Cruising without refrigeration doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Admittedly, far more people cruise without refrigeration when they use their boat for weekend jaunts or an occasional week-long trip, but plenty of people have cruised for years with nothing more than an ice box or cooler.
Many articles here on The Boat Galley deal with various aspects of cruising without a refrigerator. The following may be helpful if you’re just learning to live without refrigeration.
Storing Food in an Ice Box or Cooler:
Other Ways to Store Food:
If you’re currently without refrigeration and thinking of adding it, be sure to read:
And if you’re contemplating setting off on extended cruising without refrigeration, I don’t want to discourage you. Heavens knows, I’ve camped for months at a time without refrigeration — and if that’s how to make the cruising budget work, so be it. It certainly sounds romantic, to “live like the pioneers.” But before you do it long term — and risk the investment you’ve made in the boat by deciding you hate cruising basically because you hate living without refrigeration — I suggest an experiment.
Duct tape the refrigerator and freezer shut (so you don’t inadvertently get into it), then go to the store and stock up for a week. No more trips to the store for the week, no going to restaurants, no getting in the refrigerator. If you think you’d have a cooler on board, use it — but remember, no buying extra ice during the week. In actual extended cruising, you’re likely to go longer than a week between provisioning runs . . . but a week is a good start as an experiment.
Use the tips here on cruising without refrigeration and see how it works for you. The first few days will be the hardest; with time, you’ll learn your own ways of doing things. You’ll quickly get a feel for whether you could live that way permanently — and see how you’ll need to provision the boat.
Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger have written two articles that are really on point, but it’s important to remember that they built Hawk for high-latitude sailing, where temperatures are much cooler than in the tropics (particularly a tropical summer):
Before we left cruising, we figured that we didn’t really need refrigeration. But Que Tal came with a nice refrigerator and we loved having it. For us, cruising in the tropics in the summer, the main advantage of having refrigeration wasn’t the ability to store meat and veggies, but having cold drinks when it was over 90 — or 100 — out.