Provisions and Stowage

(Posted 10/28/2016)

(See bottom of page for post-voyage updates)

Throughout the summer, the yard in front of the boat shop sported all manner of plastic containers, from buckets to jugs to wine bladders.  All items we want kept dry, such as clothing, books, some of the electronics, etc., will be stowed in watertight plastic containers.  Most of the containers are 1, 2 and 5 gallon recycled plastic buckets with watertight lids. 

(Pearl) At the beginning of the summer I started scouting for suitable containers for water and for food and other provisions and supplies. Both for budgetary reasons and just because of my own preferences, I hardly purchased any containers, and was able to find an ample supply by cruising certain dumpsters. I soon identified 2 notable sources: the dumpsters behind the local AutoZone and the recycling bins at the big natural foods supermarket in Corvallis. AutoZone dumpsters and trash cans provided dozens of gallon Bugwash containers of sturdy plastic in a rectangular shape that will fit through the locker openings under the berths. These we will use for water. The offerings in the Market of Choice recycling bins were more varied: more rectangular gallon containers for water (their cleaning supply containers), lots of round gallon and half-gallon containers, loads of 2-gallon buckets with gasketed lids, several wonderful 4-gallon wide-mouth olive containers, a number of 5-gallon buckets, and a variety of wide-mouth plastic jugs.

Rescuing all these containers was the fun part. Preparing them for use turned out to be more work. The first step was checking for water tightness. I’d fill them with water, and leave them upside down for at least several hours to make sure that there would be no leakage in either direction. Then I’d clean the inside. Generally this involved a thorough rinsing, but sometimes the former contents required a bit more attention (think German Chocolate Frosting). And finally I’d remove labels, since we didn’t want labels to detach underway and clog the bilge pump. Virtually all of them had labels attached with modern glues that will not give up without a major fight, so I laboriously soaked and scraped, and then removed the sticky residue with mineral spirits.

By the end of the summer, I had amassed a very satisfying mountain of containers in varying shapes that I think should serve all our needs for both carrying fresh water, and for keeping water out of dry supplies.

We'll be carrying about 60-70 gallons of water on our first and longest leg of the trip, from Southern California to the Marquesas Islands.  For a crew of 2, that's 47 days of water at 3 quarts per person per day, not factoring in rainwater collection.  70 gallons at 8 lbs. per gallon, plus the container weight will come to around 600 lbs. 

For several reasons, we prefer to carry water in discrete containers rather than a dedicated water tank.  A single water tank, or even several tanks, risks compromising the water supply through contamination or losing water to a plumbing leak.  Discrete containers also allow more flexibility in distributing weight in the boat. 

We'll be carrying water in four 5 gallon plastic containers, forty 1 gallon plastic jugs and the remainder in well-cleaned plastic wine bladders. 

(Pearl) People frequently ask what kind of food we’re taking along. David always refers that question to me since I’m the food person in our land life. I’ve never done this before, though, so I’m still figuring this out. There are several factors that make our food provisioning somewhat different from other sailing adventures I’ve read about. First, the galley is very small and simple: one burner for cooking, and that’s it. So food preparation will have to be relatively simple. We sometimes say that we’ll be backpacking on the water and our cooking will reflect that. Second, we won’t have refrigeration or even ice, so fresh produce will be extremely limited during the longer passages. And finally, David is pre-diabetic, so we need to take some care about high carb foods that spike his blood sugar.

At home we eat a lot of pinto beans and corn tortillas, and I’m planning to go heavy on those provisions at sea. I’m currently cooking pinto beans in large batches, drying them, and then crushing them. They reconstitute into something very similar to refried beans. I have a tortilla press in my galley equipment and will take masa flour to make homemade tortillas. Add to this another of our favorites, New Mexico green chiles, which I’m also currently dehydrating, and I think we’ll have a very tasty staple meal.

We both love pasta, but regular pasta isn’t good for David’s blood sugar, so I’ve found a source of pasta made from lentils. It’s not quite like semolina pasta, but it’s quite acceptable, and I plan to lay in a good supply of that, along with cans of various toppings.

For breakfast I’m planning to make a lot of homemade granola in advance—enough for the first long passage of 40 or so days at least. This we’ll eat with reconstituted powdered milk. I’ve found a source for organic whole powdered milk, which is much better than the standard nonfat variety. David’s favorite breakfast is pancakes, but since standard pancakes are super carb-loaded, I’ll be preparing a couple gallons of my almond meal pancake mix to take so that we can have them at least weekly. We’ll also take a good supply of agave nectar for a syrup substitute.

Lunch is still mostly a mystery to me, which means that we’ll be taking along a lot of peanut butter and crackers. At home we generally eat soup for lunch, but eating soup in the tropics is probably not the best fit, so I’ll be looking for options that add variety, but don’t require cooking. I’m sure we’ll be posting more about all this turns out once we’re underway.

What I’m really looking forward to is arriving at distant exotic places and enjoying what’s available there.

Post-voyage comments (updated 10-17-2017):


(Pearl)  Stowage turned out way differently than I anticipated.  Once we started packing, it soon became evident that most of the rigid plastic containers I had so carefully prepared weren't practical to fit into the compartments of the boat.  We ended up double bagging  the majority of our dry food goods in ziplocs, and stowing them in the compartments under the berths.  Likewise, we each had a double trash compactor bag for our clothing, which sat on top of the v-berth.  We did use a number of the 2-3 gallon buckets for dry storage in the cockpit lockers.  These housed our tools and extra parts. Bottles of liquids were also sequestered in plastic buckets, so that if something spilled it would be contained.  We were grateful for that foresight when our container of epoxy hardener sprang a leak. 

Way too many bucket to fit into little Minimus.  We left many of them behind.

(Pearl)  Our 1-gallon water containers and the amount that we took were about perfect.  We much preferred handling the 1-gallon containers compared to the 5-gallon ones.  We carried 67 gallons of water when we left San Diego, and arrived in French Polynesia with about 20 gallons left, a comfortable margin should we have been delayed.

(Pearl) Reading back over what I had written before we left, I realize I should have put more importance on that last paragraph.  There really is food available in all those exotic places, and by the time we got there we were only too happy to eat something different from what we'd been eating on passage. We had substantially more food than we needed. 

That said, we mostly had good foods that were suitable for our situation.  The dried beans were great, requiring only a few minutes of cooking to rehydrate.  The granola was also perfect, especially with the many dried cranberries that we carried.


Peanut butter on graham crackers followed by dried fruit for lunch turned out to be my favorite meal of the day. 

What I hadn't anticipated was how little we would want to spend time cooking, nor that David would be doing all the food preparation on the passages.  He immediately made it clear that he wouldn't be cooking anything that required a couple steps.  It had to be a true 1-pot no fuss dish, preferably a can that he could pour into a pot and heat.  There are only a few canned meals that we actually enjoy, and we didn't have quite enough of those on the initial long passage. 

The thing that we really overestimated was how much dry milk powder we would need.  I assumed we wouldn't find good quality dried milk in local stores abroad, so stowed about 10 gallons of the milk powder, which seemed ample for a full year.  What a surprise to find that New Zealand whole milk powder was available and widely used all over French Polynesia.

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