In a long-distance voyage, reprovisioning is a constant preoccupation every time a land is touched: the boat is constantly chock-full of foodstuff, both in preparation for long passages and because you never know when you will have your next opportunity to do some shopping!
At the same time, shopping around is a good way to merge into the locals’ way of living, an experience that a conventional tourist, flying-in and then locking himself inside an hotel, will miss entirely.
– DURATION OF STORES: you may say that boats are divided in two cathegories, those equipped with a freezer (and the genset needed to power it), and those without.
The obvious benefit of a freezer is the ability to deep-freeze and then stock for long times relatively large quantities of fresh food (especially meat) that would last only few days inside a fridge. The equally obvious disadvantage is that in case of a power failure you may have to jettyson all the freezer’s content, and in our experience a gen-set failure is a relatively likely occurrence…
The refrigerator on most boats is not very large, so its primary purpose is to cool the day’s drinks and store a limited quantity of food, such as butter, cheese, ham, that need to be stored in a cool place; as a consequence, most food stores need to be of a kind that can be preserved for long periods at ambient temperature.
Somewhat surprisingly, most fruit can last for a relatively long time, if stored in a well-ventilated place and regularly checked to remove those fruits that begin to go bad; for this purpose, we used a large netting, hung hammock-style along the main cabin, where we could store our fruit provisions even for the longest passages. Apples are among the longest-lasting, and can be found everywhere.
Besides fresh fruit, we carried also a lot of fruit-juices, preferably those in one-dose packages which can be stored everywhere, and tinned fruit (which we actually seldom used, often just when it was approaching the expiry date!).
Milk, of the long-lasting UHT variant, can be found everywhere and lasts for several months, so we always had a large stock; once opened, bottles need to be stored in the fridge, so small bottles may be more convenient but are harder to find.
Biscuits and chocolate bars, which last for long periods, were well appreciated for quick snacks, as well as donuts and other stuff to accompany the daily “happy hour” near sunset.
Most foodstuff had to be of the long-lasting variety: vacuum-packed, dehidrated, tinned. In our supermarkets, which take refrigerator and freezer for granted, there is not much choice, but as soon as you get a little father away, you can find a large variety (meat and vegetables, but also ready-meals, pasta, and a lot of other “delicacies”).
Pasta lasts for a long time, but surprisingly we used it very seldom, mostly when dining together with other crews; for daily use, it just takes too much fresh water and gas, so we rather opted for the pre-cooked and pre-seasoned, dried variant which in Italy would be considered an heresy but around the world is relatively easy to find.
– WHERE TO GO SHOPPING: times change! Other than in very remote (or un-hinabited…) places, even in very simple villages you will find a shop or a mini-market, probably owned by an indian or chinese immigrant (the locals often have no inclination towards running a business…), where fresh food and at least basic long-lasting foodstuff can be found (although the flavours may be somewhat chinese-oriented…).
Where possible, a visit to the local markets is a worthwhile experience, although it might be advisable to limit your shopping to fresh fruits and vegetables (and maybe a few eggs), while steering well clear from meat and fish which may have been exposed to heat and legions of flies for several hours!
Once every two- or three months you may stop in a place where a large, european-style hypermarket is available (albeit often not near your mooring area) where you will be able to restock on all less-easily found delicacies. You may need a car, or a taxi, to reach the place and to carry all your shopping back, but it will be worth it!
– WHAT CAN BE FOUND:
Contrary to our expectation, some items are easy to find even in remote places, so no need to stock-up too much:
– Milk (the UHT variant)
– Bottled water (incredible, but it’s available everywhere!)
– Beer: even in countries that discourage alcohol, beer is readily available (although sometimes only to foreigners); often there are good-quality local brands manufactured under supervision from some big-name brewers, so you may bring home a collection of peculiar bottles!
– Meat: poultry, and in some areas goat, are ubiquitous.
– WHAT CANNOT BE FOUND:
Similarly, there are some items which are difficult to find or very expensive, such as:
– Sparkling bottled water: in many places it’s considered a luxury beverage, just like wine or liquor, and priced accordingly!
– Meat: in most places fresh cow and pork meat is not readily available, although you may find them in canned form; in some countries either one or the other is outright forbidden.
– Wine: almost everywhere it’s very expensive, often of mediocre quality, and sometimes just impossible to find.
– Spirits: same story, hard to find, little selection to choose from and very expensive.
– Vacuum-packed ham is obviously not available in Muslim countries, although sometimes non-pork-meat based alternatives may be available.
– Bread: somewhat surprisingly, it’s not always easy to find, other than perhaps industrial sliced-bread.