Transatlantic Provisioning Tips

20 April 2009 By Victoria Allman

It’s that time of year again! Time to set sail for another part of the world where you can sample the local cuisine and roam the food markets. The problem is that getting from here to there is a long journey; one without any provisioning stops. At an average speed of 10 knots, it will take most yachts 16 days to cross from Fort Lauderdale to Gibraltar. That’s an eternity in the eyes of a chef watching his or her lettuce grow limper and milk turn slightly more sour as each day passes.

But fear not! It has been years since men crossed the ocean eating hardtack and contracting scurvy. Provisioning for long voyages these days is much easier. Here are some tips from industry chefs on how to prepare for your upcoming crossing.

1. Interview the crew extensively before leaving port about what they'd like to eat en route. But be warned: Crewmembers’ diets change underway. Those on watch tend eat more candies and drink more Cokes to stay awake. Also, speak with new delivery crew whom you don’t know. One man who stepped aboard for a crossing only hours before we left dock proceeded to drink two glasses of milk at each meal — something I would have liked to have known ahead of time to stock up.

2. Freelance Chef Cristina Topham learned the hard way to plan meals that don't require boiling large pots of water en route. “I tend to do a lot more one-pot-wonders,” she said. You can read her online adventure with cooking underway at .

3. Prepare easily frozen dishes, like chicken pot pie and meatloaf, before your trip. If conditions are rough, you can always defrost. Also, remember that the last thing people want in rough conditions are the acidic tomatoes in a lasagna or Bolognese sauce. Think of Mom’s comfort food like mashed potatoes and plain chicken for queasy stomachs.

4. Topham also recommends her recent discovery, Debbie Meyer Green Bags, which are made of special plastic that absorbs the ripening gases that are given off by fruits and vegetables and extends their shelf-life. “At first I thought they were hokey, but I used them and I’m amazed,” she wrote.

5. With no bars or restaurants to go to, the crew will appreciate you dreaming up some fun activity food to serve mid-crossing. Plan a movie night with pizzas as well as a game night with chicken wings to help pass the time.

6. Go back to basics for late-night watch keepers. A fridge stocked with sandwiches is an easy grab for those unfortunate souls that pull the 12-to-4 shift. But the most important piece of advice chefs gave for Atlantic crossings is: Stock up on coffee! It's a long two weeks.

7. Chef David extols his walk-in chillers and freezers and packs them with a variety of tasty things. He says that, “Vegetables last longest when they are stored in the manner that they are grown. So store celery and lettuces upright, keep apples stem up.” He also advises, “A little breathing room helps vegetables last longer. Crack the bins once in awhile and keep things loose.”

Fair winds and safe travels to all.

Once you’re on the other side, let us know how your provisions held out.