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Tips for careful and effective planning

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” Virginia Wolf rightly said, and we would add “one cannot sail well, if one has not dined well!”

Sailing involves physical and mental strain. Our body’s energy consumption must be balanced to the quantity of food we consume, and this is why eating a balanced and varied diet is not only recommended but essential. Food means more than just meeting nutritional requirements: it means pleasure, free time, sharing and caring, joy and conviviality.

Thinking about and managing this on board life aspect is crucial. Arranging food-stocks, i.e. food stowed on board before setting sail, may be a simple task and yet it requires time and attention especially if you are planning an ocean crossing without scheduled calls. We like involving the whole crew in arranging food-stocks, an activity that mainly consists in three steps:

1) Planning food-stocks

Choose what dishes to cook at sea and then make a list of products, ingredients and quantities required. This is faster if crew members know each other, otherwise a little more time is necessary. Anyway, it gives them the chance to get better acquainted. 

Whatever the menu, the golden rule on board is always the same: “Easy is better!” Leave elaborate dishes to when your boat is at anchor and you have enough time to spare for them. Of course, this does not mean you have to stow away only ready-meals. We personally prefer simple freshly-prepared dishes such as rice with butter. This requires just 5 minutes in a pressure cooker and is delicious just by adding some extra-virgin olive oil, parmesan, cherry tomatoes or avocado according to your taste. And it is healthier than any ready-made dishes.

Cooking well is more a necessity than an option, a way to boost the morale of the crew. It is not by chance that from the second day of navigation on the most frequently asked question is “What shall we have for lunch (or dinner)?” As a ship’s cook with many years of experience, I can tell how dishes prepared on board should be: simple but tasty, generous but not excessive in quantity, balanced and varied whenever possible.

First of all think of a menu that takes account of everybody’s needs (we plan it weekly) and, above all, of food preservation times (as an example tomato-, salad-, meat-based dishes will be prepared first, followed by potato-, pumpkin- and cabbage-based dishes). After that, we think it useful to make a list of all the ingredients needed and required quantities based on the number of crew members and on the approximate number of sailing days. This list will include daily use products such as tea, sugar, coffee, etc. whose quantities are calculated by multiplying the number of people by the days of navigation, and products required for some recipes only, whose quantities are calculated accordingly. Remember to abound with quantities as sailing whets people’s appetite. Moreover, it is highly recommended to provide food-stocks for at least an extra week in case any problem occurs during navigation.

The same attention shall be paid to water, the most important item in your stock-list. Storing extra water stocks is highly recommended. We usually consider 1.5 litres of drinking water a day per capita. Tank water is used for cooking, washing and personal hygiene. The efficient use of fresh water on board is a classic issue, especially during long navigations. We, for example, shower with plenty of seawater and a small amount of fresh water just for rinsing.

As anchovy paste spread on bread or hot tea with ginger are effective remedies against seasickness, remember to always have them at hand on board. Do not forget chocolate, nuts, almonds, various seeds and dried fruit, surely very appreciated by the whole crew. 

Finally, fishing while sailing gives the opportunity to vary your diet. However, consider this just as an option when arranging food-stocks as you cannot take it for sure.

2) Buying food-stocks

Now that your detailed list is complete, it is time to enjoy the moment. Bring sturdy shopping bags with you, take all the time you need and use all your patience. Most of your food-stocks can be bought at the local supermarket, if any, or in the best-stocked store nearby, better if offering a delivery service. We suggest to get some of the crew involved as you may need help to push and empty loaded shopping carts. Buy fruits and vegetables at the local market, usually providing fresh and therefore long-lasting products. Enjoy taking a tour through the market stalls that maybe you have already explored on the previous days. Buy products at different stages of ripening, so you don’t have to eat them all at the same time. Buy products that can be stored for long periods such as potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbages, pumpkins and savoy cabbages and plan to cook them in the last weeks of navigation.

If you are not going to bake bread on board, you have to buy it at a bakery (if any!). Loaves are perfect for the first days of navigation, when you stomach is getting used to rocking.

Buying stock-foods is an important step when planning a crossing, so take the time it needs, be calm and patient and enjoy it as it may turn into an unexpectedly positive team experience.  

3) Stowing food-stocks

So, you have been to the supermarket, to the market, to the bakery and now both the cockpit and the deck are full of bags and boxes. You are at the last step but the work is not yet over! Do not lose heart as a hasty stowage might spoil all the work you have done so far.

Organize spaces logically for dedicated storage. We, for example, have special areas for breakfast products, canned food, rice and pasta, but this is just our personal choice. What is really important is how to store fruit and vegetables to keep them fresh longer. Firstly, wash and let them dry on the deck, then check for damaged or ripe products to be sure you eat them first. Potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbages, pumpkins and savoy cabbages are stored in a dark and ventilated space. Store fruit in boxes or nets so air can circulate. Pay attention they are away from direct light. Keep climacteric fruit (such as apples, pears, bananas, papayas, mangos, melons) separated from non-climacteric fruit as they release ethylene that may cause other fruit and vegetables to ripen faster. Store in fridge only vegetables that cannot be stored elsewhere, possibly in its lowest part, which is less cold.

Do not forget to check daily your fridge content during navigation and cook the dish of the day based on the ripeness of stored produce.

Store dried products away from light. Never leave packages open as moisture may spoil the content. Flour conserves better if stored in tightly closing plastic containers. Place a couple of bay leaves inside to avoid the presence of insects. Pay special attention when storing glass containers.

Cold cuts and cheese can be stored, according to typology and seasoning, in the fridge or outside, wrapped in a cloth. Anyway, they can’t be missing as having bread, cuts and cheese while admiring an ocean view is invaluable!

Now, after having thought, bought and stowed your food-stocks, all that’s left to do is cast off the moorings and enjoy your ocean crossing.

Fair wind to everybody!

Lara, Michele and Reva

Lara Michele e Reva
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