Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical

Chapter 8

The Cruising Galley
Part One

All our articles up to now have been written by Jim. Here is Diane's first (but not last) contribution. Although the title of this article is "The Cruising Galley", Diane has also included stocking our medical supplies.

How do you provision a boat for a 12-18 month trip through countries you have never been in before? Time permitting, I would probably save a year's worth of dated grocery lists, then review them to see what we normally used and how often we bought it. But, of course, I didn't have that luxury and you probably won't either. So there has to be a plan B.

I started by reading books. Lin Pardey's “The Care and Feeding of the Offshore Crew”, Mike Greenwald's “The Cruising Chef” and Janet Groene's “Cooking on the Go” were particularly helpful. What we ultimately arrived at as a planning process was to define a "typical" set of meals for a day by servings of food categories. I think the formula was one protein or starch serving and one fruit serving at breakfast; one protein, one starch and one fruit or vegetable at lunch; and one protein or starch serving accompanied by two vegetable servings at dinner. Multiplied by two (for two crew) then by 30 equaled the number of servings of each type of food we needed for a month. Our planning categories included additives (baking powder, bouillon cubes, capers, dried and boxed milk, etc.); fats (mayonnaise, canned butter, Pam, oils, canned cream); fruit, (fresh, dried, canned, and juices); protein (canned meats, cured meats like pepperoni and salami, eggs, peanut butter, canned fish, canned stews); spices (including Tabasco, soy sauce, five kinds of vinegar, and flavorings, like vanilla and almond), starch (flour, pasta, Bisquick, barley, oats, etc.); supplies (aluminum foil, roach traps, garbage bags, toilet paper, contact lens solution, etc.); sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, jellies, sugar, etc.); and vegetables (canned, fresh, and dried). The final category was extras. This included chocolate chips, salsas, smoked oysters, canned pate, nuts, candy bars and a variety of other "treats" that we like to indulge in occasionally and would have felt deprived without.

I then went to the grocery store and studied food packaging for the various categories of products and began to develop a "servings per package" mental model. I built a small database on our laptop computer that listed the item, its category, provided an indication of the type of packaging I planned for (i.e., 28 oz. cans of tomatoes, 6 oz. cans of tomato paste) and identified the quantity of each item we needed to stock for a six month period. We picked six months because we figured that would fill the available storage. Ultimately, the database was expanded to include for each item a field for storage location on the boat and a "number remaining" field. Once we were underway, the database was sorted two ways, by item and by storage location, printed, and hung on a hook in the galley. We marked off items as we used them and periodically updated the database from the marked up printouts. That way we were able to keep track of what we had used and what needed to be replenished and we avoided the "I know we have it but where did we put it" syndrome. During the provisioning process, we printed our shopping lists from the database, updating it as we stored provisions aboard.

Although we tried counting the servings for the basic food items, much of the rest of the list was developed by guessing (how often do we buy contact solution?). Once the initial list was developed I carried it around and added to it as we used items in our normal life. We spent about three months examining how we lived both on land and on the boat to be sure we had everything on the list.

The Endeavor 40 is blessed with storage space. There is a large area (5 feet long, 12" high, 10" deep tapering to 4") behind each of the two settees and three large (15"x18"x4") drawers under each settee (although two of these six drawers held batteries on our boat). Book shelves over each settee are flanked by two small cabinets and there are a small, two shelf cabinet and three deep drawers in the galley. There are three small drawers and three storage areas (roughly 2'x2'x2') under the V-berth and three similar storage areas in the master cabin at the stern. There is also a parts locker (at least in our configuration) across from the engine room.

As Jim probably mentioned earlier, we replaced two hanging lockers on board with shelving to store food. Each shelf was designed to hold a specific size of Rubbermaid container and each had a removable fiddle rail at the front. Remove the rail, slide in the containers and drop the rail back in place. It was easy to get the containers in and out and easy to shift them around on the shelves (which were quite deep) but very secure underway. We never once had a spill from any of these containers, even in the roughest seas.

In addition to the built in storage, we took three 15"x15"x12" Rubbermaid laundry baskets with a solid bottoms and mesh sides. One held perishables such as onions, potatoes, and cabbage; one held books. These rode in the V-berth, wedged in to all the rest of the stuff up there (our floating junk room) to keep them from spilling. The third held wine and was stored under the dining table, tied to the cross bar until we drank the wine, then it went into the V-berth for more perishables storage.

Even with all this space, packaging was an important element of selecting provisions. Boats don't have good places to store leftovers or unused half cans of something. We decided that packaging which equaled one meal of food was a better choice than larger, albeit less expensive per ounce options.

Packaging is also important in that there is too much of it, at least here in the U.S. Every time we took a load of supplies from a store to the boat, I opened the products and threw away the inserts, the cellophane, etc., to get to the basic product itself before I stowed it. I often took half as much off the boat as I had brought on by the time I removed the external wrappings. Since you have to live with your non-food garbage between ports, it is useful to reduce the underway trash before leaving port.

We stored canned food, boxed milk, and coffee beans behind the settees, stacked two high, where I could get to them easily since I needed daily access. We put the vegetables on one side and the meats/fish and fruit on the other. This way we used a fairly even amount from each side of the storage each day, helping us maintain an even distribution of the weight throughout the trip. You realize how important this is as you load the boat and watch your water line rise over four inches just from the provisioning. Every time we loaded the goods from a major shopping trip (more about those later), we stood on the dock at the bow and checked to be sure the boat wasn't listing to one side.

Pasta, flours, dried beans, etc., went into the former hanging lockers. Spices and "additives" like baking powder went into the galley; condiments and "extras" like chocolate chips and smoked oysters went in the drawers under the settees, with the most frequently used items (mayonnaise, mustard, etc.) in the most accessible drawer. Toiletries and medical supplies went into the heads, in cabinets under the sinks or on shelves behind fiddle rails. We bought a large plastic tool chest, which fit on a shelf in the head, to hold all the medical supplies, such as bandages, alcohol, antiseptic creams, drugs and the injectable epinephrine we took to guard against anaphylactic shock from an encounter with a stinging sea creature. The tool chest was both a convenient way to easily transport need medical supplies to the site of a problem and a simple, "one thing to grab" with critical supplies should we ever need to abandon ship.

The V-berth storage held the backup stores for daily use items in the galley or heads. For example, the additional spices, olive oil, shampoo and dish washing liquid were there, along with additional toilet paper, paper towels, etc. That way we only had to get in there and unpack every four to six weeks, as the daily supplies dwindled.

The aft cabin got all the boat parts that didn't fit in the parts locker or we hoped to never need.

We learned early, when stowing items for long or intermediate terms, things that can potentially leak (Joy, Wisk, Grease Relief) are best stowed on the bottom of a storage area. That way, if they leak they don't ruin everything else in the storage area.

Weevils are boating fact of life you need to prepare for and protect against. I think the most valuable protections from weevils (and a lot of other problems) are Rubbermaid/Tupperware, zip lock plastic bags, and a ruthless policy that discards ANY product at the first sign of a problem. As a part of the provisioning process, we purchased a number of different sizes of Rubbermaid storage containers to hold staples such as flour, sugar, rice, dried beans, cornmeal, etc. Until these items were opened, we enclosed the store packaging bags/boxes in double individual zip lock bags. After opening, we stored in the Rubbermaid. This isolation inside plastic ensured that an infestation of bugs in one product didn't migrate to another.

We never brought items aboard in cardboard boxes, not in the U.S. before we left and definitely not anywhere on the trip. We never even took paper bags into the salon. Roaches lay eggs in cardboard and paper sacks. We left the cardboard boxes on the dock or in the dingy, unloaded the paper sacks in the cockpit and immediately removed the bags from the boat, and never had a roach problem. Once you get them they are nearly impossible to eradicate, so prevention is well worth the hassle. I also religiously placed fresh roach traps every three months in the galley, heads, near the engine room, the mast and close to the water maker, basically any where in the boat with fresh water. I don't know that they contributed to our roach free adventure, but they were worth it to me in peace of mind.

Provisioning medical supplies is a little more complicated. We called Diver's Alert at Duke University and asked them for a recommendation for a doctor who dealt with dive emergencies. Our theory was that such a doctor would at least be willing to listen to our story about leaving the U.S. for an extended sojourn in the Caribbean, before s/he refused to prescribe drugs to take on the trip. We found a wonderful liver specialist who was intrigued by our plan and spent time discussing what we might want to take with us, then recommended flu shots and gave us the necessary prescriptions. In addition to the over the counter stuff, we took two kinds of normal antibiotics (I'm allergic to penicillin), one broad spectrum $3 a pill antibiotic, some painkillers, antihistamines, and the Epi-pen injectable epinephrine (which we happily threw away, unused, when we returned). For over the counter drugs, we took antihistamines, antibiotic creams and sprays, Betadine, aspirin, and what I consider to be two miracle drugs, Triptone, a motion sickness pill that doesn't cause drowsiness (it is recommended for divers), and Immodium A-D. We also had the usual collection of Band-Aids, bandages, and sterile gauze pads. Jim talked his dentist out of a "do it yourself" dental repair kit, which we never even opened, so I can't tell you what was in it.

We discovered as we traveled that most U.S. prescription drugs are available over the counter, at incredibly cheap prices, throughout the Caribbean. If you know what you want or need, it isn't too difficult to get the necessary pharmaceutical supplies anywhere, except Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands which, of course, adhere to U.S. dispensing standards.

Some products are so useful, I want to mention them by name. Wisk and Joy are the only two detergents that will suds up in salt water. Wisk not only washes clothes, it is great on decks, too. Grease Relief is the best thing we ever found to clean up a diesel spill on the deck, or remove engine oil from the cabin sole after changing the oil filters. Once you get out of the U.S. a product called Jif is the best all-purpose cleaner we found. It takes the place of Soft Scrub and Comet, for decks, dishes and heads. TSP in water does a wonderful job of cleaning unfinished teak, at a fraction of the price of teak cleaners. Canned bacon is wonderful, not only for breakfast, but also to flavor a wide variety of dishes. We found it at K-mart.

After we got all this stuff on board, we had to learn some tricks for keeping it fresh or useable. We discovered, for example, that some things that we always refrigerated at home didn't need to be. Eggs will keep for weeks at room temperature, if you turn them 180 degrees every 48 hours or so. You do learn to break an egg into a bowl before you put it in your recipe, however, no matter how recently you bought it. You also learn to save Styrofoam egg cartons and carry them with you to the island markets; carrying a dozen eggs in a bag back to the boat is a real challenge.

Mayonnaise will keep at room temperature as long as you are scrupulous about never putting anything other than a clean spoon or knife into it.

I kept 60 green tomatoes, stored stem end down and individually wrapped in paper towels, for six weeks, using them as they ripened without ever losing one.

The trick with potatoes is to keep them out of the sun and keep the eyes from growing. Just rub the eyes off as they start to develop and the potatoes keep for weeks.

We developed the habit of turning the eggs and sorting through the "root cellar" every other day. It only took a few minutes and added days or weeks to the life of the fresh food.

Another provisioning challenge was picking the cookware to take. In order of importance to me (as I discovered on the trip), we took a 4 quart pressure cooker, a singing tea kettle, a flat bottom wok with a handle and a lid, a flat griddle, one ten inch and one six inch frying pan, a six quart Dutch oven, a two quart sauce pan, and one cast iron/enamel casserole with a lid. We also had bread pans, a pie pan, a cookie sheet, and a springform pan (we'll tell you the Captain Cheesecake story another time).

The pressure cooker served a multitude of purposes. It conserved propane when cooking things like dried beans and rice. It also gave us a wonderful pot, with a sealed lid, for cooking underway or in a rolly anchorage. The tea kettle didn't have a lid, just a pouring spout so it didn't splash or spill and it could be heard from the deck. The wok became an all purpose pot because it was deep enough to take a little rolling without splashing over the side. The griddle and frying pans were non-stick. We had great luck with the T-Fal surface for non-stick cookware. It never chipped or peeled no matter what we did with it. Non-stick surfaces also take less water to wash.

We had a complete set of fiddles for all three burners on the stove and the stove itself was gimbaled. The oven was very uneven in its heating, so we put a pizza stone in the bottom to even it out. Since I baked bread throughout the trip, this was important to me.

We didn't cook underway, but we cooked several meals before long passages, then used the pressure cooker to warm up food underway. We used the tea kettle to make coffee, tea, hot chocolate and instant soup during watches.

We are both coffee fanatics, so we took a coffee grinder and 20 lbs. of coffee beans with us. We rigged a simple little inverter to plug into the house batteries and ground fresh coffee each morning. We also searched for and found a special drip coffee pot, one with a drip basket that sits directly on a thermos bottle, so we could just brew the coffee into the thermos and seal it up. It stayed hot, could ride in the sink through bumpy seas, and was easy to transport to the deck for refills.

We took a good selection of stainless Henckels knives which made the entire trip on a magnetic knife strip mounted on a athwartship bulkhead in the galley. Not once, under any conditions, did these knives ever move from that magnetic strip (except, of course when we used one). No one could believe we could travel with them that way, but we thought they were safer stuck up on the wall than they would have been in the drawer with the rest of the utensils. We only had one drawer we could afford to give to can openers, measuring spoons, measuring cups, etc. I spent a lot of time rummaging around in there and I didn't want those knives in my way.

We took a rolling pin (for pie crusts) which we also stuck to the galley bulkhead, with a springy plastic clip at each end holding it in place. The other bulkhead dwellers were a cup rack which held the drinking glasses and the cooking sherry and a spice rack to which we added a small strip of wood to ensure that the spices fit snugly.

One other invaluable piece of galley equipment was the Bulldog clip, a springy black clip that hold pages of paper together in lieu of a staple. Our Adler-Barber refrigerator had two shelves, each of which consisted of two Lexan pieces, approximately 14" square that sat on rails on two opposing walls of the refrigerator. Together the two Lexan pieces covered approximately two-thirds of the available shelf space. It is a great design because it lets you slide them out of the way to get to things stored below. But it has problems in that the Plexiglas pieces can slide around under way, dropping everything from the shelf where you left it to the space below. Our solution was to push the shelves to one side then secure them there, by clipping the Bulldog clips to the rails at the edge of the shelves, before we raised the anchor. Worked like a charm!

Translating the "servings of something" categories into actual food to be purchased required some thought. We realized that the kind of provisioning we used to do for weekends, lots of perishable items, wasn't appropriate; but we also knew that, for us, provisioning like we were going camping, with freeze dried food, boxes of macaroni and cheese, and tuna helper mixes, was not an option. We might have survived it for two weeks, but we wouldn't be able to eat like that for two years. Cruisers have a saying, that cruising is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. And for us the quality of the food is important to the quality of the life. I won't say that we live to eat, but we certainly do more than eat to live. Which explains why one of our two book shelves was filled with cruising guides, Weather for Mariners, World Cruising Routes, and Don Street's titles, and the other held the cookbooks. The Joy of Cooking, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Beard on Pasta, Martha Rose Shulman's Mediterranean Light, Patricia Gregory's Bean Banquets, and the Greens Cook Book were all important to the quality of our cruise.

We used our stores primarily as ingredients, rather than as dishes. Cans of mushrooms, pimentos and chicken got mixed with spaghetti and parmesan cheese to become chicken tetrazzini. Dried beans and canned vegetables were mixed with pasta, water and bouillon to become minestrone. When we found a strange cut of beef (like the "clod roast" in Trinidad), a Julia Child stew baked in the oven for 2-3 hours was a great way to tenderize it. Our attitudes toward cooking and eating influenced the food choices we made. That is why so much of what we took was spices (50 types), additives (35), extras (30), pasta, flours, and grains. We left with 20 lbs. of pasta, three kinds of rice (long grain, brown, and arborio) totaling 25 lbs., and 35 lbs. of flour(s) and cornmeal. Contrast that with 18 types of fruit and 16 types of vegetables. Of course, we expected to be able to buy fruits and vegetables along the way.

We also searched for ways to carry ingredients we knew we would miss, like decent grated cheese. We visited an Italian market in Fort Lauderdale the week before we left, explained to them what we were doing and asked their advice about carrying one of the hard cheeses they had hanging in the store. They said it should be fine, so we left with a ball of romano cheese swinging in the V-berth, which we carried and used for nearly six months.

We also designated one of the drawers under the settees as a "goodie" drawer. This is where all the special little treasures went: Snickers candy bars, dried fruit leathers, cashews, smoked oysters, canned pate, canned Brie cheese, chocolate chips. It was always available for soothing lonely watches or improving rotten days.

Like most Caribbean cruisers we did our big provisioning in Miami. There is a huge, warehouse type store there called Xtra with good prices, open 24 hours a day. Since we were buying so much stuff, we decided it made sense to shop at 3:00 am when we could have the store virtually to ourselves. We each pushed two shopping carts and picked up items by the case load. Of course, when we got to the checkout line, the cashier took one look at our carts and said "Provisioning a boat I see." Guess we weren't the first cruisers to think that 3:00 am was the right time. It took us three nights of shopping like that to get the bulk of the food on board, carefully checking the boat for balance each morning after we stowed our booty. We would arrive at the boat about 6:00am and spend about two hours repackaging and storing. Then we treated ourselves to breakfast at "JJ's", a wonderful diner in South Miami (try the roast beef hash).  (We had not been back to Miami since 1994 until we went in February 2003 – alas, JJ’s is no more.)

We actually have the entire provisioning list which we will include in Part 2 of this article. We'll also give you some of our favorite recipes then.

Diane & Jim

Send comments to: jkbarrentine@earthlink.net

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This page last changed on: Monday, June 2, 2003