Thursday, February 01, 2018

Food on a Passage

[Maryanne]Almost every non-cruiser seems to ask about what food we eat when at sea, especially for the longer passages. So this post is to put your minds at rest.

Blog followers will know that recently we sailed from New Zealand to Chile. This passage was to be our biggest challenge yet, as it is the longest in both distance and time that we are ever likely to complete (it ended up being 6,380 nm and 46 days). Additionally we had Kyle’s 50th birthday, Christmas Day and New Year to celebrate.

This post might also give those thinking of cruising a few ideas and show just how easy it really is to eat at sea. It includes our meals prepared on our recent 46 day passage, and some details about what we always seem to have aboard provision wise. I thought this would be a great way to show an example range of meals, of course your tastes may vary from ours.

Yes there are some challenges, but they are really not so bad, and probably no worse than your great-grandmother had to deal with!

Provisioning really can be a trial. We don’t have a car readily available. We are not familiar with the local stores and markets. We never quite know for each port what food we consider staples will be available, and which we’ll have to improvise on or go without. So while we might not have aboard exactly what was on our shopping list as we cast off, we do have plenty of provisions loaded up.

Although we always have an idea how long the passage might take, we must also be sure to have extra provisions ‘just in case’ something catastrophic greatly extends that timeframe. However, we’ve never yet gone hungry, and we generally find a passage so uneventful that dreaming up, preparing and eating food is often the highlight of each day.

We don’t have a freezer, and our fridge isn’t so big, so we have to rely on some dry and canned staples, and by making sure we store our fresh produce so as to last as long as possible. To be honest, our cupboard provisions probably don’t look much different to any non-sailors pantry (except we most likely have more of it). Some boaters still sail without even a fridge (remember the fridge is a relatively modern invention, so it can hardly be declared a necessity), but for us having a fridge means we can have a cold drink, save left overs for the following day (or so), and keep some produce fresh just a little longer. If we were to have a freezer as well, it would mean: ice cubes, not having to eat leftovers the next day, and a few extra treats like French-sticks and ice-cream.

With just the two of us aboard, we take it in turns to sleep, leaving (for the most part) us each alone on watch. On an ocean passage it can get quite monotonous, the odd bird, and lots of open water, with little to separate one day from the next. Generally the sails hardly need touching (sometimes for days). So provided the weather is calm enough, cooking is my chance to play, and to make each day somehow distinct from the others. I love to think about and take time over the meals. I don’t generally start a trip with a meal plan in mind, but just work it out each day.

I carry a number of cookbooks (both paper and e-books) for those times I’m looking for inspiration, and we have a few favorite recipes that have become absolute regulars, but mostly I just improvise based on what we have that needs eating-up soon.

On this passage, we ate our last onion and eggs on the last day – we managed it perfectly! We also had the added challenge of some strict customs regulations in Chile, so we knew we had to use up all of our fresh produce, and we were uncertain about the rules on some of our dried produce (even honey might be confiscated on arrival). These were all listed on the customs form as items we needed to declare and while we knew fresh produce was not allowed, we had no idea which of these other items would be deemed OK to keep on our arrival. {Although we didn’t know it on the passage, none of our remaining food was confiscated or challenged; we completed our paperwork, and showed all the listed produce to the agent, but all was accepted as OK to keep – not nearly as strict as New Zealand– yay!}

We are not vegetarians, but we do eat a lot of vegetarian meals; Kyle won’t eat red meat and is a bit squirmy about most types of seafood; so that, and our lack of a freezer, means fresh meat just isn’t that practical aboard except when we are close to good provisioning.

Generally we eat lunch separately, but dinner and breakfast ‘together’ (one of us is always officially on-watch but at least we are awake at the same time and can talk to each other over the meal). Dinner is our big meal, I do most of the prep during my morning watch, and simply cook it up in the evening. Aboard I cook and Kyle washes up, so for his sanity (and limited sink/counter space) I try hard to create a little washing up as possible (i.e. reusing pots and utensils and aiming for one pot meals), even more so if it gets a bit bouncy.

We always have a good supply of nuts, cookies, crackers, and the like for snacks (especially for the night watches), but we rarely bother to mention these in the log.

Also not mentioned in the log are the drinks (Kyle has his daily ‘fancy breakfast coffee’, and we have a good supply of fruit juices and also powder and cordial-type drink mixes aboard). {Kyle’s ‘Fancy Breakfast Coffee’ is coffee with cocoa and vanilla, topped with marshmallows, whipped cream, and a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg – a meal on its own!}

While we keep it aboard, we don’t drink alcohol on a passage. Many do, and some of the classical sailing stories of past and present include regular tipples, but we chose not to. We do however look forward to opening a bottle of wine, and on this trip, enjoying some good single malt whisky (a gift from my sister) on our arrival.

Here is our list of meals for each day of this super long passage (as recorded in the log book), and it is pretty representative of what we’d eat on any other passage.

  • Day 1 – Kyle’s (2nd) 50th Birthday. For the passage we set the boat time to some point mid way between the start and end – and this means that the date changes back to yesterday – Kyle gets two birthdays this special year!
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Birthday Cake (Chocolate Cake – store bought),
    • Dinner: Mexican chicken with rice and beans (A regular aboard, cooked in the pressure cooker – 5 minutes at pressure!)
    • Snacks: More birthday cake
  • Day 2
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Chicken Salad
    • Dinner: Tortilla Soup (a great way to use up leftover rice)
    • Snacks: Olive Focaccia bread / Bananas
  • Day 3
    • Breakfast: Omelet
    • Lunch: Veggie Burgers (I especially like cauliflower to make veggie burgers with!)
    • Dinner: Stuffed Peppers (I’d bought way too many fresh peppers!)
    • Snacks: Banana, Pomegranate
  • Day 4
    • Breakfast: Parfait (Fruit, yogurt, granola, honey)
    • Lunch: Peanut butter sandwiches
    • Dinner: Greek Salad
  • Day 5
    • Breakfast: Parfait
    • Lunch: Cheese and Crackers
    • Dinner: Sweet Potato and peanut stew
  • Day 6
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Salad (last of the lettuce and bell peppers)
    • Dinner: Left over stew
  • Day 7 – a very rough day at sea
    • Breakfast: Cereals
    • Lunch: Instant noodles
    • Dinner: neither of us was interested – much too bouncy.. had some cookies and snacks
  • Day 8
    • Breakfast: Yogurt
    • Lunch: Quesadilla
    • Dinner: Pasta
  • Day 9
      Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: ‘Breakfast’ Burrito
    • Dinner: Veggie Curry
    • Snacks: Almonds, biscuits (cookies), chocolate
  • Day 10
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Pomegranate (last one!)
    • Dinner: left over curry
  • Day 11 – Christmas Day!
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Christmas Cake
    • Dinner: Potato soup (not everyone’s choice for a special meal, but Kyle’s go to favorite)
    • Snacks: Christmas Cake – we bought a large square Christmas cake, way too big for the two of us – so we divided the remainder into 3 and wrapped each bit individually in foil for treats some other day.
  • Day 12
    • Breakfast: Fruit and yogurt
    • Lunch: Mince pies and cream
    • Dinner: Left over curry
  • Day 13 – rain, miserable seas
    • Breakfast: Yogurt
    • Lunch: Mince Pies
    • Dinner: Greek Style cabbage and rice Pilaf
  • Day 14
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Hummus
    • Dinner: Pasta in Cream sauce
  • Day 15
    • Breakfast: Omelet
    • Lunch: Hummus with crisped tortillas
    • Dinner: Nachos
  • Day 16
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Bread and Jam (Freshly baked bread!)
    • Dinner: 3-Cup tofu with noodles (love this simple and quick dish, the sauce is equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine)
  • Day 17
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Gado Gado Salad (an old favorite, basically any crunchy salad topped with sliced boiled eggs and a spicy peanut dressing)
    • Dinner: Fried egg, baked beans, bread (classic breakfast food, I know!)
  • Day 18 – New Years Day
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Hummus / Soup & Bread (we each had different on this day as there was only a little of each to use up.)
    • Dinner: Squash Risotto (Hard skin squashes lasts AGES, perfectly wrapped in their own natural skin!)
  • Day 19
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Cheese and Crackers
    • Dinner: Potato soup (again!)
  • Day 20
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Spanish Tortilla (a potato/onion omelet)
    • Dinner: Quiche / Salad
    • Snacks: Chocolate chip cookies
  • Day 21
    • Breakfast: (not recorded – probably cereal)
    • Lunch: Hummus with toasted tortillas
    • Dinner: Spicy Carrot Noodles
  • Day 22
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Egg Sandwich
    • Dinner: Pasta
  • Day 23
    • Breakfast: Yogurt (homemade now)
    • Lunch: Cheese Sandwich (A cheese sandwich aboard generally is made with freshly baked bread, a good chunk of mature cheddar cheese, a generous helping of alfalfa sprouts, and some kind of condiment for extra flavor).
    • Dinner: Stove top lasagna
  • Day 24
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Instant Noodles
    • Dinner: Baked beans on toast with a fried egg
  • Day 25
    • Breakfast: Yogurt with canned fruit
    • Lunch: Carrots with dip (spicy peanut, soy)
    • Dinner: Potato chowder
  • Day 26 – cold and bouncy
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Cheese sandwiches
    • Dinner: Pasta
  • Day 27
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Salad w. (canned) Tuna
    • Dinner: Pizza (using the last of the feta cheese as one of the toppings)
  • Day 28 – way too bouncy to prepare much!
    • Breakfast: cereal
    • Lunch: left over potatoes, snacked on, cold.
    • Dinner: Mountain House camping meal (we had a few packets left over from our Grand Canyon trip)
    • Snacks: We broke out another bit of our Christmas cake.
  • Day 29
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Cheese & Crackers
    • Dinner: Mexican Rice and beans (with some ‘camping meal’ cheesecake for desert)
  • Day 30 – the weather was finally calm again - I made a giant batch of roasted spice almonds today – yummy, and baked some fresh bread.
    • Breakfast: Omelet
    • Lunch: Nachos w salsa
    • Dinner: Pasta w. tomato sauce
    • Snacks: honey roasted almonds
  • Day 31
    • Breakfast: French Toast (filled with cream cheese and Jam)
    • Lunch: Popcorn
    • Dinner: Egg Fried rice, followed by a chocolate mousse (instant pudding)
    • Snacks: Sunflower seeds (I’m nervous all our nuts and seeds will be confiscated on arrival in Chile, so I’m making sure we eat them before we arrive)
  • Day 32
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Cheese Sandwiches
    • Dinner: Baked Tuna pasta, with fruit and cream filled meringue nests for desert.
  • Day 33
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Bread with Jam & cream cheese potatoes
    • Dinner: Red bean chili w. mashed
    • Snacks: Granola bar
  • Day 34
    • Breakfast: Omelet
    • Lunch: Cheese & Crackers
    • Dinner: Chili w. cous-cous (Cous-Cous is a staple aboard, since, despite the instructions, it doesn’t need cooking. We simply pour some into the bowl we’ll eat from, add some just boiled water, and give it 3 minutes to soak up – then add the main dish on top – hence saving yet another pot from needing washing up).
  • Day 35
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Quesadillas
    • Dinner: 3-cup Tofu with noodles (again)
  • Day 36
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Stuffed vine leaves (from a can)
    • Dinner: Armenian Lentil Soup (pressure cooker recipe book)
    • Snacks: Another batch of spicy honey roasted almonds
  • Day 37
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Tortilla with left over thick Armenian Lentil ‘soup’ as a spread
    • Dinner: Potato Soup (again!)
  • Day 38
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Feta on Crackers
    • Dinner: Breakfast fry up.
  • Day 39
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Cheese & Crackers
    • Dinner: Pearl Barley Risotto
  • Day 40
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Cheese Sandwiches
    • Dinner: Thai Chick pea curry
  • Day 41
    • Breakfast: Canned Fruit
    • Lunch: Nachos
    • Dinner: Pasta
    • Snacks: Nuts
  • Day 42 – Another very rough day so keeping it simple
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Bread & Jam
    • Dinner: Mountain House camping meal (the last one from our Grand Canyon trip)
  • Day 43 – cooked last of the potatoes today before landfall.
    • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs
    • Lunch: Nuts (we’re worried they’ll be confiscated)
    • Dinner: Potato soup
    • Snack: Sunflower seeds
  • Day 44 – cooked up a large batch of dried beans, and separately some chick peas (worried they’ll be confiscated otherwise)
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Left over soup
    • Dinner: Rice & beans, and some fruit filled meringue nests
  • Day 45 – We sighted land just before night fall this evening
    • Breakfast: Cereal
    • Lunch: Hummus
    • Dinner: Chili
  • Day 46 – Arrival in Chile at 23:48 (boat time) but we were so excited that we didn’t record what we ate . I recall using up the last of the onions and eggs for a breakfast omelet , and we probably had left over chili. By this time however we’re looking forward to the possibility of arriving, and getting our body clocks back into sync, and maybe even eating out in a Chilean restaurant.

So there you have it. Our meals aboard on an epic passage. Not too many dinner repeats, and we arrived well fed and with plenty of supplies aboard to keep us going for many more weeks.

The mix of provisions we generally carry

  • Dairy
    • Milk – UHT (long life) milk comes in 1L Tetra-pak type containers, lasts for months in the cupboard, and then once opened we just keep that carton in the fridge.
    • Cream: In many countries either canned or tetra-pak long life cream is readily available, we use these both for savory dishes (think vodka sauce) and deserts, but also to make sour cream. Additionally Kyle enjoys ‘squirty cream’ in his morning ‘fancy breakfast coffee’ so we tend to find space in the fridge for sufficient supplies.
    • Cheese: I’m a big fan of Mature Cheddar cheese aboard – I love the taste and it lasts well (even store brought stuff will have a ‘best by date’ month away). We also eat plenty of feta and snack cheeses. Once a package is opened, we keep the harder cheeses safe from mold by wiping it with white vinegar (And when we are really stretching things, by wrapping in a vinegar soaked cloth). Those cute little Laughing Cow triangles you had as a kid? – they keep for months without refrigeration, and are just fine eaten as is, or spread on a cracker. I also tend to keep some cream cheese aboard. This can be used as a spread, a cooking ingredient, or to make French toast or cheesecake (A special treat!)
    • Yogurt: Once the store bought yogurt is gone, we make our own (using a pre-purchased dried starter, or by using a spoon of previous live-culture yogurt to start a new batch – it’s ridiculously simple to make). A fridge-free sailor I met assured us that those store bought flavored yogurts are fine without refrigeration (and we spotted them on normal shelving in numerous French Polynesian islands), but they need to be stored so they won’t break open, and for us just aren’t worth the extra effort when we can so easily make some.
    • Butter and Margarine. We don’t seem to use that much, so we can keep it in the fridge. . We also have ‘just in case’ backup of canned butter also available (easily found in the islands and in New Zealand). Note: Once out of the tropics you can use a butter bell to keep spreadable butter to hand
  • Non-Dairy Proteins
    • Meat: we generally have some chicken in the fridge as we leave port. When we can find them we also keep a small stash of canned meats (chicken, corned beef, pork), but meat is an occasional treat

      Various cured/dried meats are also great to have - Sausage such as 'Summer sausage' or Salami can be diced, fried and put in pasta sauces, omelet, etc, and biltong/jerky are great snack food when you can find it (In the USA we were able to find Turkey Jerky which even Kyle would eat).

    • Fish: We tend to rely on canned fish (mostly tuna, salmon, & anchovies), and if we ever catch one then the menu simply changes to make use of the lovely fresh fish over the next day or so of meals. On this passage, things were too rough to try fishing many days, and on the calmer days we either had no luck, or had plenty of other food that needed using up, so we didn’t try. Dried fish/seafood is also useful, but it sometimes hard to find.
    • Eggs: We buy fresh eggs which last really well, provided they haven’t been pre-washed (which makes them look nice, but seems to make them more likely to go bad, apparently washing removes some of the protective coating – and they simply don’t last as well), and we also avoid those that are kept refrigerated at the store since these have most likely been pre-washed. Aboard we keep the current batch in the fridge, and the remainder in a cool/dark area and simply turn the packet every few days to keep the inside fully moist and sealed. We test eggs (float test) and always crack them open individually into separate container before introducing them to the dish ‘just in case’ one is bad. No problems on this trip. As the eggs age, they get more runny/watery (less easy to make a good fried egg, but just fine for baking and omelets, etc).
    • Beans/Lentils/Peas. We mostly keep a good supply of dried produce, but a few cans too. Having a pressure cooker makes cooking bean dishes relatively quick even from dried beans. We also have a really good variety of recipes for these basics, so they never get boring.
    • TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein, Soy based) – I use this to bulk up a meal, especially Chili, but also cottage pie type dishes. I generally throw it in with the cans veggies I might use, along with a stock cube, and let it sit to soak up the flavors before cooking it up.
    • Nuts and seeds. We keep a good selection of these used for cooking, baking and nibbling (also thrown into our breakfast muesli mix). They can get hard to find and/or expensive so we buy in bulk when we can. Peanut butter also has a welcome place aboard (we prefer crunchy).
  • Fruits and Veggies
    • Veggies . Fresh veggies we eat in the order they might start to go off. E.g.. the hard Squash vegetables, and potatoes last longest so we’d be unlikely to use those in the first week at the expense of some of the shorter lasting veggies. Onions and potatoes will last way longer than any voyage we plan to do. We also keep a stash of good tinned veggies aboard (staples such as tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, sweetcorn, etc. and a few specials such as palm hearts, artichokes, etc). Additionally I have a few packets of instant mash potatoes (which I normally spice up with added stuff, like mustard, etc).
    • Salad greens. Once the store bought stuff has gone, we turn to sprouting (we especially like alfalfa seeds which can be used like cress in sandwiches and salads). It only takes 2-3 days from seed to beautiful edible fresh loveliness. We also tend to use shredded cabbage as salad once the salad leaves have been eaten.
    • Fruit. Aside from the fresh fruit we have right after provisioning, we always have a good mix of canned fruit, and a mix of tetra-pak type fruit juices – we get plenty of vitamins! Additionally we have a good supply of various dried fruits (mostly for cooking, but also for making up batches of muesli type cereals).
  • Carbs (aside from potatoes)
    • Bread: once the store bought bread is gone, we bake our own. We also make use of store bought tortillas (which can have a great shelf life). These can be used as wraps, sweet or savory, lining for a quiche/pie in place of pastry, in all the usual Mexican dishes, and in a Caribbean roti with any filling, much like a Cornish pasty! They are ridiculously versatile.
    • Pasta: We eat pasta regularly (Kyle would be happy to have it for every meal). Generally we have a mix of types of pasta, and a good supply of canned pasta sauces (tomato, cream, pesto). The red sauces I normally complement with some added magic (whatever I feel like on the day: olives, pepper flakes, tuna, anchovies, cream, salmon, etc..). We also keep a small supply of instant noodles for those rough days when cooking is too difficult but we still want something hot, I just throw some in a thermos, add boiling water and let it sit until we are ready to eat it (it will keep hot for at least 6 hours!
    • Rice. Such a great starch to have aboard. We generally always cook more than we need for a single meal, and use leftovers in egg-fried rice or soups. When we can find it we also keep instant rice, but we didn’t have any on this trip.
    • Crackers and saltines for snacks and nibbles. Top with your choice of cheese, marmite, fish etc.
  • Baking provisions – we have a good supply of flours, sugars, dried yeast, baking powder and the like. These allows us to cook up almost anything that we wish from scratch. We didn’t have any on this trip - but I love to make up fresh Irish farls for breakfast, they are great hot off the pan and smeared with butter and jam!.
  • Adding Flavor: Condiments, herbs and spices. We have a good range of these aboard along with a selection of oils and vinegars (just like any home). With these and a few other basics, it is easy to make dressings, marinades, sauces and dips in 100s of different combinations. Chilly flakes, ginger, soy sauce, and peanut butter regularly get mixed aboard in various sauces. We keep some canned coconut milk for curries, and Kyle loves his Tabasco and hot sauces. We rarely have fresh herbs and spices aboard, but I do love fresh cilantro(coriander) and basil when I can manage it. Dried whole chilies are great aboard as they are easy to rehydrate into any spicy dish. We buy large tubs of minced or diced garlic, and ginger is also a staple (I generally buy ginger roots in bulk and then peel and cut them into recipe size chunks and store them in vodka until needed – then I simply pull out and grate one chunk at a time as needed – a great tip I leaned from a fridge-free cruiser in Panama a few years ago).
    Note store bought mayonnaise does not need refrigeration – but like your jams, and other jars, we take special care to keep it from being contaminated (by a dirty spoon or knife).
  • Water! We fill our tanks, and spare water jugs before departing, we turn our systems over to manual pump, and use water sparingly. We also have the ability to catch rain water (not necessary on this trip). On this trip we arrived with 180L remaining, which for us would lasted us at least another 2 weeks easily. We used just under 9L a day on this passage (when the weather is warmer we use more).
    Note: We don’t shower (nor do laundry) on a passage, and limit washing to a simple strip wash and the occasional hair wash. When the sea is warm, we swim to start off our ‘bath’ – but on this passage – it was WAY too cold to even consider it..
    We do have hot water bottles aboard, but I simply re-heat the same water so it isn’t wasted.


Mommy Carla said...

That post was so interesting! Thank you for taking time to do it. Now I feel so inadequate.
Love you!

SV-Footprint said...

Carla - how can you possibly feel inadequate - I feel so intimidated whenever I'm sharing your kitchen... You are an awesome cook!