Why I Love Provisioning the Boat

Nikki Tate
May 18 · 7 min read
Two melons perc atop the generator in the back of Daughter #1’s car

I am ravenous, which is utterly ridiculous as we have eaten well since arriving here at the floating dock at Poets Cove on Pender Island. But that’s how it goes when you’re on the water, outside, gulping down great lungfuls of fresh air while hanging out on a sailboat.**

Just being alive seems to take more effort when you are trying to stay warm, in balance on an eternally-shifting and swaying vessel, and focusing on not being run over by a ferry or crashing into a dock.

I’m sitting below deck writing this because it’s cool, breezy, and bright out in the cockpit — not a good combination for working on the laptop. And, I’m trying to distract myself so I don’t eat a dangerous amount of dried mango strips, leftovers from the Tray of Abundance that Daughter #1 (D#1) lovingly prepared for the afternoon dock party we just attended. That was the first semi-official event of the long weekend and the annual May long weekend rendezvous hosted by the Bluewater Cruising Association.

Selfie at Sea. [I seem to have something stuck in my teeth! Ew!]

Earlier today, we tootled over from the marina in Sidney, BC (on Vancouver Island) where my daughter and her hubby keep their boat. Tootled is a kind term used in place of ‘well, we didn’t die.’

The winds kicked up, gusting to 30 knots at times and the result was a bit of a bumpy ride which culminated in a rather exhilarating crash-landing into the side of the floating dock at Poets Cove. Fortunately, we only wound up with superficial scrapes in the fiberglass hull, but rather alarming nonetheless.

We tied up and after unloading tons of stuff related to checking in the other club members scheduled to arrive here over the next 24-hours or so (we are the host boat for this here rendezvous), we had a late lunch. It was delicious and filling, a hearty chili prepared on land this morning and transported in the most ingenious of slow cooking-without-power devices ever invented. Shuttle Chef is made by Thermos and warrants a post all its own, so all I’ll say here is, if you want more info, follow the link (not an affiliate link).

D#1 is famous for her Trays of Abundance… this one made an appearance for appy hour.

The point of this post is not to describe every last delicious morsel we will consume on the boat today (D#1 is currently preparing gyros and an incredibly good-looking Greek salad because, you know, we haven’t eaten for … well, it feels like days), but rather to talk about the joys of provisioning a sailboat. Whole books have been written on the subject (my favorite being Lin Pardey’s book, Care and Feeding of Sailboat Crewoh, hey! There’s a 4th edition out now!), so I am not the only one who enjoys this aspect of life on a sailboat.

I Undergo a Personality Transformation Aboard a Boat
Here’s what’s a bit odd. In my real, everyday, land-locked life, I HATE going grocery shopping. But if there’s a sailboat at the receiving end of my shopping trip? Well, then I LOVE to make lists, plan meals, and stock up in advance of a journey. This is true despite the fact that the logistics of planning, buying, schlepping, storing, prepping meals, and cleaning up afterward is a royal pain in the backside when your galley is two feet long and half as wide.

When I was ruminating on why, exactly, there’s a difference, I think it has to do with the way life on a boat (or, camping or kayaking, for that matter) boils down to the essentials. What matters is clean water (enough to drink, showers become a rare treat), food (of any sort — everything tastes better when you’re outside and keeping busy), and somewhere more or less dry to place your head when it’s time to sleep.

There is something unbelievably satisfying about meeting those very basic needs: the degree of satisfaction being inversely proportional to the amount of effort required to make them happen.

Tea Never Tasted So Good
On the boat, it’s an effort to heat water, so a cup of tea first thing in the morning (which requires firing up the propane camp stove out in the cockpit, decanting sufficient water into the kettle from our potable water jugs, hoping there isn’t too much wind so it actually boils in a reasonable amount of time, digging through the deep ice chest for a bit of milk, and so on) is extra exquisite.

I think perhaps it’s the anticipation of such momentous events as a cup of tea in the cockpit or a picnic on the beach (approached from the water in a dinghy, kayak, or SUP — stand up paddleboard — , even an ordinary beach takes on a special significance… the boat is lovely, but terra firma is home) that makes the process of filling the water containers before leaving the dock a pleasurable act. That and the fact you can’t really do anything else other than watch the water spurt from the hose into the container puts you in a certain contemplative mindset.

There aren’t many times during the day back in normal life where I’m not thinking about some draft that’s due, something that needs to be edited, or a meeting I need to prepare for (or attend). My phone or laptop (or both) constantly bombard me with notifications. When you are balanced on a dock, watching the water level, and musing about how much easier it is on land when you turn a spigot for water and plug in the kettle, there isn’t a lot of time (or, often, a spare hand) for checking emails or monitoring texts.

I become one with the flow of water and that’s a pretty sweet place to be.

Unloading the groceries at home is nothing like first loading them into these carts, then hauling the carts down to the docks, then handing the bags over the gap between dock and boat (don’t drop the watermelon!!), then from cockpit into various nooks and crannies on the boat used to store stuff until needed…

The same thing happens in the grocery store aisles. There’s a certain sweet anticipation as I troll up and down, imagining just how great that crunchy sweet apple will taste bumped up against some nice Gruyere or a thin slice of salami (my son-in-law, T. taught me the joys of the apple/salami combo on a previous sailing trip). I imagine stowing the various foods away, tucking supplies into storage lockers under berths or in the cockpit. On a longer voyage with even more stuff than we crammed aboard on this trip, there would be lists by locker and we’d keep careful track of how much of what we have stowed away where.

Planning the food is almost as much fun as making the actual trip itself. The provisioning process is certainly an integral part of any successful boating trip — just ask the crew that’s subsisted on moldy biscuits and tinned green beans on an ocean crossing that took longer than planned. I know some people don’t really enjoy the headache of planning, list-making, shopping, schlepping, and stowing, but for me, the trip starts when we first begin to make the shopping lists.

**Note: This post was mostly written yesterday, but two realities of boat life conspired to keep me from posting until now. First, flakey Internet. I will write another post about the frustrations (and joys) of actually being unplugged, but suffice it to say, I’m not used to worrying about whether or not the image I want to include in a post will make it from my laptop to the ethers.

Second, lack of power. We are not plugged into power, so we are dependent on the sun staying out to charge the solar panels or firing up the engine or the generator (the latter options are loud and smelly and kind of defeat the purpose of sailing…). My laptop battery was rather low, so I wound up running out of power before I could properly recharge.

Third, daylight. Even though it stays light late, by the time darkness falls and we’ve made our final dinghy run ashore to use the indoor plumbing, all we can think about is sleep, glorious sleep…

**Full disclosure: When I am lucky enough to be asked aboard D#1 and son-in-law’s boat, I don’t have to do much beyond schlepping and washing the dishes. D#1 is an exceptional cook and does such a good job of catering our expeditions that she is quite famous in certain boaty circles.

But I have done all that stuff on other boats and trips, and it is one of my favorite aspects of traveling by boat. This love goes way back to when I was a kid and reading Swallows and Amazons and poring over the lists of supplies the kids would bring along on their adventures… D#1 also read those books, so perhaps that’s why we share this quirky passion for provisioning…

Warning and advance apology
There must be a break in the clouds or something because I have some internet access, so I’m sending this on its way now with only the most cursory of proofreads… If you find more misteaks than usual, that would be why. Let me know in the comments and I’ll make the requisite repairs when we are back ashore in a few days.

One Table, One World

People coming from different cultural backgrounds sharing seats at the table to dine, to laugh, to cook, to heal and most of all to share the stories of their unique journeys all over the world.

Nikki Tate

Written by

Author, creativity coach, storyteller exploring the world, living the dream. writersonfire.net nikkitate.com Nikki Tate Loves Books Fbook darkcreekfarm.com/blog

One Table, One World

People coming from different cultural backgrounds sharing seats at the table to dine, to laugh, to cook, to heal and most of all to share the stories of their unique journeys all over the world.

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