When cruising north of the border, we enjoy anchoring Easy Goin’ in one of the many secluded coves, miles from the nearest dock. To do that, Arlene and I have learned the art of extended provisioning so we can enjoy well planned and nourishing meals while exploring the Inside Passage.
Keys to Extended Provisioning
- Food preservation and storage
- Legally border crossing
How to Begin Planning for Extended Provisioning
What provisions you stow onboard can have a significant impact on the quality of your trip. Our planning and provisioning starts weeks in advance, thereby allowing us to provision at our leisure and take advantage of sales and coupons. We start by drafting a two-week menu of a variety of easy-to-prepare meals and appetizers, which includes being prepared to invite fellow boaters onboard for a beverage and hors d’ oeuvres.
Regardless the size of the boat, space for food is usually at a premium and often inadequate. To help alleviate the problem we have turned the second stateroom into a commissary by removing the birth and added stackable plastic draws.
We prefer extended provisioning products in plastic rather than glass containers, limit canned goods due to disposal issues and weight, and purchase beer in cans because they can be stored easier and later recycling.
Dried, dehydrated or freeze-dried foods stow well. Tortillas make a good substitute for bread, lasting longer and take up less space. Many dry salamis and hard cheeses last without refrigeration if stored in a cool, dry location.
Alternate products – for example, powdered drinks – can replace those that take up refrigerator space. We purchase ultra-pasteurized milk that requires no refrigeration until opened. Un-popped popcorn and Pringles snacks use space more efficiently than bags of chips. Start thinking in these terms and you’ll be amazed at what you can carry onboard without changing your waterline.
Extended Provisioning North of the Border
Due to Canadian Customs regulations, we complete our provisioning north of the border. Canada has complex requirements, restrictions and limitations on the importation of meat, eggs, dairy products, honey, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other foods. For up-to-date information visit the Canada Border Services Agency.
Once across the border, we take a day to complete our provisioning. We stock up on those items we were unable to bring across the border. Thankfully, there are a number of good provisioning ports that have well-stocked stores within walking distance of the marina. Some stores will deliver your purchases to your boat. Others allow you to take a shopping cart to the dock.
We remove meats from their original packing and vacuum seal them in flat serving size portions, along with the label showing the origin of the product. Vacuum-sealing not only reduces trash onboard but extends the life of foods. Frozen foods don’t suffer freezer burn, and refrigerated foods spoil less quickly. You can also pack a lot more items in the freezer when they’re vacuum-sealed.
We take other food items out of packages and boxes and vacuum-seal, cutting out the cooking instructions and place them in the bag. We store rice, flour, sugar, coffee, tea, pancake mix, etc., in airtight plastic containers. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Beyond stackability, the containers are airtight, leak-proof and have secure tabs that latch on each side to ensure sealing.
Keeping fruits and vegetables from going bad early in an extended cruise can pose a problem as they release some amount of ethylene gas as they ripen. Special storage bags, such as Debbie Myer’s Green Bags, increase storage life for fruits and vegetables. These bags contain natural minerals that absorb the ethylene gas, as well as harmful carbon and ammonia gasses.
Some fruits and vegetables respond better to refrigeration than others. Items such as apples and lettuce will last for weeks when placed in one of these bags and stored in the refrigerator. Cabbages, thick-skinned citrus fruits, potatoes, yams, onions, garlic, gingerroot, acorn squash and carrots all do well stored in a cool location.
Whether you’re returning home or going beyond to Alaska, it’s best to review the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection to determine what you can legally bring in, especially since the regulations are frequently revised.