One of the last steps you do before leaving the US on your sailboat is to provision.  Provisioning means you supply your boat with food, drink or the equipment you need for the journey.

In this case, we plan to be cruising on Mahi, our Taswell 43, in the Bahamas for about 5 months before returning to the US.  Not sure if we can fit that much food on board, but will bring enough food and drink to last a couple of months.  So, how do we organize our provisions on board?

Buying Provisions 

You start by writing down, or creating in an Excel spreadsheet, meals and items you consume on a regular basis.  Include food, drinks, cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, and paper products such as Kleenex, toilet tissue, etc.    Over a period of time, keep adding to your list.

Where you buy depends on your location. The boat is currently in Fort Lauderdale, FL, so we have access to Costco, Publix, Trader Joe’s, and similar stores.   On some islands in remote locations, provisioning might mean waiting for the supply boat to bring fresh produce or goods.

topbunkWhere to Stow?

Fortunately, our sailboat is unique as it has an upper bunkbed in the forward cabin not found on any other Taswell 43. Cecil and MaryAnne, the original owners of our boat, shared that this was an option offered to them by their Taswell dealer in Texas back in 1992. The bunkbed set up has turned out to be a blessing as it provides lots of provisioning space. Room for twelve bins, to be exact. One bin holds some spare parts, one holds toys and games for Ethan, leaving 10 bins for organizing the food.

floorboardI am currently experimenting with organizing each bin by the week.  For instance, the first bin will hold all the Week 1 dinner items, and any leftover space will hold Week 1 cereal or snacks.  Next bin, week 2 dinners, etc.  Will let you know how this works out.

In addition, we use every nook and cranny to store food, including under the floor boards, under settee, and in all the cupboards.

We often use waterproof plastic small storage bins  (Lock & Lock or similar brand) to keep items stowed dry.  We also utilize double bagging with freezer ziplock bags, also to help in grouping some items.  This keeps moisture out of the food item, plus also any pests that may have migrated on board.

longlifemilkWe also have a vacuum packing system on Mahi, which we purchased at Costco.  I use this for storing dry items such as rice, flour, sugar, plus meats for the freezer.

Because we have a 4 year old on board, we have to store long-life milk in UHT containers.  This cupboard space has room for more containers, which is good because I just bought whole milk UHT today at Publix grocery store.

Reducing Packaging

To save on space, you remove any unnecessary chilibeforepackaging where you can.  This includes getting rid of cardboard boxes, and labels.  Not only does it save space, but cardboard is said to sometimes carry cockroach eggs and labels will disintegrate over time.

To give you a real life example, look at the before image of the Chili Kit.  I removed all the cardboard, placed them into the freezer quality ziplock bags, cut off the recipe, and reduced the amount of storage space required to stow this item.


Notice that in marking cans and ziplock bags, I use a sharpie permanent ink pen, and make sure to write the expire date as well.

Actually, when shopping for food, I will look for the product with the furthest expiration date.  This makes sense.

Other Tips:  Bring on board your own bags, including a wagon cart to haul it from boat to dingy.  Right now, we are fortunate in that we have our truck.

Keep in mind that buying the needed items,  hauling it from store to boat, reducing packaging and marking, then stowing away in place takes time.  If you are doing this for the first time, plan accordingly so time doesn’t run short.

Last Minute Items:  The day before we leave, we will buy all the perishables- fruit and vegetables, bread items, eggs, etc.  I will also be cooking for the first few nights aboard and planning for easy to make meals in case any crew feels queasy.

I hope this provides an overview on provisioning for all my non-sailing friends, or brand new cruisers.  Regards, Carla


  11 comments for “Provisioning

  1. farmquilter
    February 1, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Excellent suggestions for anyone going on a long cruise!! Love the way you reduced the volume with the boxed items – makes sense for anyone with limited pantry space! Time for a book on cruising, from the first step to casting off and beyond! This would also make a great book for you to write as a fiction or nonfiction of your cruising!! Keep a good diary of everything!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. February 1, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Great tips! Your storage system looks awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 1, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Will tell you how it works! Today I bought another $400 US worth of groceries and now need to organize and stow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. February 1, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    You go, girl!!!!
    Roberta Breuer

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 2, 2016 at 1:19 am

      Roberta, so eager to leave!! 😀


  4. Barbara Kiehn
    February 2, 2016 at 2:10 am

    You are so organized!! Amazing ~~ looks like you’ve thought of everything. Certainly the packing of the food is very space efficient. Smooth sailing ahead.


  5. Bambi Mayer
    February 2, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I am so enjoying following along on your adventure and want to thank you for sharing it with us. I wanted to pass along something that I learned from the woman who runs a food pantry in our community, which is approved by and affiliated with the San Antonio Food Bank (so I have to assume this is accurate information). Non perishable food is safe for two years plus nine months past the expiration date, according to her. I certainly will keep this in mind when I clean my pantry from now on–I hate thinking about all of the food I have wasted because I discarded it based on expiration date.


    • February 2, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Hi Bambi, thank you for your helpful tip and comment! Coincidentally, Joe and I plan to volunteer at our local food bank once we stop cruising. So much need in communities. Thanks for following along our adventure!


  6. Joan
    February 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Way to go Carla.. What a lot of organising for you.. You must be off soon ?


    • February 3, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Yes, it looks like a weather window will be opening up early next week. So excited!!


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