Preparing for an ocean passage or being confined at home?

To be honest there are many similarities!

At the moment the confinement is not so strict in Spain that we have to get into full boat provisioning mode. We often warn guests that there’s no shop in the middle of the Atlantic so they need to be clear about their requirements beforehand! However we can still go to the shops here, just not as often and they may have sold out of exactly what you wanted. So therefore I think I’d compare the situation to island hopping in a remote corner of the world rather than as extreme as a potentially 3 week long Atlantic crossing. You’ll get to an island with a shop in the next week or so, but who knows what you’ll be able to buy!

Obviously one of the first considerations when buying food is – how long will it last for and where do I need to store it? Especially when it comes to fruit and veg, you don’t want to stock up and then end up wasting things. Try buying produce in different stages of ripeness if you can so you have some ready to eat and some on their way. Great long lasting options include apples, cabbages, courgettes, onions and potatoes. There is another motivation for supporting local grocers rather than supermarkets- it’s much less likely to have been chilled so will last for longer. You can supplement your haul with frozen and canned goods (hopefully you won’t have to resort to spam or any other emergency boat staples).

This leads in to making a bit of a plan! For sailing I tend to make a meal plan with enough meal ideas for the expected duration of the trip and then split the meals into week 1/2/3 etc depending on when I think fresh produce will go off. I then shop to be able to make these meals but don’t worry too much about keeping a strict plan. I like to keep it flexible as to what we fancy on that day, especially in reaction to weather or if we have a rough sea (this could actually be compared to the current situation as if you get ill you’ll appreciate having some quick and easy options on hand). Try to buy versatile ingredients that you enjoy in a variety of recipes and push yourself to find new ways to use them.

Storage is a huge constraint on boats and to be honest in my flat share it’s also relevant! Stockpiling can be very antisocial if you take over the fridge with no mercy. Taking off all the packaging is crucial on a boat (also for bugs) and this can also be a big wakeup call as to how much waste you will be producing. On this theme, we are careful to avoid any bulky and processed items like frozen pizzas etc. Any food that makes its way on board has to prove its worth! I also try to make fairly light and healthy food for the majority of the meals as physical expenditure is reduced at sea if it’s calm. Snacks are also strictly controlled to stop people munching their way through all the biscuits on the first week. I think I might have to enforce a similar system on myself now; trips to the snacks cupboard are slightly out of control.

A long ocean passage can leave you with plenty of time to cook if conditions are calm and you have enough crew. It’s a great opportunity to practice making things from scratch that you wouldn’t normally have time. I’ve been making my own oat milk and bread at home and am also happy that it cuts down on packaging. Being at home as opposed to being at sea also gives you a lot more leeway to experiment in the kitchen, if it goes wrong you can start again. You don’t have a hungry crew watching and waiting.  Crew tend to get very institutionalised as much of the day revolves around meal times and the anticipation of the food. I find myself in a similar state of mind in confinement; food has once again become a big focus!

Panic buying has been a hot topic in recent weeks and it is different not to jump on the bandwagon when you see shelves going bare. I don’t really want to admit how much toilet paper we bought for the last Atlantic trip, I’ll just say that the supply lasted at least 6 weeks after we arrived. Of course everyone wants to be prepared and not run out of anything but try to leave things for everyone else. You won’t be in the middle of an ocean when you run out, the shops will be there for you. You won’t be able to catch fresh tuna off the back of the boat but toilet papper will come back into stock when everyone calms down.

So in many ways I feel fairly prepared for the current situation and will try and use the next few weeks to keep learning and sharing with you.

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