Preparing for an 8 month cruise from Panama to New Zealand involves a lot preparation, a lot of planning and a lot of food shopping.
April to November = 244 days = 732 meals for two, plus snacks and entertaining.
I had kept a food diary for the four weeks between Margarita and Bonaire. We were sailing between the small offshore islands of Venezuela which were uninhabited other than small fishing camps and so this was an opportunity to test my provisioning skills.
I analysed the meals by ingredients and came up with the quantities of all of the staples we would need to see us through – then added contingency. It made an overwhelming list, 25 tins of tomato, 12 kg of flour, 5 jars of English mustard, 48 loo rolls.
Neither Colon or Panama City were safe places to walk around in 2002 but jumping in a taxi to the supermarket was reasonable and so that is what we did. On the way into town we would share a taxi with friends but we each needed our own taxi back to the Flamenco anchorage. Loading the taxi we didn’t need to give directions “gringos with groceries” only had one destination.
When we started cruising I made the classic mistake of anxiously provisioning for our first trip as if we would not see another shop for the next six months. It didn’t take long for us to realise that where there are people there is generally food for sale. However, some food are more ubiquitous than others.
Soy sauce, and Worcester sauce (aka Worcestershire sauce and salsa Inglesa) seemed to be available in even the most remote islands. On the other hand peanut butter, cheese and English mustard are tradeable in many places and, if the are to your taste, stock up on the Marmite and Vegemite.
As we sailed into Colon harbour the Pacific crossing sharpened to a reality.
The anchorage lies to one side of the main channel into the Panama Canal with a steady stream of ships passing by 24 hours a day. Ashore in the Panama Canal Yacht Club there is an undercurrent of anxiety and anticipation. Everyone leans in to share plans and vital information.
“What are you feeding your transit crew? Make sure you have bottled water, some of the pilots won’t drink tank water.”
“I’m doing pizza, can’t go wrong with pizza.”
“Can I get Marmite here?”
“Do you want to share a taxi to the supermarket tomorrow?”
“We can get one together there but I think we will need one each to bring stuff back.”
Transiting the Panama Canal in a small boat in 2002 meant supplying a crew of five plus paying for an official Pilot to guide us through. The crew were one at each ‘corner’ of the boat to throw, catch and secure lines plus the Captain to steer. The pilot’s role was to direct us up through the locks from Colon to Gatun Lake, across the lake and then down the locks to Panama City and the Pacific Ocean. The transit starts at first light, around 5.30 am, with luck and good progress you can make the trip by sundown, around 6.00 pm. For half of the sailors, including Whimsey, the trip takes two days and includes a night anchored in the lake.
Catering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks seemed to take on epic proportions and an element of competition. I decided on kedgeree for lunch and pasta for dinner, we provisioned with plenty of fruit, crisps and other snacks as well as cans of fizzy drinks. Space in the fridge was at a premium – note, cooked rice cannot be stored unrefrigerated. The batch made in advance fed the fish and the fresh batch was probably the best rice I have ever made.
Boil the eggs , place in cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool quickly in cold water.
Cook the rice. For Basmati rice place one cup of rice and two cups of cold water into the saucepan along with the lentils. Bring to the boil, cover with lid and turn heat down to lowest setting for 10 minutes.
Peel and chop eggs roughly.
Open and drain fish.
Add curry powder to butter and make a paste, mix into the cooked rice and add eggs and fish. Mix in the chopped parsley.
Kedgeree can be served immediately or kept warm in the oven, take care that it does not dry out. Can be refrigerated and served cold or reheated the next day.
Peel and chop garlic. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan and add garlic. Add to a medium heat.
Open and drain the potatoes – halve or quarter if required. Add to pan. Open and drain chickpeas and add to pan, stir thoroughly. Add in coconut milk, a heaped teaspoon of peanut butter, curry powder and chili. Add water if additional liquid is required. Stir thoroughly and cover until it reaches a rolling boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 mins.
Serve with plain boiled or steamed rice in a bowl.
Chopped nuts or a mix of nuts and seeds can be used to add texture to veggie bakes, pasta bakes and salads. You can buy flavoured nut and seed mixes or just buy the nuts and seeds you like. Chop nuts roughly and add in herbs. Add to the dish just before serving.
June 2007 and we left New Zealand to head to Fiji. We had waited for 3 weeks for the right weather so we grabbed the first ‘window’ and headed north. Ten days later and we were still 400 miles from Fiji but only 80 miles from Minerva Reef so we headed there to rest up and wait for some decent wind.
Minerva Reef is a magical place. A dormant underwater volcano chain 600 miles north of NZ, 350 miles south of Tonga and Fiji. North Minerva is about five miles across and barely breaks the surface of the water at low tide. There is a small pass in the volcano wall – big enough to sail through. Inside the wall is around 35 feet deep, outside the drop off is over 1,000 feet.
We sailed through the pass and headed to the south of the volcano, anchoring in 25 feet around 200 feet from the southern wall. After 2 days we spotted another sail boat who headed around to the pass and anchored about half a mile away. 10 minutes later we had a call on the radio – did we want some wahoo? The skipper headed over in our inflatable and came back half an hour later with half of a 3 foot wahoo – much too much for us to eat so, without a freezer the only answer was to dry the fish. Recipe to follow.