Santa Maria´s old power system did not allow for cooling, thus forcing
us to learn food preservations the basic, old times way. That is not as
hard as one might suspect. You don´t have to survive on canned products
to cross an ocean without a fridge. Many foods keep amazingly well if
stored properly. Provisioning is easy these days, whether at the Canary
islands or in Bermuda. Large supermarkets and farmers markets provide
everything needed for a passage.
The most common mistake is to buy way too much food, giving in to our
ancient fear of starvation.
Except for some people of course, like the 5 merry men going shopping
supplies for an Atlantic crossing just after finishing a hearty meal at
a restaurant. Not very hungry, but eager to get the boring task over
with and continue celebrating the upcoming adventure at a bar, they
decided that it would be plenty sufficient to survive the entire journey
on breakfast cereals. They liked cereals and needed to lose weight
anyway they agreed. So they sailed away with the hull full of cereals
and beers. It shouldn´t have taken them many days to start remembering
all the nice chorizos and cheeses they´d left behind at the supermarket.
(They survived the crossing however and probably lost some weight too.)
Many boaters scrub all the produce before loading on board to remove
roach eggs and other invisible vermin.
This might be preventive, but rapids the spoilage of the produce
considerably. The washing and scrubbing removes the natural protection
of the fruit and vegetables. We unpacked everything on shore, left
behind the cardboard boxes and most plastics, but other then that just
took on everything unwashed. Instead, we made sure to store everything
in airtight plastic bins or airy baskets with lids. We have luckily
enough been spared of roaches and vermin yet.
We stored potatoes, onions and garlic in the bilge, this being a cool
and dark storage. We stored oranges, limes and lemons, grapefruits and
other citrus fruits in straw baskets with lids. Potatoes, onions and
oranges kept through the entire trip.
Especially the oranges became only sweeter when exposed to the sun. We
cut them in quarters and had them with sugar as a late night snack and
substitute for sodas. At home, we are not even very keen on oranges, but
- for some reason - they were a real treat on the ocean.
When storing cans, remember to mark each can with a permanent marker
pen. The rolling of the boat peels of the labels fast and you´ll end up
with sardines for desert instead of the sweet pears intended. Finally,
try to store everything in consideration to the weight for a smooth
ride. Heavy stuff center and deep down.
Fresh produce, dairies, meats and staples
A rule of thumb is that the tougher the fruit or veggie in it´s
structure (eggplants, zucchinis, hard cabbage, melons, pineapples) the
longer the storage time.
Apples, pears, soft fruit and veggies such as grapes, cherries, berries,
salad greens and the like spoiled after only a couple of days. Tomatoes,
apricots, peaches and such are therefore better brought on dried or
canned. You could however buy fresh green tomatoes. They´ll ripen within
a week. Fresh chili peppers and Jalapeno keeps well in an open, airy
Check through the produce once in a while and always get rid of the
spoiling ones immediately.
It is common to watch yachts sailing of on the ocean with a large stock
of green bananas tied to the mast. The bananas will ripe fast enough
though and has all to be consumed within the next few days.
Egg keeps for the entire trip (20-30 days) if stored at room temperature
at the supermarket. That goes for most produce. Buy it not chilled
whenever possible. We stored the egg in their own cardboard boxes as the
only exception to the rule to never bring cardboard boxes on board. The
egg didn´t break even at high sea.
We hung cured ham and sausages below deck. We brought cured bacon and a
few other meats and kept them in airtight plastic boxes. Always store
meat separately from dairy and produce even if you are not Jewish.
They´re right. You´ll agree at the first odors after a week or so. We
consumed the bacon and other perishables first, leaving the sausages and
cured ham to the end of the trip.
We kept cheeses, margarine and even butter in plastic boxes at room
temperature. They kept around 10-14 days. Parmesan keeps even longer,
especially grated. Cooking oil kept excellent, especially virgin olive
Pasta in all shapes and sizes is always a good bet, rice, couscous and
other staples all keeps well. Again though, keep well sealed in plastic
containers against leaks and vermin.
Get canned meats if you like them, like Spam (except we won´t be over
for dinner) or corned beef.
Jam and peanut butter for the Americans. We had no use for canned
veggies - but if you are British you might disagree. French people will
probably need some canned pate aux fois or Canard.
Bring spices, don´t forget sugar, salt, ketchup, stock powders, instant
coffee, tea and such. Bring some powder soup or instant meals if you
like (although we never used ours). They can still be good for the
initial days of the crossing, when seasickness might refrain everyone
from both cooking and eating.
Bring all the drinks that you like, yet never forget large amounts of
fresh drinking water. Remember that beer will get frothy quickly.Bread
We brought fresh bred for the first week, stored in large straw basket.
For the latter days, we brought hard bread and that half-baked pain
riche that you can get at some places. Those semi-dough’s keep around 3
weeks, are sold in plastics, ready to bake about 10 minutes in the oven.
They provided us with fresh baked bread each breakfast!
If you like baking, it should be easy to buy the ready-made bread mixes
and make your own bread. We did not use a pressure cooker, but have been
told that it is excellent for this purpose
We had wonderful meals on our passage. Almost always made from scratch,
with fresh ingredients. Usually pasta with garlic, onions, chili
peppers, bacon and Parmesan. Or rice Jambalaya on the sausages.
Potatoes, onions and ham. All spiced up with spices, stock cubes, tomato
paste, honey and other.
For breakfast we had a wonderful honey that we bought in Tenerife - with
a piece of the honeycomb still in it! Eggs, sardines with onions, cheese
We actually even found a great canned duck in its own sauce and had it
with dumpling (powder) and red cabbage (jar) - the east European style!
Sardines are healthy and we prepared them in many varieties for lunch
We brought nuts, chips, cookies and candy for late night watches.
Cooking on board
Cooking on board is not always easy. High sea roll the boat violently.
The stove will jerk back and forth spilling over the spaghetti boil,
while you try to catch that onion rapidly running over the table top,
past your finely chopped veggies, those in turn trying to leave the
You´ll learn quickly though. Assemble everything tightly while
performing different tasks, and keep flying knifes in their storage
in order not to get stabbed at a sudden wave.
There are usually grips mounted on the stovetop for the pots, which is
really helpful. Some people tie in to the stove - we preferred not to in
order to keep a free escape in case of hot water accidents. We just held
the pot if necessary, keeping a safe distance towards the side of the
stove. The stove should however be kept in place by a hook when not in
use, in order to prevent crashing back and forth in high waves.
We also had pieces of wood cut and fitted over the stove top and sink
top, this providing us with a nice, U-shaped work area in the galley.
Large frying pans are practical, either woks or paella pans. Bring a
spare, smaller frying pan for the morning eggs.
It is common to bring plastic tableware. It´s light and durable. We
brought some ceramics too, for festive occasions, and ended up using
them for breakfast and dinners on the entire sail. The plastics instead
were great for lunch and late night watches. Get plenty kitchen- and
toilet rolls, detergent, dish soap and spray cleaners. Insecticides just
in case, the roach hotels are said to work well, as well as plain boric
acid (get it home at you local pharmacy). Pour it as is, or roll to a
paste with flower and place at dark, hidden roach-escapes.
We used up two gas bottles on the Atlantic passage. The bottle standards
differ between Europe and US, you might have to change between them. The
bottles will get filled at the Marinas. Store them on deck and don´t
forget to shut down the main gas switch when not in use.
A cookbook is handy, especially if catching a fish. We got a marvelous
Blue Marlin after only 10 minutes of fishing. We threw in a line and a
lure provided by a local bait and tackle shop, fastened the hook by a
laundry clip to the reeling and waited. The clip went of, we got all
excited, hauled the fish and killed it (hopefully gently) by pouring 96%
alcohol into its gills as we had been told.
Except that we had never done fishing before and all the fish that we
had cooked until then had come in frozen square blocks, coated with
breadcrumb. Confused, we now observed the animal without a clue what to
That´s when the cookbook came handy. First, the book said, we needed to
establish whether this was a flat fish or a round fish. It looked kind
of both flat and round to us. Then we needed to cut the fish belly
starting at the anal point (wherever that was) and avoid the gall
bladder (whichever this was).
Well, in a couple of hours or so we had some awesome fresh fillets cut
out, seasoned and consumed. It was a feast. We never caught another fish
again although we tried, except for the occasional poor flying fish
stranded dead on our deck in the mornings. These are said to be great
fried for breakfast - we can´t really agree though, to us they are quite
bony with a slight petroleum after taste.
Finally, remember that more great wars have been lost due to poor
feeding of the men than actual defeat to the enemy. Bring nibbles in
plenty and take the time to cook well.
But try not to over-store. When hungry at the ocean, even a simple meal
such as pasta with raw, yellow onions and tomato ketchup will taste just