Planning for a long voyage means knowing exactly how much food you will need to get by, even after you reach shore.

May 13, 2015
Frances in her element at a clinic in La Paz. Michael Robertson

Years ago I worked with a guy who once spent three months in Japan on a programming assignment. He wasn’t an adventurous eater. Before leaving, he packed three months’ worth of food in his checked luggage. It was all he ate for the duration of his contract.

I remember hearing his story and being aghast. I mean, do you really want to be that insulated? Exploring a place and a culture means exploring the food its people eat. Yet I’d wager most cruisers begin their voyaging lives by over-provisioning. Instead of stuffing our checked luggage with familiar food, we stuff our lockers. There may be security in those stores, but they’re usually unnecessary and often go unused. After all, there will be plenty of people on your path who are eaters too. Food will be available.

But I think there are exceptions to any cautions about over-provisioning. If your cruising plans have you transiting the Northwest Passage or freezing your boat into the ice for the long, dark months above the Arctic Circle, you’d better bring everything with you. And if you’re getting ready to sail west into the Pacific like we are, it’s good to stock up also.


We’re looking at about a three- to four-week sail between Mexico and French Polynesia, so we’ll need at least enough food, water, and toilet paper to last that time. Once we arrive, we’ll face another hurdle. I’ve heard the residents of French Polynesia eat food, but the prices for nearly all imported items (and nearly everything but local fruit and baguettes is imported) are understandably exorbitant. We could eat like the locals, but my understanding is that their diet isn’t particularly diverse—heavy on the starches, meat, and local fruits, at best.

One of the vets doing surgery in an outdoor basketball court in the community center. Michael Robertson

So we’re leaving Mexico with our lockers stuffed to the gills. I thought it would be interesting for many if I quantify that. Despite our small living space, we can stow a surprising quantity of stuff aboard. Here is a small sampling of the consumables we’ve provisioned so far (more to come, including perishables, over the coming 10 days):

  • 126 jumbo rolls of toilet paper
  • 96 liters of milk
  • 96 boxes of crushed tomatoes
  • 14 liters of olive oil
  • 21 bottles of red wine
  • 120 cans of lager
  • 48 boxes of tofu
  • 50 pounds of flour
  • 50 pounds of dried beans of all kinds
  • 1 pound of dry sundried tomatoes
  • 2 pounds of dried mushrooms
  • 1 pound of cinnamon
  • 25 pounds of whole rolled oats
  • 6 gallons of white vinegar (we use it for cleaning)
Six volunteer vets and their techs came to the clinic to help out. Michael Robertson

Additionally, I’ve packed in consumables for our diesel engine. This includes 8 gallons of engine oil, 4 oil filters, 6 quarts of transmission fluid, and lots of fuel filters.

Former cruisers and family friends visited La Paz and gave a rundown on the South Pacific. Michael Robertson

Another note that may be of interest to future cruising families reading this: we aren’t particularly organized. Contrary to the guidance offered in the popular cruising manuals, we aren’t making detailed lists of what we’re stowing where (and certainly not maintaining an inventory such that we update our stock list as we consume things). I guess my thinking is that it will be more fun to spend half a day looking for a jar of mayonnaise you know is someplace, only to stumble happily upon three jars of pesto you do not remember buying. Nor are we stripping labels off cans, labeling them with a sharpie, and varnishing them. This is how we roll. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

One of the last Wednesday night soccer games in La Paz. Michael Robertson

In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we lived the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Click here to read more from the Log of Del Viento.


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