Long-Term Provisioning Should Be Continuous When It's Safe To Do

Numerous folks write articles, blogs and stories about provisioning boats…one of them being Behan Gifford on the sailboat Totem.  In one of her recent posts, Behan explains that provisioning for a pandemic can be much like provisioning for an (long) offshore passage.  But unlike a long offshore passage in which you can’t get provisions unless you make water and catch fish, I strongly suggest that you continually provision during crisis situations when it’s possible, as you just don’t know when you might be able to provision again.  On Tulum, we’ve taken that approach since we pulled into Mazatlan and truly learned the scope of world response to COVID.  In Mazatlan, we adopted masks and hand-sanitizer early, only sent one of us to provision (me) and made sure we were topped up on fuel and water even though it meant more work.  We also made sure to secure long-term, shelf-stable provisions during my first provisioning run and lots of freshies during subsequent provisioning.

Garrifons of water (70 cents each) coming on board to refill our tanks and diesel jugs waiting to be filled.
First trip to the Pemex for Diesel…in a local truck.

In La Paz, both of us sat down and thought through worse case scenarios.  Changes in La Paz happened while we were there, so we knew we only wanted to be in that relatively large city the least amount of time possible…as it also happened that we were there during the beginning of Semana Santa with the government strongly working to get folks to shelter in place.  More and more restrictions seemed to descend on the area…with lots of speculation from the local gringos.  Much of it not needed.  After doing some planning, we knew we needed full water tanks, full fuel tanks and months more non-perishables and as many freshies as we could load.  So we started provisioning…with rumors of shortages and alcohol shutdowns swirling around us.  There were in fact few shortages and gringos in stores are easily identified by NOT wearing masks and making their opinions known in loud and rude swaths of bad language.  I provisioned a number of times.  Jerry jug day to the local Repsol wasn’t too much fun….but I don’t like empty tanks.

Provisioning in town was a challenge too, cause the entire Malecon was shut down and many stores would only accept one family member.  For us this was ok…it was just me, but there’s no baggers in any of the large supermarkets.  So when a single person (like me) comes along with a huge load of groceries in the shopping cart and no baggers, it creates a log jam.  The checkers won’t touch any of the food to bag it (not their job) nor do they have sympathy for the gringo who’s trying to bag groceries while also trying to empty the cart while the checker flies along at light speed to get all the groceries to pile up at the end of the check stand.  I think they laughed inside as my groceries piled up over my egg cartons and the poor customers behind me with 14 items in their carts looked on.  They were not all happy.  And, some of the stores posted signs telling you how much you could buy:

3 per family..but there’s still plenty on the shelves. I buy TP and Paper Towels every time I provision.
1 carton per family.
Standing in line outside AutoZone as only 13 people were allowed inside. And they didn’t have my part.
Provisions coming home.
More provisions coming home
After provisions came home, Michelle vacuum seals the meat before we attempt to have the hotbox freeze it.  (The vacuum seal didn’t work well and we’re going to can meat instead to save freezer space)

I strongly suggest the concept of continual provisioning when available and safe to shop and trundle home.  While we’re not hoarders, we do continually provision for things that we may not find again any time soon…often taking on freshies in mass and making sure high quality non-perishables are kept safe in deep storage.  The challenge on our boat is that we can’t remember where we put things, but we know we have it.  This leads to unpacking and repacking of various deep storage lockers, meaning our organizational skills might need some improvement.  Perhaps not for conventional long-term provisioning when crossing….but certainly for provisioning during a crisis, I highly suggest adopting the continual provisioning model.  Working on continual provisioning will also make you start learning patterns of local availability and shortages…allowing you to take on stores before they may become short.  I am NOT advocating spending money without justification…especially in a non-crisis environment.  But cruisers in Mexico (and around the world) right now face an unprecedented historical event with the outbreak of COVID while cruising.  Some cruisers (like us) are living on their home with no house or car to go back to (in the US).  So having long-term non-perishable stores on board during a crisis in which there might be shortages or long periods of no stores at all seems critical.  Perishable foods (like fresh veggies and meat) should be cherished and provisioned more often (when available).

Resources for long-term provisioning and storage info include:

Sailing Totem

The Boat Galley


By the time you read this, we hope to be heading north slowly through the Sea of Cortez, in search of clear water and self-isolation.  We hope you don’t have to continually provision during a crisis too often or at all, but if you have to, please do it safely.  Please FOLLOW our blog as we continue to adventure as a family. Check out our Patreon Site to buy us a beer in the time of COVID.

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