Chartering is a great way to try out life on a big boat or visit an area that you might not take your own boat to. Bareboat charter meal planning is just one of the skills you’ll get to learn.
Prior to buying Que Tal, we did three bareboat charters in the BVI, along with crewed charters in Alaska and Turkey.
With a bareboat charter, you typically have three choices for provisioning:
- Buy a package through the charter company. Typically the easiest but most expensive and least flexible.
- Order ahead through a provisioning company (note that this is not always an option). Typically there is an online or fax form to fill out ahead of time and the food will be delivered to your boat at a specified time. Typically less expensive and more flexible than going through the charter company, but requires you to plan your meals ahead of time so that you don’t lose a day of your charter to buying food.
- Buying food at local stores once you’re at the charter base. Least expensive, quite flexible if you’re willing to go to numerous stores to get exactly what you want, and typically takes the better part of a day since you don’t know the local stores. If you don’t know the language, it can be frustrating!
If you’re doing either of the last two, you’ll have to do some meal planning in advance. Deciding to just wing it doesn’t usually work! On all three of our trips to the BVI, we opted for self-provisioning through Ample Hamper, a provisioning company almost next door to the charter company. (See my article on provisioning companies in the BVI — there are several.)
So the question is, how do you come up with the shopping list? Well, I can tell you how I did it . . . and if you’ve got additional tips, please add them.
- Shortly after we made our reservation, I asked the others chartering with us what they liked and got answers along the lines of “oh, whatever.” Not very helpful!
- So then I made up a sheet with breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks/drinks each day and filled in my choices, leaving a couple of dinners open for restaurants ashore.
- I passed the proposed meal plan around and now I did get comments both positive and “well, I’d prefer . . .” Much more helpful!
- I took the comments and re-worked the meal plan so that everyone was pretty happy.
- Then I went through and listed the ingredients (including amounts) for every dish and snack item. Don’t forget things such as spices, non-stick spray, aluminum foil, Ziploc bags, trash bags, paper towels, toilet paper and dish soap. Charter boats generally have nothing on board, not even salt and pepper. Check with your charter company and plan accordingly.
- I next went through and added up all the quantities of each item (such as three carrots for one salad, four more as part of one day’s snacks, etc.). I did this by using a spreadsheet with the dish on the left, the the quantity in the next cell and the item on the right. Then I sorted by the “item” column which put all of one ingredient together, making it easy to add them together.
- Then I did a little adjusting so that things were in even amounts to buy.
Two things to keep in mind as you are planning meals: first, you’re likely to be more active than usual, and eat more. We found a mid-afternoon snack was key, and we all ate a little more than usual for lunch and dinner. Second, you didn’t charter so you could spend all your time cooking in beautiful places. Plan meals that don’t take a lot of time to prepare so that the cook(s) have plenty of time for the snorkeling, sailing, enjoying the view and just being on vacation.
It used to be that many charterers would take spices, Ziplocs and so on from home in their suitcase. It may still be practical to tuck a few small things in, but extra bag fees have made it so that it’s often more expensive to take things from home than it is to buy them on site, even at higher “resort” princes.
It’s usually equally impractical to take any remaining supplies home. I always tried to plan meals so that didn’t need little bits of lots of different things. Often you can make small changes so avoid needing just a little of two similar things. For example, I knew I needed olive oil for a couple of recipes, so I decided that I could use it in place of nonstick spray in a couple of other dishes.
If you’re using a provisioning service as I did, be sure to take a copy of your list with you and check everything off as you unpack it. You don’t want to find out that something is missing when you go to use it!
Also, if you’re using a provisioning company, they may allow you to return unopened packages of nonperishable items such as water and paper goods, although they may give you less than a full refund. Check with the company you’re using — it can be helpful if you’re not really sure of how much you’ll use of an essential item such as toilet paper (yeah, I’d rather lose a little on the return than be short!).
Be sure to take any recipes that you need along with you. If you have a tablet, e-reader or smartphone, these can be an easy way to take recipes or entire cookbooks. You can take photos of recipes or scan them and download to your device.
Above all — have a great time!