Catering Onboard and Underway

As this was my first trip across the ocean I did not know what to expect or how easy or difficult it would be to keep us all sustained for the 15-20 days at sea. And of course this was the first issue, just how many days to provision for?

The galley on Ocean Blue is compact compared to most houses but for a yacht it is a good size with a front opening fridge and a top opening freezer.

Ocean Blue’s Galley

It is good that you are able to open the fridge easily on either tack and that the contents don’t come out to greet you as you open the door. I invested in some clear plastic drawers to make storage and selection easier e.g. One contains cheese another cold meats etc so for lunch you could just grab one and some wraps or pitta bread and put it on the table for everyone to help themselves.

The ARC had a list of supermarkets and many of them delivered your shopping to the dockside. They also provide contacts and ordering forms for a butcher and fruit/vegetable shops. If I was doing the passage again I would not order the fruit and veg from the recommended supplier. We had anywhere from one and a quarter to three times the quantities (and cost) we ordered of every item and it was of poor quality compared to the supermarkets. We did negotiate a discount but they were not interested in taking the produce back. Consequently we had to throw overboard a lot of the fruit as it was already ripe before we left.

We did a reconnaissance visit to the Court Anglais to see what was on offer. This had a very good selection but I didn’t find anyone to discuss the delivery options with. The market had a a great selection of fresh fruit, veg, cheeses, eggs and meats. I took the opportunity to get some meat at this stage as I wanted to test the quality and start some preparation. It was a very good quality and I would recommend J P Rosper butchers in the market. I personally liked the Hiperdino supermarket which was very well organised for deliveries to the boat and had a good selection.

I started on food prep for the Atlantic whilst we were in the marina in Las Palmas. Definitely a good option to pre cook and freeze meals ready for the journey. All the mince dishes were pre prepared. E.g. lasagne, chilli and cottage pie.

Bags of flour and dried ingredients for bread were weighed out ready for the bread maker.

Fresh Bread from the Breadmaker

Different flavoured butters in anticipation of Derek catching fish enroute.

I was starting to feel like a domestic goddess in the kitchen, however it could go horribly wrong in a Bridget Jones sort of way! My children and friends can attest to my usual lack of skill and flair in the kitchen due mostly to a lack of time it now seems.

I planned the menus to alternate between beef, chicken, pork and pasta dishes and then calculated the quantities of the ingredients needed. The ARC information book and seminars were helpful and suggested 125g of meat per person and this was about right. We also found we ate less as the temperature increased.

When we were able to, we prepared fresh meals as this also helped to fill our time on board and provided more variety.

Pre cooking definitely meant I didn’t feel like my life was spent in the galley and everyone could get a meal ready even if they couldn’t cook.

With hindsight the richer casserole meals were great but not what we fancied in hot weather. We only caught a Wahoo, and that was cooked and eaten straight away. You can’t rely on fish as we were fishing most days and only caught the one fish. You also need to consider what you would do if the fridge and freezer decided to stop working and the contents are no longer edible. We bought a Serrano ham and stand to store it on.

Serrano Ham

This was a high initial expense but we continued to use it well after the ocean passage had finished and considered it a fantastic and fun investment. Together with pasta and tinned veg we would not have starved.

When we got to Antigua our fridge did stop working and needed re gassing. This was over the Christmas period when it was fully loaded and no one was working. We were lucky and could transfer the contents to a fridge in a villa that we had access to.

Broken fridge, but Ice saves the day

We were also able to get lots of ice and prioritise the produce that we needed to use regularly!

Fixing the Autohelm

Since we have owned the boat, the autohelm has given us a few headaches. Not because of any deficiency in the autohelm itself, but more to do with the installation of it.

The first issue we had with it was in 2013. The hydraulic pump failed when we were on route to Brittany. The positioning of the pump meant that stray salt water that got into the lazarette corroded the pump and eventually it took its toll. A new pump, shipped out to Benodet fixed the issue.

The ends of the hydraulic pipes connecting the pump to the ram are mild steel, and that again does not mix well with salt water, so after several years of soaking in salt water, as we tested the new pump and deliberately loaded up the system to check for leaks, we blew a pipe! Luckily we found a hydraulic pipe supplier just half an hour’s cycle ride from Benodet and we were back in business.

However as we tested it we discovered the unsettling fact that as the autohelm steered the boat, the entire lazarette floor moved from side to side! On investigation it transpired that although the boat was built with webs moulded into the hull for the ram, whoever had installed the ram had bolted it to the plywood floor rather than the mounts! Whilst the ram was mounted very securely to the plywood floor, the plywood floor was only held in place by a few lightweight screws. We fixed this by manufacturing a stainless bracket and mounting this directly to the webs on the hull. A permanent rigid solution with the added bonus that the floor can now be lifted to examine the autohelm without disturbing it.

In 2015 as we headed out across the channel the actuator on a solenoid valve failed on the ram. A quick easy fix once we obtained the parts, but of course obtaining parts when cruising is not always easy or quick. Luckily we had visitors flying out and they were able to bring a replacement with them. We started what has become a trend for us at that time – we bought two activators so we now have a spare!

Which leads us to the failure in Biscay. The ram is attached via a rose joint to a pin on the quadrant. When new the pin is no doubt a tight fit in the hole and remains perpendicular (well almost) to the thrust of the ram, so there is little if no tendency for the rose joint to work its way up the pin. Despite this, why the manufacturers decided to prevent the rose joint being able to come off the pin with a split pin less than 1.5mm diameter I cannot understand, but what we do know, is that after many thousand miles the pin had worked its way a little loose in the hole, so it could tilt over a little and the repeated forces on the ram had pushed the rose joint up the pin shearing the split pin allowing the rose joint to work its way off the top of the pin.

We decided to take a belt an braces approach to fixing this which basically involved a new pin that fitted the hole, with a plate on top bolted down so it couldn’t be lifted and a much more beefy split pin for good measure. It may be overkill but it certainly shouldn’t fail again!

Stainless Plate
Fabricated Stainless Plate
Quadrant Pin
The new pin, plate and split pin installed on the quadrant