What worked well:
Food provisioning: From a provisioning/quartermaster standpoint, food prep and provisioning worked well overall. As on our 2016 ICW cruise, Paula pre-prepared a number of cooked entrees which were vacuum-sealed and frozen. This helped tremendously from a convenience and variety standpoint. We are particularly fortunate that Island Packet sailboats have more freezer space than is typical of many sailboats or even some larger power vessels. As our trip proceeded and we used up meals, Paula would wait until we were in a marina for several days and buy, cook, and freeze meat meals to replenish our supply. A partial list of meals appears below for those interested.
We were grateful that we went “overboard” and froze 6 lbs. of butter for the trip and brought large containers of several kinds of oil (extra virgin olive oil, “lite” olive oil, canola, peanut). We use a good bit of butter and extra virgin olive oil in cooking as we find these much tastier than substitutes. Not only was butter in very short supply in the small shops of the Exumas (and they are almost exclusively small shops), but cooking oils were also hard to come by and very dear (500ml bottle olive oil $16.00).
This trip Paula learned to make her own Greek-style yogurt in a thermos, as yogurt (which she uses a lot in sauces and cooking) was hard to find. She used the last bits of our own USA store-bought live culture yogurt for the first “starter” and canned evaporated milk. In preparation for our next trip, she is trying dry yogurt starter in packets, and powdered WHOLE milk (Fortificado brand has been highly recommended) as these will be lighter and less voluminous to store if they indeed produce good results.
Paper and plastic goods: We were forewarned that paper and plastic products are expensive and in short supply in the Bahamas. In the shops we visited there were often few or no paper goods for sale with the singular exception of the flip and lock-lid Styrofoam containers often seen used in US restaurants for take-home leftovers. These were everywhere, in huge packs, and my understanding is that this is what Bahamians use to pack lunches to take to work. We brought 42 rolls of paper towels, used them sparingly, and have 16 left and packed 47 rolls of marine toilet paper and used all but 10. We were similarly glad we stocked up on Ziploc-type bags in various sizes, as these we used them for food, non-food storage applications, (protecting documents and phones) etc. We used very few paper plates/bowls while at anchor, to save on the amount of trash made and have almost the whole supply we brought as “left overs”.
Propane: We used two 10-gallon propane tanks-full during our trip to power the oven and stove-top. We had 5 green Coleman cans to use for the grill, but the weather was so windy during our trip, we never used the grill.
Laundry: We were able to find and use laundry facilities on about half a dozen occasions, but most laundry was done by the bucket method. Here again, our quick-dry running clothes (Dri-fit) served us well. The water we used, either from our watermaker or marinas was all R/O water (reverse osmosis) and so soft that we used much less laundry detergent, soap, and shampoo than we had anticipated as everything sudsed with so little product. One of the decisions we had wrestled with when we first contemplated living aboard was whether to convert the aft head into a laundry with small washer/dryer. We decided in favor of retaining the second functioning head. Our trip reaffirmed that this was the correct decision for us, as having two heads was vitally useful when we had guests. Also, when underway, as the aft head is more convenient and safer to get to when conditions are sporty. Finally, the energy and water costs of washing and drying clothes by machine would have, in our minds, outweighed by far the amount of elbow grease and effort needed to wash, wring, and hang clothes. A caveat here is that our experience was in a breezy, tropical environment with lots of sun. In a cold, wet, cloudy clime, having access to an onboard dryer, at least for heavy clothes and towels, might have been much more important.
Grocery shopping: Shopping for groceries in the smaller Cays was very different from visiting a “supermarket” typical of the USA or available on a larger island such as New Providence (Nassau). Shopping meant taking the dinghy from C Ghost’s spot in the anchorage to a dock, walking to small shops with a back-pack, and buying what we could carry. This imposed a weight limit on our shopping trips and presented the issue of refrigerator/freezer items warming in transit. Once we had purchased, we often had a fair walk and dinghy ride back to the fridge and freezer in C Ghost.
Seafood: Surprisingly, we ate much less boat-prepared fish than we anticipated. Fresh fish is NOT available in the small Exumas shops. Paula had fantasies of providing a fishing and spearfishing bounty herself, but alas, she was singularly unsuccessful this trip. (see fishing gear section in the Captain’s post). For fresh fish, we needed to go to the dedicated fishing dock at the particular Cay or island where we were anchored. If the Cay was so small that they didn’t have a dedicated dock, you had to suss out the local fisherman at his home or fishing spot. This was all highly educational, and we very much recommend the humbling experience of haggling price for fresh fish with a man who speaks with a musical, half-comprehended patter, and who can instantly identify you as a tourist, as you and your mate are the only white people on the docks! The wonderful local people we came to know gave us this advice: Don’t smile, don’t be as friendly as you are now. Despite all this, AND the absence of any kind of scale or cash register at the docks, when we weighed our purchase at home, we almost always found that the negotiated price compared favorably (sometimes very favorably) with fresh fish prices at home. You can also save money if you are willing to clean your own fish, as the fisherman on the docks will gladly clean your fish for you for an additional $10.00.
Fruit and produce: Fresh produce was in similar short supply as it was almost exclusively brought in on the mail boats. Surprisingly, we saw almost no fruit or vegetable gardens on the islands in the Exumas. We don’t know if this is due to difficulty growing in the sandy soil, or a lack of preference for vegetables, or some other factor.
Bread and baked goods: Bread and bread-type products in the stores were either absent or expensive (loaf of bread $7.00). Although delicious breads and cakes were sold as an accompaniment to meals bought at restaurants or conch stands, they were not usually available for retail sale at those locations. Paula baked bread, biscuits, quick breads and made soft tortillas for sandwich wraps much more frequently than she ever did at home.
Trash: Paula found that she overbought plastic trash bags. As all trash must be removed from the islands by mail boat (no dumps or recycling that we could discern) leaving bags of trash on any island was accompanied by a fee, usually a few dollars on the honor system, but in some locales (e.g. Chub Cay) $20/bag. We tried to make as little trash as possible, and compressed what we had, so used few bags.
How we could have prepared better:
Bread: Paula found she hadn’t brought nearly enough yeast and flour and needed to buy these several times. She probably could have saved some money by stocking up at home. Fortunately, yeast and flour were readily available almost everywhere, and reasonably priced. However, flour is heavy and took up a lot of space and was a big load in our back-pack during shopping excursions. Adding up what she brought from home and what she bought in the Exumas, Paula used 20 lbs of flour for a trip that lasted just about 4 months!
Fruits and vegetables: Paula wishes she had brought more dried fruit. The latter is light, more easily stored than canned fruit, and can be used in cooking without turning to mush. As regards the dearth of fresh vegetables, before next trip she would like to experiment with some dehydrated vegetables. They are pricier than canned but stow more easily with less weight, and her research tells her they can be palatable if chosen with care and prepared in certain applications such as stews, soups, or to augment starches or grains. She is also considering trying some inexpensive sprouting trays to experiment with while we in the marina, to see if this is a practical method to provide some fresh greens of our own.
This trip, we used our own ice maker only a handful of times. Ice was in plentiful supply at any marina we encountered, and at reasonable cost, and in sizes that lasted us till the next marina stop. We are still happy we have it, but it was not essential on this trip.
Partial list of cooked, pre-prepared frozen meals:
- Shrimp with caper sauce
- chick parmigiana
- baked boneless skinless chicken thighs
- boneless skinless chicken thigh jerk seasoning
- chicken Tikka Masala
- chicken vegetable soup, homemade
- rosemary country style pork ribs
- country style pork ribs with jerk seasoning
- country ribs with sauerkraut
- barbecue pork
- sausage, meatball, vegetable pasta sauce, red
- whole cooked corned beef
- shallot mushroom sauce
- garlic macaroni and cheese
- souse (made in the Bahamas)
In addition, there were a number of raw, or as-purchased items:
- lots of bacon
- the 6 pound of butter mentioned above
- 4 pints heavy whipping cream
- 12 steaks wrapped in packages of two each
- thin-sliced deli salami
- sweet Italian saugage
- Kentucky Legend Turkey breast, sliced
- brussel sprouts
- greeen beans
- sliced fruit for Tommy’s morning smoothie: strawberries, banana, avocado
- soft tortillas
- 1 Stouffer’s meat lasagna (still unused)
- 1 Mama Michelina eggplant parmigiana (still unused)