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Provisioning in Seattle – A guest blog by Kenza Salem

Before a sailing journey, one final task is to provision the boat to ensure there’s enough food onboard, with the right nutritional content, for the meals at sea. Today, we’re taking a look back to Seattle, where Belle was joined by Seattle food expert and writer Kenza to get the best and freshest produce in the area!

I go to open my refrigerator door and I end up staring out at a pretty desolate landscape. A runaway kale leaf has wilted past the point of recognition in my veggie crisper and there’s a half empty box of coconut milk way, way in the back. It has become abundantly clear that it’s time to go grocery shopping. 

When provisioning an ocean racing yacht, or a studio apartment for that matter, creating a grocery list is key.

When considering what to buy from the grocery store, we tend to take a few things into account: taste, price, health/wellness benefits (will this nourish me?), dietary restrictions/preferences, storage space, and longevity of the product. This process that we on land refer to as grocery shopping, can also be referred to as provisioning. While those aboard boats may provision for a longer span of time than I do for myself, the process is still more or less the same. You make a list, go to the store, buy your food, bring it home, and put it in storage, and consume at your leisure. For the crew onboard Maiden, the 58-foot aluminum hulled ocean racing yacht that was famously crewed in the Whitbread Round the World race by a group of seriously cool women, provisioning is a day-long excursion and their approach changed how I look at my own habits.

Maiden is currently doing a round-the-world tour with a mission of supporting and working with community programs all over the world which empower and enable girls into education. The Maiden Factor is an organization run by Tracy Edwards, who at the age of 26 skippered the first all-female crew to ever sail around the world. They have had stopovers from Honolulu to Antigua — they are currently on a break due to the coronavirus situation — and luckily for me, pulled into port in Seattle the day after I watched the movie Maiden (twice…two times in 24 hours).

When provisioning an ocean racing yacht, or a studio apartment for that matter, creating a grocery list is key. After meeting Belle Henry, a permanent crew member onboard Maiden and a very awesome person, we began to discuss which bakery in Seattle has the best bread and where to get Rainier cherries directly from farmers. It wasn’t long before we met up one morning along with two other Maiden Factor crew members Mackenna Edwards and Kaia Bint Savage at Pike Place Market to provision Maiden with the bounty of the PNW. 

In addition to taste and price, another huge factor in our sustained grocery habits is the concept of nutrition. We buy food that we can afford which tastes good and keeps us nourished. Onboard a boat when the bulk of your physical energy goes into keeping the boat moving, nutrition becomes a necessity. There are also dietary restrictions to consider, Wendy Tuck (Maiden Skipper from Sri Lanka – USA), nominated for the Rolex World Sailor Award, is a vegetarian and Belle needed to take that into consideration when creating a grocery list.

Leafy greens and fresh tomatoes from local farms do something beautiful for your soul. But when you’re onboard a boat with nothing as far as the eye can see but the ocean, I’d imagine fresh produce truly hits different. As we walked through Pike Place Market and strategize a paella recipe, we talked about the innate consciousness of food and other resources while sailing. While it’s not feasible to grow a sufficient amount of food onboard a boat to feed a family, there is something to be said for the manner in which food is approached in the sailing world. When you’re in the middle of the ocean and you want a sandwich but you’re out of bread, you make bread. You are in effect forced to be more thoughtful in your consumption.

A candy bag (I mean a bag full of candy) is a totally normal and rational thing to have in one’s kitchen whether it’s on land or on the water. 

As someone who buys and consumes food on a regular basis, I have found that planning but leaving room for versatility is a good practice. Upon provisioning with the Maiden crew, I learned that this practice extends off the confines of land and into the sea. When asked how they decide what to get for such a long time Belle explains that they decide on how many calories per day each person needs and multiplies that by the amount of days they’ll need to account for, take the total, and split that up between 3 meals per day. She points out that some level of variety is key, and it’s relatable. They take the cooking in shifts, with some crewmembers planning elaborate meals and others sticking to a simple but effective pesto pasta. 

The main difference in this situation was illustrated when Mack pulled up a part of the floor to expose a fridge where they keep their milk. Yes. That is a good idea, I thought to myself. 

While I’m not tethered into the kitchen and my stove isn’t on a gimbal, I still noticed distinct similarities between my grocery shopping and cooking habits and that of the vast majority of sailors. I want moderately healthy food that I can afford, I’d like it to keep for a while so that I don’t have to go grocery shopping every day and for the packaging to be minimal so that I can store it in my kitchen. It occurred to me that I can adopt some of their practices into my own life and be all the better for it. When I want a sandwich but I’m out of bread, I’ll make bread. A small act that changes the way I look at my individual consumption.

After we provisioned at Grand Central Bakery in Pioneer Square, we headed to Whole Foods for the basics like snacks and essentials that we couldn’t find at Pike Place Market. While the next leg of their journey was a relatively short one (Seattle to San Francisco), you wouldn’t know it from the amount of food we were carrying back to the car. The parallels with my own life continue. 

Getting enough food for an entire crew back onto the boat is an impressive feat. It took us one trip with a packed trolley down the dock in downtown Seattle and a solid 30 minutes of a conveyor belt style system of handing bags to one another and gradually down into the kitchen. 

While sitting in the navigation station in Maiden, you can look out at the kitchen and see an impressive amount of storage. I glanced back at our mountain of grocery bags and began to wonder how everything was going to fit, a thought that crosses my mind every single time I get back from the grocery store. The main difference in this situation was illustrated when Mack pulled up a part of the floor to expose a fridge where they keep their milk. Yes. That is a good idea, I thought to myself. 

After watching (and helping) Belle, Mack, and Kaia put away the groceries I went home with some key takeaways to practice in life on land: 

1.)  Planning your meals but leaving room for variety is, in fact, a good practice.

2.)  Being thoughtful in my individual consumption can look like baking bread instead of buying it.

3.)  Hanging fruit and vegetables above the counter prevents mold and promotes air circulation (and counter space). 

4.)  Keeping soft fruits in a silicone bowl to prevent bruising from movement is a truly great idea. 

5.)  We could be utilizing space in a more efficient way. Like using places in our homes that are naturally cold and dry as food storage.

6.)  A candy bag (I mean a bag full of candy) is a totally normal and rational thing to have in one’s kitchen whether it’s on land or on the water. 

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