Well most people probably wouldn't know what victualling is so now is your chance to find out what it means and what it involves. We are lucky enough to have received another exclusive blog from the ever descriptive, round the worlder Nicola Edwards.
Imagine catering for a dinner party of 16 people. Imagine they end up staying the night, and in fact staying the entire month...without leaving the house. Instead of just one dinner party, you are now catering for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks and drinks. Now imagine you cannot duck out to the store to pick up any forgotten ingredients...
Welcome to the logistical nightmare that is victualling! The role on board that nobody really wants to do, as trying to please 16 people on a £3.50 budget per person per day is near on impossible!
We start by preparing a menu, trying to mix up meals so we don’t have two rice dishes or two chicken dishes etc on any one day. The meals are generally one or two pot meals as the facilities in the galley are rather limited. A gas hob with one large and four small hot plates and what is possibly the world's smallest oven!
Usually the menu is worked out on a seven day rotation to make it easier for the shopping. Once we have finalised the menu we then work out ingredients and quantities needed to be purchased and start the list. The list extends to cleaning products, toilet paper, wet wipes, gas lighters and usually a few utensils that have been worn out during the previous leg. For instance replacing a rusty cheese grater and more commonly can openers (on average we go through three or four can openers per leg!). While the deep clean is being done we take an inventory of any leftover foods from previous legs.
The main shop is completed in the first couple of days during our stopover, and the vegetable and meat shop is generally left until the day before we leave for optimal freshness.
Once the main shop is complete we then need to sort out the ingredients and divide them into day bags. The day bags are dry bags that are assigned to each individual day and include all the ingredients for that day's menu. This is a good time to work out if there have been any ingredients accidentally left off the list and... naturally start a new list!
As we pack the day bags we try to eliminate any paper or cardboard from packaging (as there can be eggs laid that later hatch into maggots) which means labelling cans and other packages with permanent markers.
Once we are satisfied we have all we need, the day bags are stored away on the forward bunks, odd numbered days on one side and even numbered days on the other side.
When the fresh food arrives it is packed into cooler boxes (we only have two) and nets we have hanging beneath the forward bunks. They do get bashed around a little so we need to be rotating the fruit and veg regularly.
We try to order the meat to be provided in meal sized packages to save packaging and stored rubbish. The meat is stored into our fridge/freezers and usually this is enough to last for two weeks. For the legs that are longer than two weeks we then revert to the dehydrated and canned meat. The dehydrated meat/fish we have includes prawns, chicken and minced beef.
We recently purchased the dehydrated chicken from a different supplier and were surprised to see it came in flat squares a little like tiles. It's really amazing what you will eat on a boat when there are no other options!
The canned food includes corned beef (eewwww) of which there is only one crew member who actually likes it. Unfortunately he was victualler on Leg 5 and somehow 32 cans of corned beef found their way on board! Needless to say when the next victualler for Leg 6 did the inventory, the unused cans found their way in to the rubbish bin!
This leg we had a slight discrepancy with the budget because of dehydrated meat ordered for upcoming legs taking a big chunk from our budget. We don’t want to go over the budget!
Snacks are purchased for each watch and the snack locker is replenished about every five days.
We also have on board five emergency bags - this allows for an unexpectedly slow journey or detour that takes us over and above the allotted days for sailing.
After the first week when the fresh bread has run out we start baking our own bread. We also bake cakes and desserts to keep the crew happy.
The stopovers in Rio, Da Nang and Qingdao proved to be a bit more challenging for the victuallers as the packaging was generally not in English. In Rio, we took one of our crew who spoke some Portuguese to help us out with translations and in Da Nang and Qingdao we were lucky to be provided with volunteer translators to help. They were really helpful but we didn't think to get them to translate the directions to make some of the items so there has been a lot of guess work when making cakes and bread from these countries!
All in all we are a happy and satisfied boat and a lot of that can go back to the job the victuallers have done to keep us fed and happy on board.