How to Fuel the Troops for Offshore Racing, Part II

Michael Luskin describes how he he prepared and served meals aboard the J/133 /Antidote/ during the 2006 Newport-Bermuda Race. "First Beat" from our May 7, 2008, /SW eNewsletter/

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To read Part I, click here.Once I had an idea of what I'd be bringing I started planning where to keep everything, how to prepare the food, and how to clean everything up. I visited the boat early on to familiarize myself with the location and use of the range, oven, propane tanks, and refrigerator, to see what storage areas were available, and to measure them. I took notes and pictures, which were a big help when it came time to shop. Cold StorageThe boat had a 6.5-cubic-foot refrigerator, which I'd be allowed to run for a few hours each day during the race while the batteries were charging. I'd also need two large (94-quart), insulated ice chests--one packed with regular ice for cold storage, the other packed with dry ice for frozen storage--and I'd need a third, smaller (72-quart) chest for drinks. I wouldn't need frequent access to the large chests, so they could be stowed out of the way, but the crew needed easy access to the drinks chest. We put the cold chest on the floor of the starboard quarter berth aft of the galley (removing the door for easy access), stowed the freezer chest on the floor in the large starboard lazarette (accessible through the aft head), and left the drinks chest at the foot of the companionway. We laid down protective carpeting and secured each chests so it wouldn't move. Make sure the refrigerator door and ice chest lids are locked down when underway. We had a special bar made to secure the refrigerator lids.I planned to use the refrigerator for food I knew I'd be using every day-- cold cuts, cheese, carrots, celery, milk, yogurt, leftovers that could be reheated, and a gallon bottle of water to refill crew water bottles. I'd use the cold chest for extras of everything except drinks, moving whatever I'd need once a day from the ice chest to the refrigerator. And I'd use the freezer chest for dinner entrees, frozen breads, an extra block of ice, and ice cream. I planned to pack dinners in order of use. Because the freezer chest would be filled with dry ice, which is very dangerous to touch, I tethered a pair of wool gloves to the chest and put them on whenever I opened it. I planned to be the only person allowed access to the refrigerator and these two ice chests. By planning what I needed to use each day, I could limit trips to the ice chests to one a day, minimizing melt and enabling us to enjoy ice cream in the Gulf Stream. The crew had full access to the small, drinks cooler. Because it would be open frequently, I figured the 10-pound blocks of ice inside would melt in two days. To replenish the cold, I brought an extra block of ice, kept frozen in the freezer chest, and was able to transfer some ice and ice water from the cold chest to the drink chest as we used up the food in the cold chest. This lasted us the entire race, but we would have been drinking warm water and soda if we'd gone into a fifth or sixth day.In order to minimize heat loss in the refrigerator and the three ice chests, I pre-cooled them all. I ran the refrigerator for several hours before filling it and packed the chests with ice a day before loading them. I drained and topped them up at the last minute. Don't forget to order ice blocks and dry ice well before you get to Newport and make sure you know where to pick it up. While en route, don't drain your ice chests. The melted ice/cold water will keep your food a lot cooler and better insulated than the warm air that would replace it if you drained the chest. You won't have this problem with the freezer chest, since dry ice just evaporates. Dry StorageHere's what we did:• Line the drawers and cabinets. The owner will love you for it. • Get drawer dividers for the drawers so you can find things easily and they don't slosh around. We kept all our utensils and other odds and ends in the drawers. • We kept cereals, spices, and canned goods, in the cabinets. Don't store any food in cardboard boxes. Transfer cereal to plastic containers with secure pour tops and put candy, energy bars, crackers, and cookies in Ziploc bags.• We kept paper goods, pots and pans, and soda cans in storage lockers. Add netting to locker doors so things don't spill out if the doors are knocked open. Measure the drawers, cabinets, and lockers so you can be sure the containers you buy will fit. • Identify all the nooks and crannies you can use--under the oven, inside the saloon table, behind the settee cushions. We kept drinks in the table and behind the cushions and stored various odds and ends under the oven. • Figure out where you can hang zippered net bags. On Antidote, I was able to hang two net bags above the sink, two from the mast, and two in a storage locker. I also made a six-foot hammock and hung it from the mast to the pole at the galley counter. We used the net bags and hammock for dry goods like bread, pasta, cookies, fruit, and various snacks. Snacks I planned to store all snacks so the crew would have access to them without opening the refrigerator or bothering the cook. Cookies, crackers, candy, energy bars, and fruit went in the hanging bags above the sink, coffee, tea, cocoa, and soup in plastic bins in a locker at the foot of the companionway. GarbageI kept a 10-quart bucket (with no top) lined with a plastic garbage bag on the cabin sole in the galley. Garbage went in, we stomped it down, and we changed the bag frequently so it never filled up all the way. The worst that could happen was half a bucket could spill, but the convenience of ready access outweighed the risk, and as it happened we never spilled anything. We double-bagged the garbage then put the bucket-sized bags into large, heavy-duty garbage bags that we stored in the transom lazarette. Worked fine, odor-free.Inventory, Storage Map, and Menus Label your drawers, cabinets, and lockers by number. On a spreadsheet, Keep an inventory of everything--food, drinks, equipment, dishes, utensils, etc.--that you can sort by item and location. Load a copy onto the boat's computer and keep a hard copy on board. Make a map showing all storage areas. Mark "Cook Only" areas in red and tape the map up in the galley. While you're at it, post menus for the day. I did this to make sure I knew what to defrost and serve, and the crew started consulting it and asking about dinners days in advance.Under WayAs the cook, your job is to feed them, so feed them. Our start was around 1530, and I served carrots, celery, cheese, and crackers an hour into the race. No one expected it. I did the same every afternoon, using up our fruit, fresh veggies, cheese, and crackers. Build up goodwill with the crew. You'll need it when the weather turns or the oven fails.BreakfastsI laid out breakfast at 0500, serving the new watch at 0530 and the old watch at 0600. Cold cereal was the most popular. We had strawberries and bananas the first day. I had packed cantaloupes as well, but ended up throwing them and the bananas out on day two. They don't keep, and they start to smell instantly. We always had milk (whole and skim) and various juices. Some crew ate yogurt for breakfast, some ate it for lunch. I baked banana bread and ginger bread, froze it long before the race, and defrosted a loaf every day. Easy to do and very popular. Bagels bombed, though maybe the crew would have eaten them if not for all that homemade bread.One morning I made scrambled eggs using Egg-beaters and precooked bacon. I'd tried cooking real bacon on one of our practice races--don't even think of doing this. The grease is dangerous and difficult to dispose. Precooked bacon was easy to prepare and grease-free, but I would not have cooked it-- or anything else--in bad weather.At 0630 I cleaned up, made my one and only trip to the dry ice chest to defrost dinner, replenished the snack bags and drink chest, and filled the hot water thermos.LunchesI prepared lunch at 1130 and served all hands at 1200. Cold cuts and swiss on whole wheat or 7-grain bread were the norm. We had tuna available but didn't touch it until day three. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches throughout. I brought cole slaw and potato salad, which lasted the first two days, but I ended up throwing a lot of it out. Go with potato chips instead. Carrots and celery sticks worked, as did apples and oranges. At 1300 I cleaned up and replenished snacks and hot water. DinnersWe were supposed to eat dinner at 1800. But because I was heating four baking pans in the oven simultaneously, dinner was usually late. I should have started the oven at 1600 but rarely did, so we usually didn't eat until 1830 or 1900. I had help serving and cleaning up. We'd be done by 1930, and I'd replenish snacks and hot water then and again one last time at 2300.AlcoholBut for my hidden half-gallon of rum for the finish, we were a dry boat. Or so I thought. Within seconds after our finish, rum appeared out of nowhere, enough to fill water bottles. We ran out of tonic long before we ran out of rum. I'd kept a package of pigs-in-blanket frozen for the finish, so I heated them up. They went well with the rum. Anything would have.

Preparation was the key to my provisioning assignment. I may have been the cook but I didn't cook. I assembled. I succeeded because I made sure all the necessary parts were on board and I knew where they were. I started my planning early and practiced on two races and the boat delivery to Newport before the race. All this preparation left me plenty of time to help sail the boat and enjoy the ride. And whether they loved the food or not, the crew ate it and stayed healthy, certainly one of the keys to a successful distance race. Of course, we were fortunate that the Race Committee gave us great weather almost the entire way. I never had to prepare a meal in heavy seas, we never had to eat in the rain, and we finished quickly enough not to need our emergency stores.