Provisioning: Lessons Learned

Provisioning: Lessons Learned

We have now been away from the continental US for 3 months, enjoying the British and US Virgin Islands. While we stocked up on a what we thought was a ton of food before we set sail for the Caribbean, we are now able to better assess our eating habits while cruising. While we stocked up on a what we thought was a ton of food (and sailing equipment from True North Sailing) before we set sail for the Caribbean, we are now able to better assess our eating habits while cruising. There are several factors that have made provisioning different this season – each of which has affected our stores and consequently, our meal selection.

Person coming down a gangplank with a cart and provisions
Jeff bringing a cart of provisions down the dock at low tide in Portland, Maine.

First, we left the states with a ton of canned food.  This was a good idea and we are still reaping the benefits of beans, dolmas, green chilis, hummus, and tomato paste.  Canned goods are double or triple the cost in the USVI that they were in the continental US; for instance, a can of generic corn is roughly $1.50-$2, depending on the location of the market and the selection.

man with a shopping cart full of groceries
Jeff with a shopping cart full of groceries at Hannaford’s in Maine.

We also thought we left with plenty dried goods.  As vegetarians, we eat a lot of rice, pasta, polenta, rice noodles, pizza, and corn tortillas.  We bought Jeff 12 boxes of whole wheat pasta before we left, and he ran out two weeks ago.  I brought 9 gluten-free Schar shelf-stable pizza crusts, and I now have 1 left.  While we can usually find a suitable rotini pasta for Jeff, and even a decent selection of gluten free pastas for me, however, pizza crusts have been another story. I have been to 8 grocery stores between St Thomas, St John, and Tortola and have not yet been able to find shelf-stable GF pizza crusts.  This is a bummer as pizza is an easy and hearty meal that we both enjoy. You may be saying “but you could carry the ingredients to make pizza crust.”  We used to do this, when we cruised summers on the Chesapeake and Long Island Sound. But to make GF pizza crust or bread is a ton of work, and we haven’t found a recipe that we are really keen to recreate.  It is also hard to keep flours on board as they take up a lot of precious storage space and are a magnet for all of the moisture boats seem to hold.

man with a shopping cart full of groceries at Trader Joe's
Jeff with a shopping cart full of groceries at Trader Joe’s.

Speaking of space, we packed Bear pretty full, with groceries from Costco, Trader Joes, Hannaford’s, and Wegmans (thanks Shawn!) before we departed.  We have since learned that there are more hidey holes in the boat where we could have squirreled away even more of our favorite snacks (there can never be too much dark chocolate on board).  We also learned that while it was a good thing to buy a lot of canned goods, we could have bought less to make more space for things we would not be able to find down here or can’t get at a reasonable price (e.g. Schar Pizza Crusts, Tension Tamer Tea, Trader Joe’s GF Pancake mix, beer, King Arthur’s GF Brownie and Chocolate Chip Cookie Mixes, Trader Joe’s Yellow and Red Jarred Curry Sauces, Cocoa Pebbles (a box is $8 here!),  Costco Trail Mix (Felipe lived on this during the passage, though we do make a mean and expensive version with peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms), and Amy’s Soups (GF and Vegetarian – kills two birds).

woman in the cockpit of a boat surrounded by groceries
Margaret in the cockpit loading and organizing the provisions.

We do enjoy the adventure of shifting our diets to eat what the locals eat, but there is certainly something comforting about having our “regular” foods while we are away from home.  We eat a lot less cheese here (good for our cholesterol but sad for our tongues) because it is wickedly expensive.  Margaret also eats a lot less ice cream (see previous statement about cholesterol) as this is also a luxury item in the Caribbean – 2 scoops generally fetches $8 and a milkshake can run between $8-14 (on the high end you can get an adult milkshake which is pretty great!). We do not have a freezer on board but are beginning to see the benefits of this appliance for future cruising.  Our friends on SV Contigo ate their last pre-made meal that they had frozen for the passage down from the Chesapeake just last week.  This made us think about how fabulous and convenient it would be to cruise with some of our favorite meals already made up.  And the thought of hoarding a few hard to come by things, like GF bread and pizza crusts, could make cruising all that much sweeter.

A list of provisions on a yellow legal pad.
Trying to keep all of our stores in order now that we have been cruising in the Virgins for several months.

All in all, we are eating pretty well and we have certainly learned a lot about provisioning in the Caribbean.  If you have tips or tricks, please leave them in the comments below.

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