Sailboat Provisioning: How To Provision For A Sailing Trip

sailboat provisioning

Sailboat provisioning is a huge part of sailboat life. Whether you’re heading off for a weeks sailing holiday or planning for a longer passage or for weeks at anchor, you’ll want to know your sailboat is properly provisioned to meet everyone’s needs.

The job of sailboat provisioning is an important one. There’s a lot of pressure on whoever ends responsible for this task to really get it right, or there’ll be hell to pay further down the line! But you want to know that whatever you’re buying will last, and will make all your crew happy.

There are some important questions to consider before you start provisioning your sailboat, and then we’ll get into the nitty gritty of actual sailboat provisioning!

sailboat provisioning
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Quick Guide

Questions to answer before provisioning

Top tips for sailboat provisioning

Sailboat provisioning extras

Questions To Answer Before Sailboat Provisioning

How Long Do You Need To Provision The Sailboat For?

The most obvious question you’ll need to answer is how long you need to provision for. Try to think worst possible scenario (within reason – you can’t plan for everything!)

If the winds aren’t favourable how long do you predict you might you be stuck for, or is there a possibility you’ll be at anchor with no shops around for a few days longer than expected? Factor in a little leeway, it’s much better to have too much food at the other end than too little.

I try to follow a half rule. For however many days I estimate we’ll be at sea for, I add on half again. For example, if I’m ‘at sea’ for 6 days, I’ll provision for 9 days. If I was at sea for 20 days I would provision the sailboat for 30 days.

How Many Crew Are You Provisioning The Sailboat For?

a sailboat at anchor being provisioned
Consider how many crew you’re feeding

The more crew that need feeding, the more food you’ll need to buy.

It’s a good idea to get a feel for the amount of food your crew usually eat before you head off on a long passage. That might sound a bit silly, but Adam for example eats huge amounts of food compared to a lot of people and he would be seriously down and grumpy if you decided to cut his portion sizes on passage (at sea is not the best place to start a much needed diet!)

Don’t assume that everyone eats the same amount of food as you, and account for that in your planning.

Do Your Crew Have Allergies Or Dietary Requirements?

a man and a cat thinking about sailboat provisioning
Dietary requirements are a must know before sailboat provisioning

The last thing you want when crossing an ocean is to find out someone is seriously allergic to peanuts as you crack open a bag. Make sure you’re fully aware of any dietary needs before you shop.

If you’re taking vegetarians on board are they happy to cook and prepare meat for others or are you now a meat free boat? These are the sorts of things that should be thought through long before you do your sailboat provisioning.

This is also a good time to clear up your rules on drinking while on passage. Adam and I don’t sail and drink, but many people do and would expect to if you hadn’t been clear on your ship rules before hand.

What Facilities Do You Have On Board For Sailboat Provisioning?

three plates of salad on a sailboat, made after the sailboat has been provisioned
Do you have enough storage on board?

There is no point buying a freezer full of meat if you don’t have a freezer. There’s also no point buying food for a warming soup if you don’t have a blender, or ingredients for bread if you don’t have an oven.

Make sure you know what meals you can and can’t cook before you start to plan your meals.

How Much Storage Do You Have On Your Sailboat?

a girl looking at her sailboat thinking about sailboat provisioning before a long passage
How much space do you have on board for your sailboat provisions?

Regardless of how much space you have on board you’ll need to be sure you’re taking enough food and drink to feed your crew. Obviously. But there are clever ways to provision if you’re short on space and you’ll need to consider this before you head off to the shops with a list as long as your boat.

23 Great Tips For Sailboat Provisioning

Our top tips for sailboat provisioning so that you can learn from our mistakes!

#1 Preferences And Necessities For Sailboat Provisioning

a chocolate brownie that someone made from sailboat provisions
Ask for people’s fave food before you provision your sailboat

Food on passage is there for a few different reasons. The first and most important – to keep you alive and healthy and provide you with the energy you need while sailing. The second – to keep you warm. The third – to boost moral and bring comfort.

With this in mind try to plan your meals accordingly. Do you have a balance of fruit and vegetables, protein and carbohydrates? Have you planned enough warm meals that can be used on cold evenings and night shifts? Does everyone have the ingredients for their favourite meals while on passage?

It’s a good idea to ask your crew for two or three of their absolute favourite dishes. The things they would eat if they needed a pick me up. That way, everyone will have a couple of meals to really look forward to on passage.

#2 Rough Weather Cooking

rough weather sailing provisions
Sailboat provisioning for rough weather

No matter how long your passage you just never know when you’ll be caught out in conditions that make it hard to spend time below. Adam and I have been caught out too many times to mention, so now we always make sure we have something ready to eat on a passage, even if it’s just pre-sliced tomatoes, cheese and crackers.

If you’re heading off on a long passage then make a note of the meals you’ve provisioned for that would be great for rough weather sailing. Tinned soups and stews, jars of pasta sauce – anything that doesn’t involve chopping up vegetables or any real preparation. Try to save these meals for times when it’s hard to cook.

#3 Meal Plans For Sailboat Provisioning Prep

Now that you’ve worked out all the logistics of the food needs on board you can start to think about provisioning your sailboat.

I am a sucker for lists, so at this point I would start to make meal plans for each day. You don’t need to stick religiously to eating certain meals on certain days but it’s a good idea to try and stick to the actual meals. Otherwise you end up with a very odd mixture of food towards the end of the passage, when decent meals are arguably the most important.

Remember that if you’re on a long passage you won’t be able to take enough fresh goods to last the whole passage (if you don’t have a freezer). Try to plan some healthy meals that can be made from canned vegetables as well as fresh. Things like soups and stews are great for this, but there are lots of other inventive meals you can concoct from tinned and jarred goods.

#4 Batch Cook Before You Leave

a batch of sailboat provisions
Batch cook your sailboat provisions

Even if you’re just heading off on a day sail it’s always a good idea to have food prepared in case it’s too rough to spend a lot of time below. On a longer passage this is even more important.

If you have a freezer then you can batch cook meals to store in the freezer and pull out when the conditions worsen, but if you only have a fridge then you won’t have this luxury.

Depending on how good your fridge is, you can batch cook several evening meals to start you off. Things like lasagne or cottage pie are great, because they’re super fiddly to make on passage but they keep well in the fridge and are easy to heat up in the oven. They’re the sort of meals you probably won’t have again so make them before you leave and enjoy them in the first few days.

#5 Prep Meals With Long Lasting Vegetables

some vegetables bought for sailboat provisioning
Some vegetables can be prepped in advance

So you’ve batch cooked enough for several meals, but what then? You can pre-prep some meals that will be ready to chuck in a pan out of longer lasting vegetables to reduce prep time under way.

Things like carrots and squashes will last a reasonable amount of time after being cut, so make some zip lock bags of soup or stew mixes including things like chopped carrots, broccoli, butternut squash and spinach. Then chuck in a stock cube and any dry goods you like, like lentils or pasta. All you need to do is throw the mix into a pan with some boiling water and you’ve got yourself a tasty stew with zero prep or mess underway!

#6 Take A Recipe Book

If you or your crew love to cook then a passage is sometimes the perfect time to get stuck into making a new recipe. I don’t get sea sick from being down below so when the weather is calm I’ll often take the opportunity to do some baking.

Having a recipe book or two on board is a great time filler. Pick a few delicious looking recipes before you head off and make sure you include the ingredients in your sailboat provisioning shop. Then you can get creative underway!

Our favourite sailing cookbooks so far are The Boat Cookbook and The Boat Galley Cookbook

#7 Prepare A Dinner Schedule

a person cooking on a sailboat
Who will cook and when?

Some people make a schedule for sinner and lunch but we prefer to just make a dinner schedule. Breakfast and lunch are help yourself meals, or just whoever feels like cooking. But dinner is the meal that you know when your turn is up!

The person who cooks the food also cleans up after. You’ll find they use a lot less pots and pans when they’re cooking if they’re cleaning too – funny that!

#8 Vacuum Pack

When you vacuum pack food it lasts longer in the fridge or freezer, and you can pick up a small vacuum pack system from Amazon for not too much money. You can vacuum seal your meats and cheese to make them last longer, but you can also vacuum seal a lot of different fruit and veg. Find out more here.

Make sure you buy a decent stock of vacuum pack bags too and your food should keep for even longer, meaning you can make extra ready made meals for ease on passage!

#9 Great Freezer Foods

If you’re lucky enough to have a freezer on board then you will have a lot more flexibility when it comes to sailboat provisioning. There are the obvious things to freeze like fish and meats, or any ready made meals you’ve prepared, but here are a few other foods that work great once they’ve been frozen and are always great to have on board.

  • Milk. Freeze in cartons and defrost in the fridge, ready to drink!
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Hummus. Layer it with olive oil before you freeze and use within four months.
  • Bread
  • Fruit. Blend into a smoothie before you leave and freeze in an ice cube tray. This is a great way to ensure you’re getting a range of vitamins on passage!

#10 Catch Your Own

a sailor girl holding a fish to provision the sailboat with
Be prepared to catch your own food

You really can’t rely on catching fish while sailing, but it’s a great moral boost when you do! If you catch a decent sized fish it can feed you for literally days.

Make sure you bring some basic fishing equipment when you set off on passage. We use a yoyo and this lure, which has been recommended to us time and time again and has caught us some really decent fish.

It’s worth doing a little research about the kind of fish you might catch in the area you’re sailing in, as different fish bite different lures and at different speeds.

#11 Make Some Sailboat Provisioning Snack Packs

a sailboat provisioning snack pack with sweets
Make sailboat provisioning snack packs to ration treats

One of the best tips we were given about sailboat provisioning was to make snack packs. We fill a shopping bag with treats for every week we’re out sailing, and once it’s finished that’s it for the week. This means you don’t motor through all your snack rations in one week and then spend a few miserable weeks with no treats!

If you have someone like Adam on board, it’s worth making individual snack bags or boxes. That way, you get a fair share of the goodies! If you go down this route, you can get each crew member to fill their own snack bags so everyone has their own favourite treats to look forward to throughout the passage. Just make sure you name them!

#12 Buy Long Lasting Veggies

Buy vegetables that will last a long time so that you’ll have fresh food to eat even at the end of a long passage. Plan your meals accordingly, so that you eat up the fruit and veggies that will go bad quickly and save the longer lasting ones for later.

We find it helps if we put the shorter life span foods nearer the top of our top loading fridge.

  • Red cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Butternut squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions
  • Apples

#13 Remove Packaging When Your Provision Your Sailboat

We have storage containers for a lot of food on board, and we empty everything into these and get rid of the packaging before we leave on a longer passage. This saves space and cuts down massively on the waste you’ll have to carry around.

You can use empty water bottles to squash non-biodegradable waste into – squashing it in tightly will help you save lots of space on board.

#14 Take Some Sailboat Provisioning Ration Packs

If you’ve ever tried ration packs you’ll know they’re actually not too bad, and they’re designed to give maximum nutrition in very small containers, so they are actually perfect for sailboat provisioning.

They’re a great peace of mind item to have on board, they you probably won’t end up using but that last for ages and can be used in emergencies. I think every sailboat should have a little stash of these on board!

The other thing to consider buying is Huel. This powder is a nutritionally complete meal in powdered form. You just mix with water and that’s it. It contains a balance of protein, carbs, essential fats, fibre, all 26 essential vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, kombucha, pre- and probiotics, so you’re getting all you need in a shake like form. I have to admit that I don’t love the taste, but you kind of get used to it, and it’s a great way to know you’re getting all the nutrients you need on passage.

#15 Some Long Lasting Sailboat Provision Food Ideas

a prawn curry with rice
Make sure you have long-lasting food on board

These foods can be stored anywhere and they last for absolutely ages. It’s worth getting a stash of some of these foods for longer passages or just to have on board for those times when you can’t get to the shops!

  • Wraps
  • Instant soup, noodles or cereal where you can just add water
  • Pre-made pancake mix
  • Pre-made cake packs – you usually just add eggs and water
  • Bake at home baguettes

#16 Bring Hydration Drops When You Provision Your Sailboat

It’s so easy to forget to drink enough while you’re on passage. Along with getting into the pattern of making regular teas and coffees for the crew, you should take along some re-hydration packs just in case.

Another great tip is to make drinks a little more exciting by bringing powdered squash like the Lipton Ice Tea sachets. They last forever and they’re tiny to store, but they give a bit of variety to plain old water. Lemon juice bottles are another great way of adding flavour to drinks while on passage.

#17 Keep A Private Stash!

some sailboat provisioning treats hidden in a basket
Hide some treats away just for you!

Hide away a few naughty treats just for you. That way, when you need a real pick me up you’ll know where to find it! Chocolate is my go to, but you could stash away any non-perishable to snack away on in times of need!

#18 Practice Your Bread Making Skills Before Sailboat Provisioning

There is nothing quite like freshly baked bread on passage, and bread is one of those things that goes off so quickly. Have a few practice runs at anchor so you know you really have the technique sorted. Then just make sure you have plenty of flour and yeast on board and you’re good to go! Bread is also an easy thing to shove in a bowl and knead in the cockpit if it’s a little rolly.

#19 Bring Some Vitamin Tablets

It’s not always easy to eat a balanced meal on board a sailboat, especially at the end of a long passage. When you’re buying local produce they don’t always have the range of foods that you’d find at a chain supermarket either, so sometimes stocking up isn’t easy.

You can go a little way to getting more of the vitamins and minerals that you need by taking supplements. I find I’m usually lacking in iron, so I always have vitamin and iron tablets on board. Multi-vitamin tablets are small and light but a great addition to whatever nutrients you’re managing to pull from tinned and canned goods once the fresh supplies have run out.

#20 Grow Your Own

some herbs growing on board a sailboat
Grow your own herbs on board

Ok, growing plants on a sailboat isn’t the easiest, but we’ve made our herbs last a pretty long time on Hot Chocolate (ours are still going strong after 2 months). Take a few choice fresh herbs with you, put them in a decent sized pot and hang them somewhere convenient.

Our coriander has done great hanging outside but our basil hated the wind and lives in the galley now. They don’t take much water to keep them alive, and even better if it rains and you can store and use that to water them.

If you’re a keen gardener then you should look into hydroponics as a more permanent way to grow your own on board.

#21 Consider Every Scenario

a cake on a wooden table
Have you got a back up if things go wrong?

If you’re sailing offshore then it’s worth running through every scenario to make sure you’re fully prepared.

Where food is concerned – Do you have enough ready to eat food if your oven breaks? Or do you have an alternative cooking method? What if your freezer or fridge dies and all the food there spoils?

Even if you have a water maker, you shouldn’t rely on it. Water is essential and if your water maker broke mid passage (which they’re known to do!) you would be in serious trouble!

Make sure there is enough water in your tanks for everyone, and bring some containers of water too just in case. We have a large double fridge so we fill one side with water bottles and we fill two 20l containers with water and store them in the shower too!

#22 Great Sailboat Provisioning Gadgets

galley gadgets you'll want when provisioning your sailboat
Some gadgets are worth the extra space they take up

If you have room on board then consider buying some of these galley equipment gadgets before you provision your sailboat. A couple of cooking aids will help you to make a wider variety of food, and keep the meals on passage more interesting. Extra cooking equipment is also a great backup, and useful for batch cooking before you leave.

Soda Stream – If you’re a fan of fizzy drinks like me then a soda stream will actually save you space and money in the long run. Rather than stocking up on bottles of fizzy pop for that moral boost, you can just turn your drinking water fizzy instead! You can flavour your fizzy water with squash or lemon juice, or you can buy special syrups. It’s a real treat to have a cold, fizzy drink at sunset on a long passage!

Slow Cooker – We don’t actually have a slow cooker but we know so many people that swear by them that I thought I should include it here. Slow cookers are a great sailboat galley gadget whether you’re on a long passage of not. They take very little energy and will just sit there and cook all day so you’re food is ready come the evening! Plus they’re the perfect oven backup in case something goes wrong.

Solar Cooker – If you’re going to sailing in sunny climates then a solar cooker is great for always, not just on passage. They work a little like a slow cooker, cooking over the course of the day, and they’re really handy for sailboat life as you don’t have to be slaving away in the heat of the galley.

Blender – A compact blender is the perfect thing to have on board at all times, and especially on passage or before a long trip. You can make all sorts in a blender and they give you meal variety you just can’t get without one. We use ours mostly for making fruits and smoothies (and celebration cocktails too!)

Dehydration Machine – This is an awesome sailboat provisioning gadget if you have room for it. You can make so many tasty snacks and meals that will last in this handy little machine. If you go for it then buy a recipe book to go alongside so you can make the most of everything it has to offer.

#23 Sailboat Provisioning For Pets

In all the rush to prepare for the people on board, make sure you don’t forget to provision your sailboat for any pets on board too. Make sure you have plenty of the food they’ll eat and any extras like treats and litter too. You don’t want to be caught short half way across a sea!

Extra Tips For Sailboat Provisioning

some food for sailboat provisioning
Extra tips for sailboat provisioning

Alongside provisioning the sailboat with food, you need to provision the sailboat with all the vital extras. Things like toilet roll spring to mind! You’ll also want to consider ways to cut down on the washing and cleaning while on passage. Here are a few handy tips!

Named Flasks

Named flasks are a great way to cut down on the amount of cups and mugs you get through. They’re also so much better for rough weather. Make sure you have enough flasks on board for all the crew (or get them to bring their own) and make sure they’re all different or named. ""” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”>These are great because they come in lots of different colours, they’re cheap and they’re perfect for hot or cold drinks depending on your preference!

Camping Bowls

Get some camping bowls for rough weather. These are great because they fold down for easy storage, they’re easy to wipe clean, they’re big enough to only fill half full for rougher weather and they have a lid. If you’re passing around bowls of hot food on a boat that’s rocking around all over the place, having a lid is super handy! They also double up to be great storage containers for left overs.

Portable Bidet

If you’re short on space but have plenty of water then consider buying a portable bidet. It sounds a little weird, but think how much space you’ll save and how much less waste you’ll produce! They’re super cheap, so even if you don’t use it all the time it’s a great thing to have on a sailboat!

Hopefully there’s some tips you can take away to help you with your sailboat provisioning! Let us know if you’ve found this useful or have any to add in the comments below, and if you enjoyed this article then follow us for more sailing tips!
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