if they are still fresh, put in a jug of water. If they sink they are fresh, if they rise, throw them away.
Tins are always a great staple and can be used along with fresh to make some super meals. They also store well in bilges if necessary, but don’t forget to write in marker pen on the top of them what they are just in case the label comes off. If this happens, then you play tin roulette, always great fun! Don’t wash fresh fruit and vegetables before storing (unless they are very dirty) as it will reduce their lifespan – wash before you eat (salt water is fine). Top tip – don’t store pasta or rice (or your teabags) in the bilges if in their original packaging as it won’t be waterproof.
9. Drink lots of water.
Don’t forget to make sure there is enough water and more for the duration of your trip. Take some bottled water if you can, and don’t rely on water tanks if you only have 1, just in case it gets contaminated. Flush out water tanks if you know the yacht has been standing for a while and definitely if it has been ashore for the winter or sat idle in a hot country. Remember that tea and coffee are diuretics and drinking lots can actually make you more dehydrated. If you want an alternative hot drink, try hot Ribena, hot chocolate or a cup a soup.
10. Don’t forget the loo roll!
You would be amazed how many crews visit the local supermarket before a trip to buy food and forget the more important things in life such as loo roll, washing up liquid, matches, anti-bac spray and bin-bags! There are some things you just can’t substitute- for example don’t use kitchen roll or baby wipes as a replacement for loo roll as you will find yourself in the skipper’s bad books. There is no alternative for washing up liquid, although it is good if you forget your shampoo, and great for cleaning the deck after filling up with diesel en-route! Bin bags are a must; all rubbish must be cleaned and bagged and not thrown into the sea. Without bin bags, things will start to get very smelly, very quickly! Don’t buy the cheapest, as you will end up having to double bag everything. Don’t wrap anything of value up in bin bags to keep dry just in case it gets mistaken for rubbish and gets thrown away.
We hope that these top 10 tips will help you prepare for your first or next cruising trip – remember, victualling is not rocket science, and there are no set rules to follow. So long as you are organised but flexible, you will be fine!
Halcyon Yachts Ltd is a dedicated international yacht delivery specialist with highly experienced and qualified crew. For more information or to see details of their recent deliveries please visit http://halcyonyachts.com/