Recipes and Provisioning

Recipes and Provisioning for Cruising Sailboats

Provisioning List | Food Links | Drinks Recipes | Food Recipes

Can you sail and eat well without refrigeration in the tropics? Absolutely! Here's how we do it.

Atom Galley Table

Check out The Atom Stove page for details on 
our stove and maximizing space in the micro-galley.

In the past, when sailing alone, I often made one-pot vegetarian meals. To save on cooking time I use a pressure cooker and sometimes use a wide mouth Thermos bottle to slow cook foods such as brown rice and dry beans. Now that my wife has taken over much of the cooking, we get a lot more variety. She even bakes bread in a pan placed inside a big aluminum pot on top the stove which gets covered with aluminum foil to reflect back the heat. I still occasionally elbow my way into the galley to make some of my favorite recipes, such as corn bread in a covered frying pan. We do not use much canned food and never buy those expensive freeze-dried specialty meals that taste like a chemical concoction. We do use dried soy bean curd and soya mince, or TVP as it's called in the US. This dried soybean product is one of the most perfect cruising foods - compact, cheap, quick cooking, high protein - we put it in soups, stews, stir-fried vegetable dishes, use it as a substitute for ground beef in spaghetti and lots more. It's available at Bulk Foods stores in the US and at most supermarkets in other countries we've been to such as South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela and several countries in the Caribbean area. 

We base many of our meals around rice, pasta or bread with fresh vegetables and chicken or fish whenever we get them. We also grow mung bean sprouts in a sprouting tray. Breakfast for me is often just uncooked oats soaked in milk with fruit added or maybe cornbread with some fruit (see bOatmeal recipe). I used to boil my oats into a gluey gruel as most Americans do (acceptable perhaps in northern winters, but hard to choke down in the tropics). Then many years back a German guest crew of mine suggested to mix the oats with a couple spoons of nonfat milk powder, add unheated water, cinnamon and sliced bananas or raisons and let soak for a few minutes. "We Germans do not boil our oats into this disgusting tasteless pot of glue. This is baby food," she spat at me as she tried to dump the pasty mess overboard. I hated to admit it, because she was such an overbearing obnoxious wench, but she was right. I had been regimented by generations of mothers in our family with the glue pot oatmeal and though I had never liked the stuff much, it was cheap and nutritious. Tradition was hard to overcome, but I never boiled oats again. When I do get caught in a cold climate I pour hot (not boiling) water over the oats. Otherwise, it's unheated water.

For snacks we have homemade granola or oatmeal raison cookies or store bought whole wheat crackers topped with ripe banana or papaya or a bag of mixed raisons and peanuts, popcorn or whatever else looks good in the local shops. Most types of highly processed high-fat junk foods and sugar-laden snack foods are not to our taste and not within our budget. Because of no refrigeration, we shop frequently for perishables whenever it's convenient and buy foods based on how well they keep without refrigeration. If it's particularly hot and we're in an anchorage where ice is available nearby we will fill a small portable cooler to use for cool drinks. Generally, we don't try to refrigerate food items since we would need a larger cooler and fetching that amount of ice regularly is an expensive hassle. 

Provisioning
You can tackle the provisioning quandary in a number of ways. Some people make up a menu for say two weeks and then plan on repeating it. Then they use that menu to work out how much of which foods they will need for a certain length of time. We are nowhere near as organized as that. I've even seen a few folks who have a list taped to the inside of every food locker listing its contents which they update every time they take something out and use it. That is a great way to organize your boat, but I would watch anyone who is doing that very carefully for other signs of obsessive compulsive disorder!

Below is a sample provisioning list we use before setting out on a long voyage. This list will vary considerably according to what's available in our current location. The main point is we avoid highly processed or expensive imported foods whenever acceptable substitutes are available. Most of our recipes are relatively low-fat for health reasons and I've long ago acquired a taste for less fatty foods than I grew up on. We rarely deep fry foods as it's dangerous to have boiling oil on a small boat. Besides, dishes clean-up is a lot easier without a layer of oil covering everything. 

The easiest way we've found to calculate how much non-perishable food we need for an extended cruise is to first make a list of all the foods we generally use. Then we make a rough guess how much of each item one person will consume in an average week and then multiply that by the number of people and weeks before our next major provisioning stop. Here is a sample of a typical provisioning list:

Item

Amount Per Week

x 2 Persons

x 12 Weeks

Pasta (several types)

0.5 lb

1 lbs

12 lbs

Oats (quick)

0.5 lbs

1 lb

12 lbs

Nonfat Dry Milk

0.5 lb

1 lb

12 lbs

Whole Wheat Flour

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

White Flour

0.5 lb

1 lb

12 lbs

Corn Flour

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Baking Yeast

-

-

1 can

Baking Soda

-

-

1 small box

Baking Powder

-

-

1 can

Soya Mince (TVP)

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Brown Rice

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Mung Beans

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Red Beans

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Nuts

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Raisons

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Pure Cocoa Powder

-

-

2 lbs

Decaffeinated Coffee

-

-

2 large jars

Brown Sugar

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Canned Tuna

1 can

2 cans

24 cans

Tomato Paste

1 can

2 cans

24 cans

Canned Corn

0.5 can

1 can

12 cans

Whole Wheat Crackers

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Natural Peanut Butter

-

-

2 jars

Fruit Preserves

-

-

3 jars

Olive Oil

-

-

2 qts

Soy Sauce

-

-

3 qts

Mustard

-

-

4 bottles

Popcorn

-

-

1 lb

Canned Mushrooms

-

-

8 cans

Dried Mushrooms

-

-

1 lb

Canned Peaches

-

-

4 cans

Baked Beans

-

-

3 cans

Parmesan Cheese

-

-

0.5 lbs

Tofu in UHT boxes

-

-

4 boxes

Rice and Egg Noodles

0.25 lb

0.5 lb

6 lbs

Grape Nuts Cereal

-

-

2 boxes

Millet

-

-

1 lb

In practice this is more food than we would finish in 12 weeks.  Some items we will use less of than we plan, but it's hard to pin down exactly which items you'll feel like eating more or less of and we don't want to be that strict on our menus that we have no room for flexibility.  For example, food supplies get supplemented along the way by fishing or foraging ashore or from barter or gifts from the farmers you meet.  (That's assuming you actually go out and meet the people of the islands you visit.)  Then there's the new local foods we're tempted to try at restaurants and markets.   Sometimes, invitations to dinner with friends significantly cuts back on the use of our food stocks, although that is often balanced by the invitations we give out ourselves or when we get together with other sailors for "lucky pot", as Mei calls it.  Other factors to consider are how much physical activity you will be doing and the climate.  You will need more food in cold conditions and when you are more active. 

In addition to the spices and perishables listed below there are a few specialty items we buy in small quantities from time to time such as dried nori seaweed for sushi, soy milk powder, Chinese spiced dry fruits, etc.

Okay, I can hear the groans, "What's the deal with all this disgusting nonfat milk powder?" Here's the deal: Maybe you want fresh whole milk. Well, you can't have it if it's not available and I wouldn't buy it even if it was because it's expensive and requires refrigeration and takes up lots of space. Even if you buy the UHT foil cartons that don't need refrigeration, they are even more expensive, take up too much storage space, and have a strange preserved taste. So you try to buy dried whole milk and find it tastes horrid. Chances are you bought milk that during processing they removed the cream and replaced it with hydrogenated vegetable fat! Maybe that's a secret marketing trick to skim off the fat for making cheese products and replace it with cheap vegetable oil. Nonfat milk powder is sometimes hard to find outside the US and costs more, but it's pure at least, and the rank tasting vegetable fat you can do without. To make the milk powder creamier or richer tasting, just add more powder to the water to suit your taste. A couple drops of pure vanilla extract doesn't hurt when mixing up some milk for cereal. If you're using powdered milk to add to hot drinks or with flour as a stew thickener, mix the milk in a coupe spoons unheated water first and then add to your coffee or stew to prevent lumps forming.

Spices:
Black and red pepper, salt, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract (or dried vanilla beans when available), curry powder, cumin, paprika, cloves, basil, wasabi powder (for sushi), coriander seeds, thyme, bay leaves, ginger root (not powder)

Perishables:
We buy perishables in quantities that we can use before they go bad and we go to the market every second or third day when in port. Most fresh produce keeps better if you first soak it several minutes in a mold-killing solution of one tbsp bleach per gallon of freshwater. Then lay in sun until dry. Green tomatoes, apples and most citrus fruits keep best when wrapped individually in newspaper and stored separate from other vegetables. Typical items we pick up in US ports are: tofu, eggs, cabbage, tomato, squash, banana, onion, garlic, ginger, green pepper, carrot, potato, napa cabbage, green beans, spring onion, cucumber, spinach, grapefruit, watermelon, lemons, oranges and cheese. Some hard cheeses keep for a week or two in the tropics if kept covered with a vinegar-soaked rag. Some of the foods above are imported, but their costs are usually reasonable. 

In tropical ports we add these when we find them: taro, cassava, yam, plantain, lime, papaya, mango, assorted green leaf vegetables and whatever else we come across. Items like ginger root and many other tropical grown foods are cheap and plentiful in the southern cruising waters. Exceptions will be dry low islands like the Bahamas and parts of Polynesia. Before going to those places, you want your boat stocked up with long lasting items similar to those on our list above, with an emphasis on extra dried fruits and sprouts. Any fool with a big budget can buy fresh foods from expensive supermarkets in places like the Bahamas. But you, the micro-budget sailor, will have to plan more carefully if you don't want to end up prematurely back at work grumbling about the high cost of cruising.

Food Links
Soy Products
The Cook's Thesaurus a cooking encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients
Bulk Foods Store online

Goose Mei

Mei dishes up fried rice with Atom's stove aboard the Triton Goose

Drinks Recipes
Here's a few of our favorite cool drinks when we're in port and have some ice in our portable cooler. We use a standard household blender that runs off an inverter. 12 volt blenders are nice to have but they cost more and are not so easy to replace if they break during a cruise. If you carry an inverter and a 110-220 volt transformer you can buy or replace any galley appliance like juicers or blenders in any port in the world without worrying about which voltage they use.

Chocolate Banana Milkshake (makes one large mug full)

1 ripe banana
1/4 cup water
3 rounded tbsp nonfat powdered milk
1 rounded tbsp pure cocoa powder
dash of cinnamon or vanilla extract (optional)
2 cups ice cubes

Blend water, milk powder and cocoa powder first. Then blend in remaining ingredients and serve. Use more or less of any of the above ingredients to suit your taste. No sugar is needed with the unsweetened cocoa if the banana is ripe enough.

Watermelon Juice (makes 2 large mugs)

Fill your blender about half full with seedless watermelon pieces. Add a cup or two of ice cubes. Blend well and serve.

Papaya Milkshake (makes 2 large mugs)

1 ripe medium-sized papaya
1/2 cup water
4 rounded tbsp nonfat powdered milk
2-3 cups ice cubes

Blend water and milk powder first. Then blend in papaya pieces and ice cubes.

Lemonade (makes one large mug)

Mix one glass water with 1 tbsp honey or brown sugar. Add 1/2 squeezed lemon or lime with rind. Drink at air temperature or add ice if you have it. You can do the same for grapefruit juice. Wrapping lemons individually in aluminum foil may keep them fresh for up to one month in the tropics.

Hot Drinks

Hot Ginger Cocoa (one large mug)

1 rounded tbsp pure cocoa powder
2 thin slices fresh ginger root (or substitute a piece of split dried vanilla pod if you're lucky enough to find some locally grown)
5 rounded tbsp nonfat powdered milk
2 rounded tbsp brown sugar (or Aspartame if you're sugar sensitive)
1 mug of water

Boil the ginger and cocoa powder in the water for about two minutes. Mix the dry ingredients with a couple spoons water, then slowly pour in the boiled cocoa and ginger slices while stirring to prevent dry milk lumps. If you're using a smaller cup, adjust ingredients accordingly.


Food Recipes
Some of these recipes are obviously for when you are in port and have access to a market. Others use only ingredients you are likely to have aboard in mid-ocean. Keep in mind you can substitute many ingredients in these recipes to suit your taste or your supplies. Be creative and experiment.

Chinese Fish (serves 2)

One cleaned fish with head (any type will do)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup water
5 cloves sliced garlic (not chopped please)
8 slices ginger root
1 sliced onion
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp brown sugar

First, catch your fish or buy one from a fisherman passing through the anchorage. Place whole fish (or as much of it as will fit) in large frying pan with olive oil. Lightly fry fish for two minutes on each side. (Do not try to fully cook it.) Then add other ingredients, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until done. Serve in bowls with sauce. Have rice as a side dish. Eat the ginger slices or pick around them. Mei takes the head, which ... ahem ... she says is the best part.

Creamy Chicken Stew with Vegetables (serves 2)

1-1.5 lbs chicken pieces (or substitute 1/2 cup large chunks soya mince or one can tuna)
6 rounded tbsp nonfat powdered milk
One 8 oz can mushrooms
2 level tbsp white flour
2 cups water
2 cups chopped vegetables of your choice, such as potatoes, onions, green beans, carrots
2 large cloves sliced garlic
1 tsp black pepper

Skin the chicken if you want less fat. Boil all ingredients except milk powder and flour for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Mix milk powder and flour with a 1/2 cup water and add to pot. Boil two more minutes. If you have fast cooking vegetables such as green beans or spinach, put them in towards the end of the cooking time. Serve in large bowls. Reheat leftovers in the morning. Note: if substituting soya mince for the chicken, soak soya mince in 2 1/2 cups warm water for 20 minutes. Then drain and use same as chicken.

Vegetarian Spaghetti (serves 2)

1/3 lb pasta
1/3 cup small pieces soya mince
One 8 oz can tomato paste
One 8 oz can mushrooms
1 chopped tomato
1 chopped green pepper
1 chopped onion
1 chopped carrot
1 tbsp oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tsp basil
1 tsp black pepper
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp olive oil

Soak soya mince in a bowl with two cups water for 15 minutes. Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil for two minutes then add drained soya mince, sliced mushrooms, carrot and green pepper and cook for another three minutes. Add seasoning and cook for one minute. Add tomato paste and two cans water (or add tomato sauce with no water) and simmer for 20 minutes then set aside. In separate pot boil pasta in four cups water for 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain pasta. Reheat sauce and serve over pasta with parmesan cheese. Note: if you have two burners you can cook the sauce and pasta simultaneously. You can substitute a can of tuna for the soya mince. The carrot and green pepper are optional - you won't have them in mid-ocean. 

bOatmeal (serves one)

1/3 cup oatmeal (instant or rolled)
2 rounded tbsp nonfat milk powder
1 cup water (more or less)
1 sliced banana or other fruit or 3 tbsp raisons
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of grated nutmeg
2 rounded tbsp Grape Nuts-type cereal (or substitute homemade granola or broken crackers)

Mix oatmeal with milk powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add air temp water and soak for five minutes (soak longer if you use rolled oats or add heated water on a cold morning). Add fruit or raisons. Immediately before serving add Grape Nuts cereal or its substitute to improve texture.

Millet and Banana Cereal

When you're outside the tropics on a cool morning and want a hot breakfast, or if you just need a break from the monotony of endless rounds of bOatmeal, try this hot millet cereal.  Of course, you can let it cool before eating if you wish.  Millet is similar to a cracked wheat cereal but is one of the very few gluten-free grains so if you are sensitive to gluten or want something different, try millet.  It's also good as a rice substitute for other dishes.

3 rounded tbsp millet
2 cups water
1/2 tsp chopped ginger root (optional)
dash of cinnamon
1 banana (pr 2  rounded tbsp raisins)
1/2 cup milk, (water plus 2 rounded tbsp nonfat milk powder)

Simmer millet (and ginger, if used) in water on low heat in a covered saucepan for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.  This is the same as how you would cook rice.  Place millet in a bowl and add cinnamon and sliced banana or raisins and milk.

Deep Sea Vegetarian Fried Rice (serves 2-3)

1 cup Brown or white rice
4 leaves chopped cabbage
1 chopped onion
1/4 cup small pieces soya mince or one box UHT tofu cut in cubes (optional)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 can corn
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp coriander seed powder (or crushed seeds)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups water

If using soya mince, soak in a bowl with two cups water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, boil one cup rice in 2 cups water on low heat, 20 minutes for white or about 40 minutes for brown rice. Set aside if using one burner. (With 2 burners you can start the next step while the rice is cooking.) Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add cabbage, drained soya mince or tofu, corn and seasonings except soy sauce and stir fry 7-10 minutes or until cabbage is done. Add cooked rice and continue to stir fry for 5 minutes. Then add mung bean sprouts and stir fry for 3 minutes. For non-vegetarian fried rice, you can add just about any chopped meat or an egg at beginning. When in port you can add chopped carrots and green beans.

Chinese Chicken with Noodles (serves 2-3)

4-6 chicken drumsticks
1/2 - 1 box UHT tofu cut in cubes (optional)
8 oz fresh or canned mushrooms
1 chopped onion
2 pieces chopped spring onion
2 chopped carrots
1 bowl spinach
5 slices ginger root
1 tbsp coriander seed powder (or crushed seeds)
6 cloves sliced garlic
1 tbsp black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 lb egg noodles or spaghetti pasta
2 cups water

Place all ingredients in large pot except spinach, mushrooms and noodles. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 50 minutes. Add spinach and mushrooms and cook another 3 minutes. In a separate pot, boil pasta in four cups water for 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain pasta and serve in same bowl with chicken and sauce.

Salads

In port we make salads with the usual ingredients. At sea when lettuce is the first to spoil, we substitute mung bean sprouts. After a few days at sea, and before our other fresh vegetables have withered in the heat, our salad recipe will be something like this:

Three day old mung bean sprouts, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, canned corn and garbanzo beans. Maybe some small cubes of cheese if we still have it. For dressing I simply add black pepper and some regular mustard mixed with chopped garlic. Goes good with crackers.

Once most of our perishables have perished, our salad might look like this: mung bean sprouts, chopped onions, canned corn and garbanzo beans, canned tuna, and the regular mustard dressing with chopped garlic.

Skillet Cornbread

A standard skillet corn bread recipe goes something like this:

Combine:
1 cup self-rising white flour
1 cup yellow stone ground corn meal
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Beat in separate bowl:
1 egg
2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup milk made from nonfat powder

Adjust flour or milk amount so when you combine it the batter it's slightly less thick than standard bread dough but not as thin as pancake batter. Spread on a hot greased skillet using a spoon andspatula, cover and cook on medium heat about 15 minutes then turn over and cook another 10 minutes.

My own recipe is simpler, but is only good hot from the pan and becomes rock hard by the end of the day. I don't use egg, sugar, butter or salt. If you don't have self-rising flour, just add one tbsp of baking powder to the dry ingredients.

If it's for breakfast I may add chopped ginger, or grated nutmeg and serve topped with mashed mango, papaya, banana or other fruit. If out of fruit toppings you could use peanut butter and honey topping.

If it's for lunch or dinner I might add chili pepper or other seasonings and slice it in half and serve topped with a salad of mung bean sprouts, mustard, garbanzos, corn or other vegetables available as mentioned in the salad recipe above. You can add a can of tuna to
the salad if desired.