Charter Provisioning in the Covid-19 Era

Although things might look a little different these days, vacation sailors still have options for stocking the boat.

November 19, 2020
Stowing groceries
Whether you choose to have your provisions delivered or shop for them yourself, once the groceries are aboard, it’s time to organize and stow. Jon Whittle

As you think about your dream charter, what do you envision? There’s sailing, swimming, snorkeling, walking the beach, and great meals in the cockpit with a gorgeous view.

Those delicious meals and laugh-filled happy hours are some of my favorite memories. So let’s talk about how to provision for a charter trip, with some special notes on provisioning in the COVID-19 era.

Depending on the charter base, the typical provisioning options include:

  • Provisioning through the charter company, either with preplanned-meal options or a grocery list. Groceries are delivered right to your boat.
  • Using a provisioning company or provisioning service at a grocery store. Order online and your supplies will be delivered to your charter base. Some charter companies, such as the Moorings and Sunsail, are now requiring companies to drop off deliveries at the office to limit the number of people on the docks. Staff then deliver the supplies to your boat.
  • Going to local grocery stores in person, shopping and transporting it back to your boat. This is generally the least convenient, taking up a day of your trip, and is subject to any local COVID-19 regulations.

Bareboat chartering is a great way to get away while still staying reasonably safe from COVID-19, and provisioning through your charter company provides an extra measure of safety as well as convenience.

Embrace the local flavors! Limes and tropical fruits are typically abundant in Caribbean charter destinations and make a nice addition to meals. Jon Whittle

The Moorings and Sunsail have implemented measures to ensure that provisioning is as contactless as possible. “First, staff responsible for provisioning our yachts will undergo daily temperature checks and will be wearing proper personal protective equipment to limit contact as much as possible,” said Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for the two ­companies. “Once groceries are selected, they will be put into a sealed, disinfected container, and labeled with the date and time it was sealed. This ensures that from the time the items are taken from the shelves to when they are unloaded on the yacht, the only person who touches these items is the guest.”

If you want something not offered by the charter ­company, using a provisioning service to fill in items works well.


The good news is that there aren’t any major supply issues due to COVID-19 according to Dan Lockyer, vice president of global tourism for Dream Yacht Charters. Yes, toilet paper is readily available! However, it’s a fact of life on islands that something might be sold out on a given day. Always keep a copy of your provisioning list and check off items as you unpack the delivery.

It’s better to know something is missing while you’re still at the dock, when you can hopefully find an alternate source or a substitute. If not, you can at least plan for it.

Should you plan on eating some meals out? Check with your charter company to see if local restaurants are open and if there are any COVID-19 restrictions. If available, I’d opt for a couple of dinners or happy hours out. Most tropical destinations have wonderful outdoor restaurants, which considerably lessens the risk of dining in public.

Have a big crew to feed? Keep meals simple. Chicken tacos are a crowd-pleaser. Jon Whittle

In the past, some charter and provisioning companies would allow you to return unused items at the end of your trip for a partial refund. Most are not allowing it now as part of their COVID-19 restrictions. This can make it a little trickier to plan the “just right” amount for everything. For anything you’d really hate to run out of (yes, toilet paper, I’m looking at you again), I suggest buying a little more than you think you’ll need and give it to the charter-base workers at the end of the trip if it’s left over when you get back to the dock.

As you unpack your provisions, it’s helpful to label what meal each item is intended for. I also create a snack bin that is available to everyone whenever they want. This will help prevent unwelcome surprises such as discovering that all the cashews were eaten as snacks when you intended part of them for cashew chicken. I also wash all the produce and cut into pieces any that are intended to be snacks. Anything else that takes prep work I try to do also.

From drinks to snacks and produce, if you use a provisioning service, be sure to check off each item on the receipt as you unpack it. Jon Whittle

While it’s extra work while at the dock, this simplifies meal prep once underway. And that’s when I want to put together delicious meals quickly—there’s just too much other fun to be had!


Carolyn Shearlock is the author of The Boat Galley Cookbook, and the founder of She and her husband, Dave, are currently in the Florida Keys aboard their Gemini catamaran, Barefoot Gal. Through the years, they’ve chartered in the BVI, USVI, Turkey and Alaska.

Make A Plan

Consider planning each meal and making a list of all ingredient amounts needed to reduce waste at the end of your trip. Most provisioning companies aren’t currently allowing returns.


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