What is ‘Victualling’ and what are the considerations?

Victualling is the name given to meal planning and shopping for a passage on board a boat. The more observant of you will have noticed that there is a distinct lack of convenience stores when at sea, and so proper planning is critical for a happy, healthy and successful time afloat.

Victualling for a long passage or to a budget is quite a skill and in the case of the former, a great deal of responsibility sits on the victuallers shoulders. Where running out of toilet paper might be unpleasant and uncomfortable, running out of food or water can be the makings of a disaster.  

Of course, nutrition is important. Protein, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrate must all be consumed if we are to stay healthy at sea. So must water, and lots of it, especially when in the tropics.  A crew working aboard a vessel in the tropics might easily drink 6 litres of water a day, plus the water needed to prepare food and to wash. Water is heavy and bulky and must be properly stored and managed.

Refrigeration is another important consideration. Running fridges or freezers needs space and fuel; fuel that may be running short. It’s therefore important that proper consideration and contingency is made for the failure of refrigeration whilst on passage. Fresh fruit is desirable on board but clearly fresh food has a short shelf life, especially in the warmer parts of the World.

It’s worth remembering that you will need a means of cooking, probably gas, matches, tea towels, washing up detergent, soap, toilet rolls, rubbish bags, perhaps a coolbox and last, but not least, a can opener or two; possibly even a bottle opener for those that enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.

Making sure that you have enough food for the planned journey is critical, as is suitable provision for water. Then ask yourself, ‘What would happen if my fresh water tank became contaminated or drained away by accident?” Do you need to carry water purification tablets, a water maker, extra bottled water? Should your tinned food contain water too, so that water used in food preparation is kept to a minimum.

Splitting up your food into day bags is a sensible plan for longer passages. This helps you plan meals and keep tabs on how much food you have left. It also allows you to prepare extra days in case of emergency and perhaps you have specific grab bags for the life raft too.

Make sure water and heavy food is kept low in the boat, preferably in the bilges, so as to keep stability and consume the water stored higher in the boat first for the same reason. Make sure your crew have a source of vitamins, minerals and calories and use your ships log to properly manage water and food consumption whilst on passage. Once it’s gone - it’s gone!

Victualling is part of the RYA Day Skipper course. For more information contact us on 02380 970824.