The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Provisioning For Remote Voyaging, Part II


In Part I of this two-part series I discussed how I determine what and how much of what to buy. After reading that post I’m sure most of you are shaking your heads at how much time and energy John and I put into food (not to mention writing this much about it!). However, having enough energy to keep ourselves going during long cold passages takes a lot of doing.

For example, despite eating a lot of high protein, high fat foods, we both lost about 10 pounds during this summer’s voyage. (Unfortunately, I’ve put it all back on already since I haven’t quite figured out that it’s time to stop eating as much as I did up there!)

So don’t underestimate how much energy, and particularly protein, a long voyage, especially to a cold place, actually requires.

Products We Like

Here are a few special items that help to keep us going (and they taste good, too!):

  • barLarabars—protein bars made from nuts and fruit only; a great energy boost for a night watch or halfway through a tough hike. We’re especially fond of their chocolate, peanut butter and tropical fruit flavours.
  • Virginia Diner Peanuts—their peanuts are less greasy, less salty, and fresher than any others we’ve tried. Plus they come in a really handy 36 oz. size (look under Gourmet Peanuts).
  • 365 Brand crunchy peanut butter—less salt and no sugar compared to Skippy (though we’ll eat that too!) and a lot of energy, especially when added to bacon on toast (it’s a Bermudian thing).
  • Theo 80% dark chocolate bars—their chocolate is organic and fair trade and just plain yummy (plus it’s good for us!).
  • Just Tomatoes dried fruits and veggies—no additives; just the fruit or veggie of choice. Excellent as a snack, in a stew, or with yoghurt.
  • Brinkman Farms canned meat—we get the unsalted beef and chicken. They work very well in stews and soups and serve as a backup in case of a freezer disaster.
  • Applegate Farms sliced sandwich meat—a great thing to have on hand when underway and you’ve run out of leftovers for sandwiches, or as an additional protein shot in soup or salad. No nitrates added.
  • Pleasant Hill Grain canned ghee, butter and bacon—note that the bacon has nitrates added, something we usually try and avoid, so we only use these when out of frozen bacon.
  • mortonMorton & Bassett Herbs and Spices—it’s worth paying a bit more for these dried herbs and spices that are the next best thing to fresh.
  • Amy’s Organic Soups—we add a bit of protein (sandwich meat or leftovers) to these vegetarian soups for a great and easy lunch underway. And NO MSG added!
  • Canned hummus—we’ve used Yehuda (Israel) and Cedar (Lebanon). Both are great.
  • Sea Change Savouries—they have smoked salmon in foil packs (gold pouches) that don’t need refrigeration and tinned seafood patés for a luxurious treat.
  • Pure Naked Coconut Water—if you end up dehydrated while on passage (an easy thing to do), unsweetened coconut water is a great alternative to sweetened power drinks to get you back on track.
  • Grand Pre 2% UHT milk—we’ve tried various brands and find there are slight differences but, overall, we find UHT tastes as good as fresh. Note that using UHT all the time may not be a good idea as it has undergone very high temperatures, potentially destroying a lot of the nutrients.

nigelCookbooks That Work

A few cookbooks that I find work really well for us on the boat:

Other Tips

  • Label the tops of your cans with the contents so that you don’t have to pull them out of the locker one by one to find what you need (it took me years to figure this one out).
  • Store fruits like apples and oranges and vegetables such as onions, garlic and potatoes in mesh bags in plastic baskets in dry corners of the bilge. It’s important to store onions separately—they tend to accelerate ripening in other produce.
  • Buy high protein snacks like nuts, dry roasted edamames, Larabars, etc. We find sweets just don’t keep us going during a long cold watch.
  • Have lots of hard-boiled eggs on hand as there’s nothing like a “bullet” for an energy boost during a night watch or for “breakfast of champions” (i.e. toast with mayo, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and bacon…or sandwich meat or smoked salmon) after a long overnight passage.
  • Buy a few things to pull out when a special treat is needed, like jalapeno stuffed olives, artichoke dip, stuffed grape leaves, dry roasted and salted pistachios…Perking up their taste buds is a great way to enliven your crew!

Do you have some provisioning tips to share? Please leave a comment.

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Any chance you’d be willing to share your spreadsheet? It’s not that I wouldn’t know how to make one, but I’d like to see what items you have on your staples list, well, entrees too…


John Harries

Hi Scott,

Phyllis is traveling, so I’m fielding comments. I’m not sure how much work it would take her to put it into a usable state for others, but I will ask her when she returns.

One thought thought, her first post was really about the importance of developing your own list of foods you actually use, and even more importantly, how much you use over time. This is really the key to Phyllis’ success in feeding us all so well on our recent eight month cruise. So I’m not sure our list would be that useful to others. Plus you would find out what weird tastes we have:-).

Jerry Levy

I think you mean organic and FAIR trade.

John Harries

we might at that!

Carolyn Shearlock

Scott (and anyone else interested) —

I have a downloadable inventory and provisioning spreadsheet on my blog that you’re welcome to look at (including directions on how to use it and sort it to make grocery trips easier):



Carolyn, what an awesome website you have. I’ve been looking for just that kind of resource!


Marc Dacey

Interesting ideas, Phyllis. I was told a long time ago that it’s best to leave cardboard (which can harbour weevils and roaches and oh, my) at the dock and to stow in sealable plastic. I was also told that while labelling tin tops is ideal (use permanent ink), that this should be accompanied by stripping off the paper labels, which can hold moisture and accelerate rusting and can failure.

A second reason is that in case of really heavy weather, the labels can come loose in the bilges and can potentially clog up a bilge pump.

I suppose one could Dymo label the plastic crates or storage bins with the typical contents (tinned meats, vegetables, soups, etc.) or use differently coloured markers to simply scribble a code for speed (Green 4 equals “pea soup”, perhaps?)

John Harries

Hi Marc,

We don’t keep tins in the bilge since it would be a very poor idea in an aluminium boat.

Sure, you can strip the labels off and do all that other stuff, but we have never found the need, probably because we have a very dry boat. We have cans that have been on the boat for three years and show no signs of corrosion.

One of the things to watch out for in preparing to cruise is taking on every recommendation that every pundit makes (including me). If you do, you will never leave the wharf.

Steven Bibula

We have been provisioning with plenty of freeze dried and dehydrated foods. Some we source from purveyors of emergency food suppliers, and these are often packaged with long term storage potential- sometimes up to twenty five years in unopened cans.

All these foods offer enormously reduced weight per provisioned calorie, far less prep and fuel consumption, greatly reduced competition for reefer space (since unopened, they store fine at moderate ambient temperatures) and dramatically reduced number of foods urgently requiring frequent reprovisioning. Meats, dairy, fruit, vegetables etc.

I love being able to just pour out a few ounces of dried carrot dices or cooked and freeze-dried ground beef, sliced mushrooms, strawberries, butter, cheddar cheese, garlic or whatever, rehydrate within seconds or minutes in a bit of hot water, and… done! No chopping, no cutting board or knife to wash, no waste, no wet food scraps in the trash, very quick. We feel the somewhat higher price is more than offset by all the advantages.

In this way, we can shop fresh when convenient, but otherwise we have a plentiful variety of foods onboard for the rest of the time, or whenever we prefer prep convenience over frequently sourcing fresh. Actually, we prefer to keep the frequent/fresh to a minimum, because of all the advantages of the excellent freeze dried, dehydrated and powdered options.

And we also like the value of having these foods in a crisis, such as when the supply chain breaks down and the supermarket doesn’t have [insert cherished food item here].

We have often found these foods to be of excellent quality. I am surprised that the cruisers we meet don’t seem to take this route.

We are also getting into storing whole grains, since can stay fresh for years if needed, and milling them as needed (or just cooking them).

Remembering captain Cook and his large provision of antiscorbutic kraut, we also ferment our own sauerkraut, etc, and this works very well because refrigeration is not required, storage life is basically indefinite, nutritive value is better than fresh and lactofermentation is so very easy and economical to do. For these reasons, lactofermented vegetables are a great way to extend certain ‘fresh’ provisions for periods when ‘fresh’ is inconvenient of just not available. And again, no competition for reefer space.

John Harries

Hi Steven

Lots of good tips, thank you.

And I agree that freeze dried meals can be a good option. In fact that’s pretty much all we used on my early “boys” voyages to the Arctic. That said, in those years said meals were known on the boat as “barf in a bag”, so it was a relief when Phyllis took all that in hand and started figuring out how to make the provisioning work with less reliance on that option.