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I’ve written previously in Yacht Guide about the importance of planning when provisioning, just as one would create a float plan before leaving the dock. (See “Make a List and Check It Twice,” October 2009.) As preparations begin for another season of chartering in the BVI, I want to offer additional tips to make provisioning more efficient.

Plan in advance…but be flexible.
A key to successful provisioning is creating a day-by-day menu and then taking a detailed shopping list to the store. If you’re accustomed to shopping at supermarkets with 50 varieties of yoghurt and a seemingly infinite number of ice cream flavours, you may need to adjust your expectations of BVI markets. Standard items and even many specialty products can be found, but it is very likely that substitutions will be necessary. Consider it an opportunity to try something new. Although you may not find the particular juice blend you prefer as a mixer with rum, you may discover delicious local juices such as guava or passion fruit.

Recognize space constraints.
Storage is at a premium on boats, so be mindful of product packaging and the form factor of foods. For example, before buying five large bags of potato chips, think about where you will stash the bags without crushing them. There’s a reason why compact canisters of Pringles seem to be a universal food on boats. Another suggestion is to use wraps for sandwiches instead of bread. Wraps take up little space and usually have a longer shelf life.

Consider perishability.
Food typically does not last as long in a boat refrigerator as it may not run continuously. Buy only fresh items you can eat within a few days, and seek out local produce which will tend to last longer because it’s fresher. Also purchase boat-friendly items such as boxes of long-life milk and cans of tuna and beans that can be saved for later in the week when your supplies of fresh food run low.

Stock a snack cabinet.
Include plenty of snacks, both sweet and salty, on your shopping list. People seem to snack more on boats, particularly on days when the schedule is hectic or when weather and waves conspire to make meal preparation difficult. Even if your cruising consists of leisurely day sails, you’ll still want plenty of munchies to enjoy with your sunset cocktails. Favourite snacks on my boat include nuts, plantain chips, granola bars, dried fruit and chocolate covered espresso beans (indispensible for a jolt of caffeine during night passages). All are compact and provide quick energy. I designate a convenient cabinet in the galley so it’s easy for everyone to find snacks whenever they are hungry. As the primary boat chef, it’s frustrating when ingredients for a recipe are inadvertently eaten as snacks. Designating a snack cabinet is a sneaky but effective way to control my food inventory.

Pack special items from home.
I often travel with a set of cooking supplies when on sailing charters. My so-called necessities have included a citrus zester, measuring cups and a sharp chef’s knife. I also pack a few Caribbean-inspired recipes and small plastic bags filled with pre-measured spices. Availability of spices is excellent in the BVI, but a whole jar can be expensive if a recipe requires only a teaspoon of seasoning.

Make it easy on yourself.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, keep it simple. If you’re new to cooking on a boat, realize that everything will take longer in a small galley kitchen. Plan for easier meals than you typically cook ashore. Although cooking on a boat is enjoyable, most people prefer to spend time sailing or snorkeling rather than sautéing.


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