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BVI Yacht Provisioning Tips [BVI Sailing Tips]

Stocking up for a spring break sail

By Susie Younkle

Spring break season has arrived, and the Virgin Islands is the sailing destination of choice for some very lucky kids and their families. The mantra “a well fed crew is a happy crew” is particularly true when children are aboard. Here are tips to keep your provisioning as smooth as your sailing:

Photos by Dan O’Connor

Plan in advance, but be flexible. Prior to your voyage, enlist your kids to help create a day-by-day menu and then take a detailed shopping list to the grocery store. (Or consider ordering some supplies in advance, for delivery to your boat.) For those new to VI provisioning, be assured that product selection is outstanding, from staples to gourmet foodstuffs to products for special diets. A few caveats: be prepared to substitute brands, flavours or sizes. Additionally, if you have very specific requests, stops at multiple stores may be required.

Encourage kids to sample new products. Older kids can be responsible for choosing pantry items such as crackers and cookies. If you’re from the US, your kids may enjoy sampling the Caribbean goodies that are found on VI shopping shelves. Try swapping tasty plantain chips for the potato chips your kids usually eat with lunch. Don’t be surprised if they request plantain chips once you return home.

Put a positive spin on provisioning. While you may consider provisioning a chore to complete as quickly as possible, your kids may think otherwise; for example, grocery shopping is a reliably fun part of my daughter’s week when we play “I spy” to identify groceries.  Island grocery stores and farmer’s markets have exotic fruits and “weird” looking vegetables, such as knobby Caribbean tubers like tannia and dasheen, which may pique your children’s curiosity. Perhaps you can purchase fruit that’s new to your children—passion fruit, papaya or mango—to sample on your boat.

Just because your kids are wearing swimsuits doesn’t mean clean-up will be easy. My friend Kristine, an experienced cruiser and mom of two boys, wisely said, “We avoid anything that spills easily or leaves a colored residue on the kids’ hands that will then get smeared on the cushions.” Keep her advice in mind before grape jelly and Cheetos find their way into your grocery cart.

Designate a snack cabinet. Children need regular snacks, so designate a snack cabinet filled with healthy grab ‘n go items such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars. Convenient snacks are important for busy days when your sailing schedule may not allow for regular meals.

Stay hydrated. Stock plenty of beverages, since hydration is essential in the VI’s warm and sunny climate. To encourage your kids to drink more water, let each child select his own reusable water bottle before traveling to the VI.


Though you may typically purchase fresh milk for your children, consider buying long-life milk, the norm in the Caribbean. Long-life milk is cheaper and will not spoil as quickly as fresh milk. Additionally, it will not take up precious refrigerator space, as unopened boxes can be stored with dry goods.

For a cool treat, my friend Stephanie makes slushies for her kids when they’re on charters. She uses juice blends, such as Ceres Whispers of Summer, and freezes the juice until it’s a slushy consistency. Her kids go crazy for it.

Lastly, the delicious Jamaican grapefruit soda Ting is a favourite of Caribbean children and adults alike.

Strive for balance. For most children, there’s a fine line between consistency and adventure. Children like what they know, yet part of the adventure of life and growing up is the process of trying new things. Food should be no exception. So encourage your youngsters to eat Anegada lobster (although you might be promoting an expensive habit!), but then allow them to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Cheerios for their next meal.

Take a break from the galley. Give yourself a break and let someone else do the cooking by planning a few meals ashore. VI restaurants frequented by cruisers offer such child-friendly fare as barbecued chicken, fish fingers and rotis filled with curries. Lunch is an ideal time to take the family ashore for a meal, especially at those popular establishments that become boisterous at night.

Best wishes for smooth sailing—and dining—with your pint-sized crew this spring break.

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