Set­ting Sail

Pro­vi­sion wisely

SAIL - - Contents -

Hope­fully, Carolyn Shear­lock’s pro­vi­sion­ing tips this month (p. 45) will help those of you who, like me, are use­less at stock­ing their boats for a cruise of any du­ra­tion. Ba­con, eggs, cheese, a cou­ple of steaks, a hand­ful of onions and a loaf or two of bread, and I’m good to go. A cou­ple of days later I’m pulling long-for­got­ten cans out of the lock­ers, won­der­ing what culi­nary mas­ter­piece I can throw to­gether from pick­led beets, ar­ti­chokes, peas and a sus­pi­ciously rusty tin of Spam. In the end it’s usu­ally sar­dines on toast, washed down with the kind of las­tre­sort boxed red that leaves you with pink teeth and an ache be­hind the eyes.

I should know bet­ter, be­cause I’ve sailed with some first-rate sea cooks and eaten like a prince (rather than a pris­oner) on most of the long pas­sages I’ve sailed. On shore, I can twirl a spat­ula with the best of them. It’s just that I lose in­spi­ra­tion at sea. Es­pe­cially when it’s rough, food be­comes a duty, not a plea­sure.

I know I’m not alone here. The sailor’s diet has tra­di­tion­ally been a dull one. Our an­ces­tors sailed the world on a regime of ship’s bis­cuit, salt meat and dried peas, with a splash of lime juice in the daily rum tot to keep scurvy at bay. (This is still not a bad idea.) When the prime con­sid­er­a­tion is the calo­ries, not the method of de­liv­ery, you tend to cut to the bare es­sen­tials, and it is quite sur­pris­ing how well you can sur­vive on a fairly lim­ited diet.

One of my sail­ing he­roes, Bill King, a Bri­tish wartime sub­ma­rine com­man­der who raced in the orig­i­nal Golden Globe, sus­tained him­self solely on a mix­ture of al­mond paste and dried fruit and legumes that he called bur­goo, bright­ened up with bean sprouts cul­ti­vated in his dank cabin. (I can only imag­ine his joy at har­vest time.) King lived to be 102, thus prov­ing his own point. Mi­cro-boat sailor Sven Yrvind is about to set off around the world fueled only by sar­dines and muesli. There must be some­thing about solo sail­ing that de­stroys taste buds.

I fondly re­call a char­ter in Tonga’s Va’vau is­lands a few years ago, where we found pre­cious lit­tle in the way of in­ter­est­ing pro­vi­sions in the port’s mar­kets. The first night, we hooked a wa­hoo the length of my leg and, away from the civ­i­liz­ing in­flu­ence of spouses, promptly re­gressed to ba­sic hunter-fish­er­men; the three of us ate lit­tle but that fish for three days, first as sashimi, then ce­viche, then grilled, with only ba­con and eggs in the morn­ings to re­lieve our fishy diet. It was su­perb eat­ing, and we cared not at all when the greens ran out. A cou­ple of small skip­jack pro­vided enough va­ri­ety for an­other night.

Dr. Atkins would cer­tainly have ap­proved, for our clothes got looser by the day, but truth to tell, by the time we hooked a fat yel­lowfin tuna to­ward the end of the week we were about fished out; we took that beau­ti­ful 25-pounder to the near­est (only) restau­rant we could find and traded it for three ham­burger din­ners, with ex­tra fries and a large salad. I think by then we were also han­ker­ing after muesli, but most cer­tainly not sar­dines. s

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