Food Provisioning
for the
                                      Pacific Crossing

Feb. 26 to March 15, 2002

Log: Anchored off Panama City at Flaminco Isle anchorage

We are now in the Pacific. It is a very different world than the Caribbean side and we are only 50 miles away. The canal is the place where cruisers divide. Some transit the canal to head across the Pacific, others north up the west coast. Some remain on the Caribbean side and head north to the states or around to the Windward islands. It is a time of mixed emotions saying goodbye to some and watching others already heading out to cross the Pacific ahead of us. That is the way of a cruising life. You are drawn to stay with friends on one side but feel left behind watching the others go on. But we have made our choice long ago. Already through the canal we are committed to our plan to sail the South Pacific.

There are maybe 40 or so boats in the Flaminco anchorage. We meet up with some of the west coast cruisers when we try to land our dinghy at a boat ramp. Many of them can not imagine going into the Caribbean as they have heard stories about weather and seas being so difficult. We heard the similar stories about the Pacific. But here we are, the first thing we notice… there are no docks to tie up to, only rocky shores and 15 foot tides. Most of these cruisers have special portable wheels to push their dinghy’s to the top of the ramp. We must carry ours, so use the little Tinker sailing dinghy with a small 3 HP Mercury engine we have had stowed while in the Caribbean. It is not an easy task and our feet are always wet from jumping out in the surf to get it hauled up above the tide line. This all proves to be a major issue as we are here to provision Ariel with enough food for many months.


When provisioning fellow cruisers sometimes find there is no room for the kids!

Flamingo Anchorage Loading up dinghy’s to ferry food to our yachts at anchor

Food provisioning is a very time consuming and tedious task. We must think about how much to take, where to stow it all, what will last and what will not, which items are the most important and in which quantity to buy not to mention getting it back to Ariel. First comes clearing out the old canned goods still aboard to rotate with the newer items. It is best to remove all paper labels as they usually become damp and fall off leaving one guessing what is for dinner. Dating the items is also important so that unused old food can be used first or disposed of if necessary. Exploding cans can be a very annoying clean up job. On the captains custom built boat Chiquita all the canned goods were left aboard when she was put on the hard in storage.  Ten years later we found the storage areas, fortunately epoxy lined, floating in a cesspool of decomposed sludge that took two days, a gas mask and rubber gloves to overcome.

 Ariel has many storage areas for supplies and it is tempting to fill each one to the maximum for once we reach the South Pacific islands food will be expensive or hard to get. This all makes for more difficult maneuvering when trying to find items that may be in the back or on the bottom. We have made up a computer inventory of food items so that crew or guests may find Ariel more user friendly. We have over 500 different consumable items so important to keep them stored together for easy finding. Ariel is still loaded below in her dry bilge with 5 barrels of granola. And now with just about as many prunes. One can never be too safe.

While at anchor the local cruiser’s Net put together a shopping run to the big Mega Depot in Panama City. There is also a Price Mart where we found our Costco card useful for 5 percent discount. Both these stores are full of American products and well stocked. Prices are about the same. There were 32 cruisers on a special bus followed by a truck the size of a Ryder moving van. In two hours shopping the cruisers managed to shop, bag and mark their purchases, then load them into the truck. By 2PM we figure these cruisers had managed to spend close to $10,000 in food and supplies and had a fully loaded truck. So far Ariel’s provisioning has cost about $1200, not bad for four people for several months.

 But the fun part was unloading the truck at the ramp. A bucket brigade line was set up to transfer down to the low tide line. Thirty two people carrying boxes and bags in single file down to the ramp looked like a line of leaf cutter ants carrying their food back to the nest. Some of the dinghy’s were so loaded there was no room for people. S/v Athanar’s had to ferry their kids off to Ariel’s dinghy. No cardboard boxes or paper bags should ever be taken aboard due to insects and cockroaches that lay their eggs in the glue. So everything is unloaded individually. Items such as cases of soda or beer are heavy and difficult to load onto the boat from the dinghy especially with a high freeboard and choppy seas. Once on deck everything must be carried down the companionway. This was only one day of shopping. We have been buying a stowing for weeks in preparation. For days the interior of the boat is over run with food and supplies making stowing difficult not to mention living conditions.

We have experimented with freezing many items. All our chicken and a smaller amount of beef and pork are carefully chosen then vacuum sealed aboard Ariel. Each is labeled, and dated. Some butter, sour cream and cheese can be frozen. Even bell peppers and some vegetables we have frozen. All this is after we have pre-soaked them in a Clorox solution. We also do this every time we buy fresh vegetables and fruit to help kill bacteria. This entails careful drying then bagging them in special green ‘Evert-Fresh’ produce bags for longevity before putting in the refrigerator. Although Ariel has two small Canadian Nova Cool refrigerators, space is to a minimum so careful thought goes into what is important. We have had huge blocks of fresh Parmesan cheese in the refrigerator since leaving Ft. Lauderdale. Some things are impossible to find and when you do, could be costly. We found this to be so in Turkey when a friend bought a small fresh 6oz block of Parmesan cheese for $23. In Panama we found it almost impossible to find whole wheat flour. In the Red Sea brown sugar is unheard of. All this preparation is for some places we have never been to, so we are unsure of what they have.
Our only salvation is, everyone has to eat so there will be food everywhere.

Then comes the last days when the fresh fruits and vegetables are purchased. We went to the big Mercado de Abastos where they are bought in large quantity and have never been refrigerated. This is important as in the regular markets everything has been in cold storage and will rot if left out. We bought large quantities of fruit which are now stowed in tubs on the top bunk in the crew cabin or open woven bags. A huge stalk of bananas right off the tree is bought green for $2 and hung from the davits over the dinghy outside. For $3 we bought a bag of 60 grapefruit, and the same amount of oranges for $4.50. Sometimes we had to buy more than we would like. This creates a problem with waste which we are very careful about. With over consumption and ever-expanding requirements for the production of food we are threatening natural habitats on a global scale which will lead to an acceleration rate of species extinction.

We are also very careful about the disposal of trash. When at sea we separate the compose to go overboard while the plastic and non biodegradables are saved in a large bag on the back deck to be disposed of on land. Glass bottles are thrown into the sea. This seems like major pollution but in fact the glass bottles will eventual dissolve back to sand. We always make sure they are filled with water and sunk immediately. The same with aluminum cans. Pollution at sea is also a major problem and especially disheartening to see so much plastic floating or washing up on shorelines. We find most cruisers are very conscientious about this and follow the clean wake policy.

Abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in Panama for provisioning

Pollution on shore. Cruisers need to remember the clean wake policy


PREVIOUS                              NEXT