How do you provision for a crew for three weeks or more at sea?

Food can be almost an obsession on board a yacht at sea. The days revolve around mealtimes as much as watches and are usually the times when everyone wakes up and socialises. Mealtimes and morale go hand in hand. So how best do you provision for a crew for three weeks or more at sea? First, there is no black art to provisioning. It’s all commonsense and ought to be fairly straightforward to anyone who has run a house. It’s made easier at major Atlantic crossroads such as Las Palmas where there is a huge range of supermarkets and available goods. But as provisioning is of necessity one of the last jobs on the list it’s often the last to be considered and first time crews can find themselves anxiously wondering if they’re getting it right. And if you run short of snacks or chocolate or toilet roll – heaven forbid – you, as head of victualling, will never hear the end of it. Estimating how much you should take of everything is one of the hardest parts. Probably the most common method is for someone on the crew to make a general shopping list to stock the boat, then it’s left to the cook of the day (or watch) to make a meal by using what’s available. The problem with this is that improvising from a random selection of what hasn’t yet been eaten or gone off is a rather more advanced skill than following a recipe and if there are any pampered men on board who aren’t regular cooks they start to worry as their turn approaches. The less spontaneous – and less wasteful – approach is to plan menus for the entire crossing. That not only allows you to produce a shopping list of exactly what you need, but when you get the food on board you’ll be able to box it up or stow it in the order you’ll need it. Julian Sincock has run and skippered a Swan 51 charter yacht in “13 or 14 ARCs; I don’t remember exactly”. He follows a plan that makes minimum fuss and waste and keeps everyone happy and well fed. He always employs a cook and asks her to complete a menu plan for the time he estimates for the crossing, usually 16 days plus a few days’ worth of tinned food in reserve. “It’s frighteningly easy,” he says. “I’ve had a new cook every year, they’ve been young people, recent graduates, and not one of them has ever got it wrong. “First, they work out a menu. I ask them to fill in a spreadsheet with a lunch and dinner idea and the quantities that will be needed for 12 crew and that generates totals on a master list. So, for example, we’ll know we need 48 onions and 13kg of minced beef frozen in 800g portions.” For a majority of crews, meat forms the backbone of the provisioning list. This is fairly easy to estimate. Sincock … Continue reading How do you provision for a crew for three weeks or more at sea?