Farewell Bahia Caraquez! After spending 5 months in port, we were finally leaving. The boat motored at our usual clip of 6 knots — despite an extra ton of food onboard! Aldebaran was full of provisions for 12 months of sailing in the Pacific. There was food (and rum!) in every compartment. How did we fit all that grub in the boat? How do we plan to feed ourselves, and deal with the exorbitant food costs of French Polynesia?
It is quite hard to cast off your lines and leave the comfort of port, and in this case, we have Dominic to thank. He is our crew member sailing with us to Galapagos during his two week vacation. Were it not for his schedule, it would have been hard to actually leave!
Indeed, until the 11th hour, we were grabbing last-minute wine cases and picking up sewing repairs. The prospect of a year ahead in the expensive archipelagos of French Polynesia motivated us, in these last two weeks, to pack the boat to the brim with cheap Ecuadorian provisions and hire skilled labor for as many projects as I could possibly manage.
Below is a rundown of our Provisions in preparation for the voyage to Tahiti aboard Aldebaran.
Stocking the boat’s “pantry” starts with deep cleaning, especially after being moored for for months in the tropics.
At least $100 worth of food was lost to weevils and moths, contaminated even in brand new, un-opened plastic bags or sealed glass jars. In particular, nuts, rice, flour, cereals, and beans took a big hit. (We’ve since read that some sailors microwave the goods they purchase at the store, especially those from third world countries, to destroy invisible larvae. Evidently bay leaves are also effective deterrents.)
Then, every single kitchen utensil in the galley had to be washed, every drawer wiped, every cubby hole and plastic box unloaded and inventoried. Sabby was meticulous and marathon-like in this task.
Each pantry item is evaluated for its value here vs. in French Polynesia. What’s the best bang for the buck? Will it spoil? Can visiting crew bring it by airplane? Following the tradition of all good sailors, we decided to start with booze.
RUM & WINE
We’re not big drinkers but we do host lots of visiting crew members, and happy hours are fun. Booze is four to six times cheaper in Ecuador than the South Pacfiic, so we purchased several cases of rum from a local distributor named Blas. The wine was purchased from Hyper Market walking distance from Puerto Amistad at about the same price.
First task is throw away all cardboard boxes — cockroaches lay their eggs in the cardboard and subsequently, if brought on board, will lead to major roach problems later. We purchased Rubbermaid bins and stacked them in the amas (outer wings of the boat), the bilge (under the floorboards of the boat), and our purple pantry (the starboard storage). As some crew can testify, many of these spaces are horribly uncomfortable to access. Further, to avoid the clinking/breaking of bottles, we wrapped each individually with foam material and tape. Time-consuming investments for the happy hours ahead!
The space for the usual 3 dozen cartons of milk on Aldebaran were taken up by booze… so we purchased 20lbs of powder milk. We read the ingredient list to select ones that were 100% milk. However, the Nestlé brands mix more homogeneously, including Nido “baby formula” powder milk with vitamin additives (and lots of sugar), so we purchased about 1/5 of our powder milk in this form. To finish the breakfast staples, we purchased 20lbs of granola and 15lbs of coffee.
RICE, PASTA, FLOUR
We stocked up on 25lbs of pasta and tomatoes in cans, but the rice and flour was minimized. Such staples like rice and flour can probably be found inexpensively, and we were traumatized by our experience with the third world weevils. However, beans might be harder to find so we purchase about 15lbs worth in small bags.
Produce must come from a market which doesn’t refrigerate its fruits, veggies, and eggs. If they are refrigerated at the store, they must stay refrigerated, and that option is not always available on the boat. (Our fridge is typically filled with the likes of cheese, sandwich meat, sausages, lettuce and spinach, fresh herbs and yogurt). Un-refrigerated eggs can stay outside for weeks as long as you flip each egg daily (this keeps the inside of the shells moist and impermeable). Open air local markets are our preferred places for buying fresh produce as you can also find items in various stages of ripeness to avoid everything going off at the same time.
We make our own yogurt, bread, and Kombucha on board. Thus, we always like to purchase at least one small container of Natural (flavorless) Yogurt that contains Probiotics (such as lactobacillus) as a starter culture to make more yogurt. We also stock up on black tea and white sugar for our Kombucha brewing. For bread baking, we keep active dry yeast on hand, but it is possible to make sourdough using the natural yeast in the air (basically, by adding flour and water for 7 days to a jar of flour)
We don’t provision with specific meals in mind, we simply buy a little (or a lot) of everything; loading up as much as we can fit so long as it won’t spoil. The result: world’s longest receipt.
All the food gets inventoried with it’s exact location so it can be retrieved at a later date (this is very important as you WILL forget!). We use an application on our phones called Evernote to store this info as it allows us to search for specific items within a note (much like the search feature in word/excel documents). We are also HUGE fans of blue/green tape to label everything, from unmarked jars, to bins and anything in between.
One thing we wish we would have done more of is testing products from the store in small quantities in the weeks ahead. When you’re thinking of purchasing 20 bags of an item, you’d love to have confidence in it. We were grateful we did this with a few items we thought could have been a stellar deal: like the $1.50/liter “wine”, which unfortunately turned out to be undrinkable; at least we learned and didn’t waste our money or valuable space on that super-sweet-artificial-tasting-alcoholic-grape-juice they call “wine”.
In terms of cost and variety, the provisioning in Bahia Caraquez was very decent. The only places in Central America that topped it were Panama (we shopped in Price Smart “Costco” in the city of David) and Mexico (in particular, Huatulco is great). Costa Rica has a lot of specialty items but it’s way more expensive than the US.
Our goal is to eat really well on Aldebaran. The gourmet meals (which each crew prepares in turn) are part of what makes our trips special. Hence, we work hard to keep the boat well stocked with both simple and fancy fare. When you’re out at sea, you don’t need much, but when you’re eating like kings and queens, it’s all that more special.