Provisioning for long ocean passages, with or without refrigeration, is most successful when you
- buy foods to prepare dishes that the crew likes,
- when you can predict how long each food can survive so as to preference recipes with those food before they go bad, and
- when you store the foods to best prolong their use
Most ocean passages will be a month or less, so assuming you want to arise above canned pasta sauce, you need to assemble recipes for foods that can be stored, store the foods properly, and use them in a timely manner. Then you will keep your discerning crew provided with food that still has crunch, tastes fresh, and is “home-made” rather than just heated up.
We think we’re not picky eaters – we survived lengthy backpack trips after all – but a couple of weeks into a passage was long enough for us to wish for a little crunch and freshness, as well as variety in our diet. When things were slow an interesting meal is a pleasure. And when events are chaotic and tiring a good meal is a real pick-me-up. So provisioning for interest as well as healthiness is worth thinking ahead about.
Fresh Foods That Keep Well – the Stars of Provisioning
These foods keep well if properly stored and can mean that you have at least some fresh foods for the duration. Collecting recipes that employ these stars will ensure you have fresh meals throughout the voyage.
Cabbage keeps well. Don’t cut it, just pull off outer leaves as you need it for recipes. It makes a suitable substitute for lettuce on sandwiches, can be cooked lightly for extra nutrition in stews and soups (don’t overcook!), prevents scurvy, and there are wonderful non-mayonnaise based coleslaws to replace lettuce salads. Wrap each head in newspaper and keep it dry. I keep mine in a plastic milk crate wedged next to the mast where it is out of direct sun.
Onion, garlic and ginger keep well in light, dry storage. Don’t wrap them in plastic.
Apples, if you pick the “keeper” kind and procure them fresh, will make it most of the trip. Unfortunately summer departures generally mean you will be leaving with old apples. Braeburn, Fuji, winesap, and Pink Lady are “keepers”. Avoid bruising.
Carrots and Celery keep fairly well. Cover them in tinfoil for longer life, leaving the cut end slightly exposed.
Potatoes keep fairly well – russet, Yukon gold, and Kennebec keep best. Brush them off but don’t wash them before storing. Keep them cool – out of direct sun and away from the galley heat. Avoid bruising.
Beets are a sadly neglected root that can be eaten shredded and raw, or roasted for best taste. They will store for 2 or 3 weeks if you store them like potatoes – buy them from a coop and don’t wash them before storing in the coolest darkest place you have on your boat.
Eggs store longest if you buy them unwashed and unrefrigerated – months even. But even commercial eggs store ok for up to a month. Turn over the egg cartons every day or so to keep yolks from sticking to shells and maintain freshness. Write “MWF” on the top and “TTHSS” on the bottom so you’ll know what days which side should be up. If you know what day it is you’re golden. Store eggs in plastic egg cartons, not cardboard which can harbor insects. At US supermarkets you can find more expensive eggs that come in clear plastic or thin foam cartons – buy these and save the cartons for use on the boat. Egg savers that you get from a camping store can also work, but usually they’re for teeny-tiny eggs for some reason and you can’t depend on your eggs fitting in. Amazon also sells containers for large eggs.
Tips on Storing Fresh Foods
- store cabbage wrapped in newspaper, pull-off leaves to use (don’t cut) and re-wrap
- store potatoes with apples
- store beets and potatoes in dark, covered with towel
- store onions and garlic in light, away from damp
- DON’T store citrus and apples together
- DON’T store potatoes (dark) with onions (light) as the potatoes will rot the onions
- DON’T store anything in plastic bags
To summarize a different way:
Away from bright light, maybe a hanging basket or net but with plenty of air circulation, store these items:
- onions, garlic, ginger, citrus fruit
In dark, dry, cool cabinet, store these items in such a way they don’t bruise:
- potatoes, beets and apples
- cabbage wrapped in newspaper
- celery and carrots wrapped in tin foil
Tips on Storing Other Foods
Put rice or dried beans in your salt shaker to absorb moisture and prevent clumping. Like to grind your salt? Make sure the grinders are stainless but you’ll still probably want a grinder that has an airtight cover. It may still clump!
- Don’t refrigerate condiments. Most don’t need it despite their labels. For sensitive products like mayonnaise that do spoil use the squeeze bottles that don’t require that you dip into the jar – the ingredients don’t spoil if you don’t introduce contaminants.
- Store your grains in airtight containers and place a few bay leaves inside on top. These seems to slow down the insects entering and laying their eggs.
- To keep your icebox cool longer: When you can find it, buy dry ice wrapped in plastic covered with bag ice or ice packs for longer lasting ice. This can last 10-14 days as opposed to 3-7 days for regular ice.
- Store hard cheese wrapped in cheesecloth, dipped in vinegar, then covered in paraffin. Or just do without until you get to shore! Hard cheeses do okay for a few weeks if kept dry and cool. Just grate what you need when you need it. Remove the superficial mold if it bothers you.
- Feta stores better than most cheese either immersed in olive oil or salt water.
- Soft cheeses are the most difficult to store so just eat them up within a couple of days. Buy in small quantities!
Foods To Make Along the Way
Then there are the “fresh foods” that don’t keep forever, but that with a little planning you can make along the way. You do need a little discipline to make sure you use what you make before it spoils, but extending your provisioning with foods you make along the way is very helpful.
Sprouts don’t keep, but you can grow them every day! The EasySprout is great for boats as it drains into its own container, you don’t have to leave it in the sink. It does need to be wedged in someplace in the light though. The Sprouting lids on a mason jar can work, too, but I prefer the plastic jar for things that don’t need glass. Read this article on sprouting on board.
If your crew likes yogurt, and you can use a little every day or two, then you can keep a yogurt culture going even without refrigeration. You can make yogurt with dried or canned milk, or make non-dairy yogurt with coconut milk. Read this article on making yogurt on board.
Traditional, lacto-fermented, homemade sauerkraut and other naturally preserved vegetables are great nutritious resources that don’t need refrigeration. The sauerkraut will continue to age during the month you are out, getting tastier and tastier! Just be sure it doesn’t get too warm. This is an good article on making sauerkraut using a mason jar. Tie the jar to an upright post and add a fermentation airlock (see the image at right) and you’ll have a pretty spill-resistant set up for boating. Another option is a jar with lock built-in such as the Fermentation Crock (see below). This seems more robust for boat use than the fermentation airlock so I will be trying this on our next trip. It works with a special lid that you seat in water, so it still should be prevented from tipping much. The plastic base should also help keep it protected.
Thoughtful Provisioning is Worth a Little Effort
Good food makes for a happy, relaxed crew, and fresh food is a big part of this. There will be days you pull out the instant-just-add-water-and-heat food, but a little planning ahead in your provisioning allows you to provide really tasty, nutritious food as well.