Provisioning A Live Aboard Boat

Provisioning A Boat

Provisioning as a live aboard sailor can be a daunting task. We have now done a full blown provision 2 times during our sailing adventure while living aboard our catamaran. We did one before we left Florida last year, and then once again just last week as it had been a full year since our last one and our stock on the boat was running quite low.

We have also had the unique experience to provision as a charter guest as well. In August of 2016 Matt and I along with some friends charted a Moorings catamaran in the BVIs. For those of you who have never chartered a boat, provisioning for a vacation on a charter boat is significantly different than provisioning for your life aboard your own boat. 

Provisioning: A Charter Boat 

We had 3 carts full of items for our two week vacation, and this was only the initial food shopping. We ended up hitting a store every few days during our trip. 💲💲💲

We had 3 carts full of items for our two week vacation, and this was only the initial food shopping. We ended up hitting a store every few days during our trip. 💲💲💲

When we chartered the moorings boat a few years back, we viewed the sailing adventure as a vacation, and therefore provisioning for the two week adventure was more like a ‘free for all’ in the grocery store, where all five of us on board put ANYTHING we wanted into the cart; practical or not! Despite our best effort to get everything we needed in Tortola before departing, we still found ourselves eating out and "re provisioning" at stops along the way. The first provision, of three grocery carts, was pretty expensive, but I’m sure you can only imagine what it is like when you get to remote islands and small local grocery stores. Any thought of a budget quickly gets thrown out the window. 

Provisioning: A Live Aboard Boat

Two years later as a live aboard sailors, provisioning takes on a whole new meaning. When we provisioned in Florida last fall, before heading to the Bahamas, we were shoppers with a purpose! We went into the store with a list of supplies and quantities, of the items we would want for the next six months in the Bahamas. For our first time provisioning as ‘live aboards’ we did a pretty good job, as almost a year later we still have a few of the original canned goods (mostly pie filling, because I think Matt was really hoping I would cook more pies:). We ate through all of our frozen foods quite quickly, so we did have to go to a grocery store here an there in the Bahamas to get fresh produce and replenish a bit, but overall our stock suited us well.

This time, in the Dominican Republic, we approached provisioning in much the same way. Prior to heading to the store, we sorted through everything we had left on the boat and then made a very long list of items that we felt we needed or needed more of and the quantities of each that we wanted. The hardest part of provisioning in this foreign country is finding all of the items that we wanted/ needed to restock our pantry; there were a few items we had to sacrifice and agreed that we could look for them at our next stop. We were able to build up our stock in canned goods, and other non-perishable items, and I plan to stock up on produce each time we make a stop on the next leg of our journey. We know that the Dominican Republic will have the cheapest prices we will see until we are through the Caribbean so we are hoping that our stock pile will be sufficient for the next six month of our journey. 

Provisioning Tips

  • Prepare a detailed list, with quantities

We have found that preparing a list is a MUST, otherwise you end up like charters, flying down each aisle and throwing in anything that you 'want,’ not thinking about practicality or your budget.

  • Prepare a list for each stop you make

Provisioning doesn’t always mean buying food, it is important to think about all the stops you will have to make in order to get everything you need. One stop for us included filling our jerry cans with diesel and dinghy fuel.

Provisioning doesn’t always mean buying food, it is important to think about all the stops you will have to make in order to get everything you need. One stop for us included filling our jerry cans with diesel and dinghy fuel.

You will find that it is often hard to find EVERYTHING you need in one place, so make sure you have a list of items you need from each different location you plan to go to. It is very frustrating to leave a store, only to realize that you forgot one item. Sometimes you have the ability to go back to pick up what you need, but when traveling transportation is often costly (rental car or taxi) so being prepared is key. 

  • Have a budget in mind  

At the end of the day, a live aboard budget and a charterer’s budget are VERY different. I think we spent as much on our two week vacation as we did for the six months we planned on being in the Bahamas, but as guests on a charter boat it was a 2 week vacation and back to work we went. Now as live aboards, there is no work to go back to so we have to stretch every dollar we can. Being calculated at the grocery store is a must. 

  • give up name brands

As much as we love our name brand items, sometimes we find that giving up the brand name will save us a few bucks. Although it doesn’t always taste the same, we are willing to change our appetite a bit to support our budget. 

  • think about where you will store things

If you live aboard a boat you know that storage space is sometimes limited. Before you head out to the store, look at your list and make sure you have a place you will be able to store all of the things you buy. We are lucky enough to have a catamaran so we have the luxury of two extra cabins for storage, and believe me we are usually utilizing at least one of them each time we do a large provision. 

Provisioning doesn’t need to be hard or stressful, its just long term grocery shopping. Come back tomorrow to see how we store frozen items, and how we manage to fit a month’s worth of frozen items in one freezer.

Happy shopping!😀👍🏻