The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Keeping Things Tasty—A 36,000-Mile Lesson In Provisioning

Five dollars for a tiny jar of mustard? Four-fifty for a wilted head of iceberg lettuce? My then 11-year old son Porter and I looked around the store in disbelief. We had made a terrible mistake.

A month earlier we had been in Europe, where we enjoyed the luxury of regular visits to the patisserie in France and the carniceria in Spain. Though the boat was well-stocked for the trans-Atlantic, we had not prepared for the price of food and lack of selection in the Caribbean.

Cruising magazines and the internet are packed with delicious recipes for coastal cruising and offshore voyages but what is harder to find is a recipe for rationing and planning for remote locations.

This is the first of a two-part series in which I will share some of the lessons I learned about provisioning and food storage while sailing over 36,000 miles—from Europe, around South America, back to Europe and home to New England—since making Sila, a Boréal 47, our home nearly three years ago.

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Marc Dacey

Very realistic evaluation. I look forward to the next post. I wonder if you fish, however, and how that contributes to the protein?

Molly Barnes

Hi Marc,

Thank you for the nice comment. We did do some fishing, particularly when we were around the equator. My oldest son took a particular interest and read Scott & Wendy Bannerot’s book, The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing, cover to cover multiple times. He learned to build his own lures which we would then troll behind us while sailing. Because of the style of fishing, primarily surface lures, we were only successful in warmer waters. For this reason, we did not count on fish as an essential part of our diet although we did enjoy a number of tuna, wahoo and especially mahi meals. He also caught a few fish in Norway using a rod and reel from docks and wharves. It is probably also worth noting that we did not have refrigeration so we needed to eat everything we caught relatively quickly.

In Chile we had a crab trap that we used to catch a few crab but frankly we had better luck trading 1-liter boxes of wine with fisherman for the larger centolla (southern false king crab).

All to say, I am not a great resource for fishing but the Bannerot’s book is excellent.

Marc Dacey

Thanks for the recommendation. I am a huge seafood fan, as is my wife (my son, less so, but the sea air tends to pique the appetite) and that book review is very helpful.

I plan on recording provisions with type, date purchased, date expiring (if applicable) and quantities and, most importantly, location on the boat as per numbered lockers and hidey-holes, on a simple Excel sheet. As the quantities decrease, the cell background will change from green to yellow to red, alerting us to buying opportunities. I plan on using the same system for spares and consumables, like filters.

pat synge

Sprouts are a great resource. A mix of mung, alfalfa, mustard and fenugreek seeds makes for a tasty addition to many meals when fresh vegetables are in short supply. Three jars on the go is enough for a constant supply.

Marinated fish dries well and can be eaten at any stage of the process or kept and added to soups for added flavour. We use soy sauce, vinegar and spices for the marinade and leave the strips in the marinade just long enough to start ‘cooking’ then lay them out to dry. Once they have firmed up a bit they can be strung up on a line for further drying though usually they tend to get eaten semi-dried like smoked ham or jerky.
Tuna and dorade are great this way.

Eggs keep well if sealed with vaseline or similar when fresh.

Molly Barnes


thank you for these great additions. There are so many wonderful ways to provision a boat and to provide healthy meals that satisfy the crew. It is always nice to learn a few more- like the marinated, dried fish in particular. I wish I had known that trick when we caught an especially large mahi!

Bill Attwood

Dear Molly,
We enjoyed your article and it confirmed the lessons we have learned. Cruising in SE Asia was a great chance to explore local produce and spices. We tend not to eat meat, sort of semi-vegetarians, and rely heavily on pulses for our protein with spices to add interest. Have you tried smoked Tofu? Great in rice/veg dishes and needs no refrig.
Hi Pat,
Can you give a little more details on marinading fish, or point me to a website? Thanks in advance. Also any tips on fishing would be welcome, on passage raher than coast hopping
Best regards to you bith

pat synge

Hi Bill,
The marinade we use is about equal amounts of soy sauce, vinegar and water with black pepper and garlic to taste. We cut the fish into strips about 20mm thick, leave it in the marinade just long enough for it to show signs of having ‘cooked’ then remove it and add more. Eventually the marinade loses its potency, becomes quite fishy and makes an interesting addition to soup – but not to everyone’s taste.

I’m not someone who should be offering tips on fishing however! It tends to be feast or famine.
I hope all is well with you.

Molly Barnes


We have not tried smoked tofu on Sila but I will put it on my list of new ideas as I certainly enjoy well-prepared tofu on land! Thanks for the tip

Bill Attwood

Hi Pat
We’ll definitely try the marinading technique, and drying the fish afterwards.
All well with us, thanks for asking.

Pascal Cuttat

Great piece, thanks for taking the time and sharing! And yes, sprouts are extremely easy and work wonders.
The French-Spanish butter-olive oil difference, I would say, is cultural rather than temperature driven. Just a detail though?.
Best, Pascal

Molly Barnes

Great point! The butter-olive oil difference may be cultural for those two countries, but in our case, which to use was definitely driven by the combination of availability and temperature. With no refrigeration, our primary method of keeping food cool is to store it under the floor boards. So as we went south, the ocean temperature increased and the butter would melt. Switching to olive oil was not just a matter of what was readily available culturally, but also a function of practicality!


Marc Dacey

Molly, an old galley trick is to store cheeses in Mason jars covered with olive oil. The cheese stays supple without refrigeration, and, of course, you have pretty tasty olive oil left over for use in cooking or salads. Just keep it sealed and dark and cool and it will keep for months. Not sure if it works with Brie, but harder cheeses work fine.

Molly Barnes

Love that! We have other non-refrigeration tricks coming up in the next article, including wiping cheese with white vinegar but that does not result in flavored olive oil.

Marc Dacey

I can’t recall where I first heard it, but it might be from the Smeetons’ or the Hiscocks’ “proto-cruiser” books of the ’50s and ’60s, from which I picked up many a useful notion. We have a top-loading reefer, but it’s not big and I don’t want it big, so a lot of these methods have appeal.


You can easily conserve butter even in warm climates for a month or two by preserving it in small mason jars. Great instructions by Claudia Kirchberger ( ) with many images are available here, unfortunately in German only:

The gist of the instructions are:
* Heat butter until it starts to melt
* Once it’s liquid, stir with a whisk to make it creamy white a keep it that way
* Go on heating until it starts frothing, always stirring
* Keeping the temperature moderate so the butter doesn’t burn and don’t forget to stir
* Once the frothing starts to lessen, pour the butter into mason jars leaving 1 cm at the top free. Don’t forget to stir the remaining butter in the pan while you handle the jars.
* In the jars, the butter will separate. To remedy this, shake the jars well event 5 to 10 minutes. As they’re hot use a dishrag to protect from burns.
* Once they jars are cold and all creamy, you have your butter in a jar.

One a jar is open, it can stored upside-down for a few weeks in a pot with a little water to prevent all kind of germs getting at the butter. Seems the Romans already did that way. Just change the water from time to time.

As the Austrian cuisine is using a lot of butter, that makes it a lot easier underway.