boat provisions food sailing crossing pacific on the horizon line travel blog

Provisioning Your Boat: How To Feed 7 for 40 days

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Food and Drink, Sailing

boat provisions food sailing crossing pacific on the horizon line travel blog

Feeding 7 people for 40 days requires roughly 1.5 feet of grocery receipts per person.  It also pencils out to about $6 per person per day.  Pretty cheap, right?  Especially if you totally ignore the thousands of dollars spent on other parts of sailing a boat across the largest ocean on earth.  The conundrum begins when you try and figure out what, exactly, to feed that many mouths for that many days.

I took on boat provisioning as my contribution to the pre-Canal-crossing preparations, while Rob worked on projects ranging from oil changes, to radio setup to repair jobs.  This meant making sure we had quantities right, making lists, and checking with the family members on what foods worked for them or didn’t.  It also meant careful monitoring of the teenage boys’ ability to consume vast amounts of snacks and dinner portions (and by teenage boys, I include my husband).

boat provisions food sailing crossing pacific on the horizon line travel blog



First off, we needed a lot of rice.  We brought 40 pounds of rice along, which will form the basis of Asian-fusion and Mexican-style style dinners roughly 4 nights a week.  Other staples include tortillas (35 bags), beans (25 cans), flour for bread (10 lbs), eggs (30 dozen), and peanut butter (14 pounds).  Most cruisers find that they eat more snacks than big meals, based on watch rotations, bouts of queasiness, or general heat-induced apathy toward food.  We stocked up on easy edibles, including packets of oatmeal and mashed potatoes, popcorn, tuna cans, fruit rollups, nuts, olives, hummus, and some candy.

As for perishables — well, you don’t get them for long.  Our refrigerated space is the size of one shelf in a normal fridge (and remember: 7 people for 40 days).  Creativity is key for spicing up those rice and beans.  This spice comes from seasoning packets and sauces and chutneys.  And, for the first week or so, from all the fresh veggies and fruit we picked up in Panama City.  Once the mushy stuff is gone (bananas, mangos, tomatoes, papaya, peppers), we’ll still have hardy produce for a bit (potatoes, coconuts, carrots, plantains, onions, apples, limes).  After that, we start dumping in some of the 40+ cans of fruit and veggies I bought in Colon.

boat provisions food sailing crossing pacific on the horizon line travel blog

Some of the cool tricks I learned about provisioning:

– Boxed milk is irradiated and doesn’t need to be refrigerated until after you open it.  We have 35 cartons onboard.

– Eggs stay good if you turn them every 3 days so the yolks don’t stick to the shell and get exposed to bacteria in the air.

– Pressure cookers are awesome for cooking all kinds of food, including fresh bread.

– It’s remarkable how much you can cram in a small space.

– Weevils can infest flour even when it’s double-bagged and in a sealed container.

– You can live on very little for a long time, but you can also make spectacular meals with much less than you think.

boat provisions food sailing crossing pacific on the horizon line travel blog



crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet the Crew Sailing the Pacific

Posted on Posted in Family and Friends, Ocean Tales

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and briThe Steele-McCutchin family is awesome.  Rob and I feel fortunate to have found such good people to spend a few months with, and such capable people to sail with across the largest ocean on the planet.  They bought Llyr 4 years ago because they were ready for new expeditions.  None of them had much previous sailing experience, but they took loads of offshore courses before sailing south from Maine to Panama last summer, spending 4 months cruising in the Caribbean along the way.  You might notice their red hue in the photos below, which gives away their Scottish-Irish roots (and indicates it was early in the trip!).

Their grand plan is to set Llyr up permanently in Vanuatu (Melanesia) as a research vessel dedicated to documenting the impacts of climate change on coral reefs.  During the storm season in the southern hemisphere (October to March), they’ll return to their family-owned maple syrup farm in western Massachusetts to collect the sweet nectar of New England maples.  Here’s a snapshot of Llyr’s crew:

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Brooks.  He’s the skipper, the mechanic, and the weather expert.  Brooks is good-humored in his role at the helm of Llyr and his role as the oldest aboard.  He also handles stressful situations calmly (thank god), and loves to converse about theories related to everything from education to climate change to how to change to oil mast most efficiently.  As a clinical psychologist during his first career and a farmer during his second, Brooks enjoys figuring out how and why things work like they do.  You can find him in the engine room, or trouble-shooting random problems from bow to stern.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Janis.  She’s the head caretaker of this big brood aboard Llyr, keeping our daily operations running smoothly.  A fluent French speaker from Montreal, Janis is a trained anthropologist, and likes to stretch, eat dark green foods, and sew.  If you have an idea, she’ll likely be able to make it a reality.  You can find her cooking up tasty sauces or creating a wind-scoop from old flags.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Connor.  He’s 18 going on 28, a brand-new high school graduate with an EMT (emergency medical training) license, a great sense of humor and a clear head.  Connor is the first mate, and is intimately familiar with Llyr’s many electronic and navigation systems.  He’s going to spend the fall and winter in Australia this year, and planning to head to college as a pre-med major after that.  Meanwhile, you can find Connor helping his dad with troubleshooting, surfing Facebook (at the marina only), or teasing his younger brothers (gently).

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Rowan.  At  15, he’s doing a much better job of leaving his social circle than I would have at that age.  Rowan is a detail guy, and sees the little things the big-picture thinkers might miss.  He loves to dive, and reads incessantly…he actually burned out his Kindle in the first week.  You can find Rowan cramming in calculus (gotta make sure he’s caught up after his few months out of the classroom!), listening to music, or scarfing down sodas or milk.

crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet Gavin.  He’s the life of the party, and the youngest crew member at 10 years old.  Gavin loves to draw and write and fish and kayak and swim and jump and chat and play games.  He provides comic relief for the rest of the crew, and much-needed energy when others might be tired of chores.  You can find Gavin eating PB&J sandwiches, sleeping in the cockpit, or trying to climb the mast when his parents aren’t looking.

sailing to sunrise on the horizon line

We’re Halfway There on This Gyrating Merry-Go-Round

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Ocean Tales, Reflections on Life, Sailing

A gyrating merry-go-round,
we teeter-totter across the sea.
60,000 pounds of steel turned tiny rubber duckie at the whim of wandering waves.

The American flag whips in tatters, the stripes stripped into ragged ribbons.
Persevering. Presiding. Present.
Like the rest of us.

Each day a repeat of the next or the last
until the uneven rhythm of teeter-tottering echoes through
every cell, meal, word, step, dream.

Until — after 1,000 miles — you want to scream:
At the flogging sails snapping against your sunbaked nerves.
At your sleeping-again seasick husband leaving you to jellyfish stings in seawater dish suds.

Until — after 2,000 miles — you want to sing:
To the dolphins dancing in moonlight and the single orca that surfaces alongside.
To the power of passing squalls that bequeath gin-clear drops to drink.

Noise become your constant companion:
The goblin-growl of the groaning auto-pilot, the rattle of loose pots, the whistle of rigging.
The slide of hanging clothes, the swoosh of waves over your head as you sleep.

Back and forth, forth and back. Back. Forward.
My bones rocking, gnawing, rubbing, riding, swiveling.
My brains swishing and sloshing on the gyrating merry-go-round.

We chant to the sails: keep full.
We dance for the wind: don’t leave.
We plead to the waves: stay out.

We’re halfway there: can’t you tell?
The blue water looks bluer, the white clouds whiter.
Halfway is directly below my Montana home.

Over and up, down and around.
We circle a straight course.
I circle my own midline.

It’s all the same: a movie set of false sunsets and frothy whitecaps.
There is no middle, there is no end.
Or perhaps the middle is it’s own end.

I stare at starry skies, searching for my personal revelation.
I listen to waving seas waiting to hear the meaning of life.
I taste the salt on my shoulder, in my hair, hoping it will move me to meditate.

But revelations refuse to alight on our swinging mast.
Meaning can’t break through the noise and movement.
There’s no room for mediation amidst daily survival.

You have to stay still to receive the benefit.
You have to stay still to hear the ending.
We are never still.

Only a salty slingshot slippery sliding
rolling pitching creaking rocking flogging singing laughing
forever blue merry-go-round teeter-tottering across the endless sea.

on the horizon line - bluewater sailing mermaids, pacific crossing

On Noticing Mermaids

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Reflections on Life, Sailing, The M.U.P. Files

full moon brianna randall on the horizon line blogSome people never take notice of the Earth; some have to have it pointed out to them. But most, I think, are simply uncurious. You take notice. The whole point in going on this adventure is to take notice. You will experience so many amazing things. But you don’t have to share them to enjoy them.

A few words on your Pacific crossing: There will be many times when only one of you will notice a truly remarkable thing that the other did not or could not see and your description to the other about it will do an injustice to the unique sight you’ve witnessed.  Each of you can revel in the joy alone, taking notice and appreciating the Earth without the need to share it to make it seem more real.  You two had this hammered home after the Great Baja Electronics Theft—you don’t need to record and share everything to give it reality.

on the horizon line - bluewater sailing mermaids, pacific crossingBut, notice. You will not see the same swell twice. Spindrift will not shimmer in that light in that way again. The foaming crest of a sea will be one-of-a-kind in its beauty. And you will be the only person on Earth to see it. That particular sound of wind in the rigging with the beat of the thrumming steel hull and the singing laughter in the galley will create a melody both unique and mind-blowing. And only you will hear it. The dimpled reflection of a sunset on the calm ocean (from your vantage point lying on the bowsprit), or the moon’s white path on a gently rolling seascape at 3am will be a masterpiece. One of you will be standing at the mainmast looking aft as the boat tops a large swell and for three seconds, before she drops into the trough, you’ll be the only witness in the Universe to an amazingly orderly sea- train stretching to the horizon, each top highlighted in gold.

By taking notice you do it justice and that act justifies you and your entire trip. You don’t always have to share the joy to give it meaning beyond itself.

(This will not be true about your bluewater dreams which must be shared immediately, discussed in detail, and analyzed in depth.  And if you see a mermaid, shout about it!)

Though the oceanscape you’ll travel is immense, you’re only seeing a tiny sliver of the Earth’s surface. You are in a minute bubble. Llyr’s freeboard at the main looks to be about five feet, add about a foot for the cabin roof, so if you’re standing at the mainmast your eye will be about 12 feet above sea level. Therefore, your horizon line is about 4.2 miles. Your entire world is only about eight and one half miles around—with an unfathomable deep below and an infinite universe above—all traveling west at maybe eight knots. You are not going anywhere else. But that little world will be intense. That is what makes bluewater sailing so invigorating. Intellectually, you know you’re an exceedingly tiny speck on the surface of an enormous planet, but nothing brings that home like sitting on a (steel) cork in the ocean.

With seven people in fifty feet, you have to be tolerant because the little quirks of one person may drive you nuts. But don’t forget, your quirks are making others crazy, too. Things that would never concern you on land can bring great happiness on the deep. No night sky is as bright as a clear, moonless night at sea. By Day 25, pancakes mixed with hard raisins and dorado, topped with hard chunks of apricot jam will be a culinary breakthrough that you’ll think will be the basis of an amazingly successful restaurant chain.

When on watch alone or when working in some weather, please keep your PDF/harness clipped to a hard point. And Rob, make sure Bri gets more than her share of food. We love you! Be safe. Fair winds.

NOTE FROM BRI AND ROB: Happy Birthday, Dad!  We miss you and love you, and are celebrating with you in spirit today.  We’ll give the ocean gods some love to send you blessings for a wonderful year.

on the horizon line - sailing and traveling blog in mexico

Setting Sail Today

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Ocean Tales, Reflections on Life

on the horizon line - sailing and traveling blog in mexico

We’re leaving shore today.  No more docks, stores, or easy access to electricity and freshwater.  No more walks or laundry or internet for at least a month.  People asked me all the time before we left home if I was scared.  I wasn’t then.  Today, I’m definitely nervous.  But, personally, I think it’d be pretty weird if I didn’t have any butterflies in my tummy.

The skipper asked if I could envision the vast blue space we’re about to enter.  I answered that I’ve been picturing it for decades, along with the emotions and attitude that vast space will invoke within me.  But these visions still don’t allow me to wrap my mind around not seeing land for 30-40 days.  Around not leaving Llyr’s 800 square feet, or the company of the 6 people I’m with.

Sometimes I try and picture all of us moving around our living room and kitchen in Missoula, which is about the same size.  It makes me laugh, and it makes me itchy.  But it also isn’t accurate, as I can’t overlay that image with the true scene at sea.  I can’t predict how the wind and salt and night watches and waves and seasickness and awe and fear and excitement and irritability will factor into sharing that vast blue space and that tiny boat space.

It’ll be an adventure, that much I know for sure.

sailing panama canal crossing - shelter bay marina - on the horizon line blog

Brooks and Janis call our trip “the expedition.”  I like that term, and have started calling it such in my head.  Our expedition began with the Panama Canal crossing, with a brief 2-day stop in Panama City where we finished provisioning errands.  Before heading out into the very vast blue, we’ll anchor a night or two in Las Perlas, a lovely set of islands 40 miles off the coast of Panama.  This will let us work the kinks out of the sails, practice emergency and safety measures like hoving-to and launching the sea anchor, and get used to the pitch and roll of a boat at sea.

After that, though, it’ll be a long time without land.  We may see the Galapagos as we sail north of them, but we may not.  Next stop: the Marqesas Islands.  When we touch soil again, we’ll be 4,000 miles west of here, and a whole lot wiser about ocean expeditions.

We’ll be setting a track with our nifty DeLorme InReach every few days.  Follow our voyage on this map.


on the horizon line travel blog panama canal transit in sailboat

Panama Canal (Take Two): Watch Us In Action Tomorrow!

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Ocean Tales, Sailing

on the horizon line travel blog panama canal transit in sailboat

After 9 days on this dock in Shelter Bay Marina, Llyr is finally ready to head to the Pacific.  Our slated Panama Canal crossing is set for tomorrow, April 20th, at 3:45pm.  Rob and I are the resident experts aboard after our crossing earlier this week, and are primed to avoid the monkey’s fist and keep lines tight during round two.

Want to watch us in the Canal?  You can click here to see us via a live webcam in the 3 different Gatun Locks on Saturday between 3:45pm and 6:00pm.  If you miss that, we’ll be in the Miraflores Lock between 11:00am and 1:00pm on Sunday.  These are the local Panama times, and I believe we are in the same time zone as Chicago (honestly, though, keeping track of time zones has been a low priority for Rob and I this first month of traveling).

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and bri

Just click the tabs on the website corresponding to those two lock names, and we’ll be in the lime green sailboat with 2 masts.  We might be rafted up with other boats, or all on our own.  Either way, we’ll definitely look small next to the giant cargo ships!  Rob might moon the camera, but no promises.

After we get through the Canal, blog posts will be fewer.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t writing a lot, and thinking about all of you — it just means internet gets spotty, and we have to focus on riding the wind and waves for the next month.

on the horizon line travel blog panama canal transit in sailboat

Rob’s favorite pre-Canal crossing project: welding the kayak to fix the giant rip in its bow. Hopefully we won’t need to fix any new holes after our Canal transit.

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and bri

“Where, exactly, are you going?”

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Sailing

kiss on sailboatWe leave one month from tomorrow.  Whoa.  As the departure date approaches, the main question we hear (aside from “are you getting excited?!”) is “where, exactly, are you guys going?”  Here’s the answer:

On March 26th, we fly from Missoula, Montana to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California.  We’re hoping to meet up with our friends, Katie and Mark, on their boat, Selkie, in La Paz.  The goal is to spend a couple of weeks decompressing from work, packing, and leaving our way of life.  We plan to leave Mexico refreshed and ready for a big adventure.

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and bri
Llyr under full sail.

On April 10th, we fly from Cabo to Panama City, where we’ll make our way to Colon to meet Llyr in the Caribbean Sea.  We’ve signed up to crew on this 53-foot steel ketch, and are excited to help Janis and Brooks, and their teenage boys, Connor, Rowan and Gavin sail her across the Pacific.  We’ll have to wait in line for a week or two to squeeze Llyr between mega-tankers, cruise ships and other yachts for her trip through the Panama Canal. We’ll likely head through the Canal by the end of April.  Once through the Canal, we’ll provision with food, water, diesel and other supplies while we wait for a good weather window to begin our “Pacific Puddlejump.”

bri and rob sailing in Baja

By the beginning of May, we’ll start our 40-day journey across the Pacific Ocean, heading south over the equator and (hopefully) catching a smooth ride on southeast trade winds as we sail west.  We should reach our first landfall in French Polynesia’s easternmost island chain, the Marquesas, by early June.  

Rob and I may continue with Llyr to Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia.  Tahiti is kind of like the “transit station” for the South Pacific, where we’ll find lots and lots of sailboats from all over the world heading to different islands.  We plan to find one to crew on to the next island stop.  From here, plans get fuzzy (which we like).

Baja-rob and bri on the beach


Our goal is to hitchhike on sailboats from July through November.  The sailing season in the South Pacific typically ends in November as the summer months mark the start of hurricane season in the southern hemisphere.  Most folks head to Australia and New Zealand, but Rob and I are hoping to spend the summer in either the Soloman Islands, or north of the equator in Micronesia.  Below is a map of our potential route, though it’s all up for grabs post-June.

For us, the beauty of this trip is our freedom — we aren’t sure where we’ll be in a few months, and we like it that way.

View On the Horizon Line – Adventure Route in a larger map

The Pacific Puddle Jump

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Sailing

Baja 040About a month ago, we had over friends-of-friends for dinner.  Andy and Sandy spent 2.5 years cruising the Pacific a few years ago with their daughter.  They sailed from Seattle to Mexico to New Zealand, stopping at all those awesome South Pacific islands along the way.  We wanted their advice on our upcoming journey through similar islands.

Over risotto and grilled deer steaks, Andy said (about 22 times), “But what do you mean you’re FLYING to Tahiti?!  You’d miss the best adventure of all!”

He means crossing the Pacific Ocean by sailboat. An epic voyage.  Any way you slice it, it’s a long, long, LONG way from North America to the next tiny spit of land.  For sailors heading west from northern regions (Vancouver, San Fransisco, Seattle), the nearest island stop is Hawai’i.  If you sail west from southern latitudes like La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, or Panama City, boats usually head toward the Marquesas.  It takes roughly a month, give or take 10 days depending on wind, waves, your hull-speed, and your navigation skills.

Yup, a month.  At sea.  Across the largest ocean on Earth.  In a small vessel the size of your living room.

The Pacific Puddle Jump, as it’s called affectionately in the cruising community, is not usually the very first crossing people undertake.  Most people opt for an overnight passage at first to get their sea legs under them (and to test their proclivity toward sea-sickness).  Next, they might work up to a 3 or 4 night-long passage at sea — this gives folks the chance to learn how sail continuously through day and night, without stopping to anchor or dock.

Rob at the helmWhile Rob and I have spent over a week at a time living on a sailboat, we’ve never done an overnight passage.

After our dinner guests left, I told Rob that I’ve always wanted to cross the Pacific … probably because I remember the stories my dad told about his crossing from Maui to Santa Barbara, full of stars, whales, waves and life-changing ruminations.  And because I like challenges, and the roads less traveled.

Rob said, “Well, hell, if you’ve always wanted to do it, now’s the time.  Let’s buy a one-way ticket to Mexico and hitch a ride.”

So, we’re doing it.  What better way to start a new adventure than with a giant, flying leap across a big, sparkling puddle?

Watch out, Marquesas.  Here we come!

Me + 2 Hot Mamas in San Fran = 3 Barbies in a Boat

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Family and Friends, Food and Drink, Traveling

Two things I’ll miss when we sail into the sunset — girlfriends and walking.

Two things I won’t miss a bit — grey winters and biting-cold Montana wind.

This weekend I was lucky enough to soak in the good stuff and get outta the bad.  On Friday afternoon, I hopped on a cheap Allegiant Air flight to San Francisco with two of my favorite ladies.  We said goodbye to husbands, dogs, and children, escaping the frigid cloudy skies with giddy excitement.  Last time I headed out of town time for quality girlfriend time with Joellen and Gillian was over 5 years ago, and I was psyched to hang with these two hot mamas for 4 days of city time fun.

First stop: our friend Melissa’s SUV outside of Oakland airport.  Second stop: a giant (authentic!) margarita in the Mission district.  Third stop: Sengalese food at Baobao, followed by a rockin’ dance party as dinner tables were cleared out from under us.  “You dance crazy,” we heard, multiple times, from different patrons.  True that.  Not bad for the first few hours in the big city.

Thanks to our friends Andrew and Julie, we got to stay in a sweet apartment one block from the Presidio.  While the mamas headed to yoga the next morning, I followed the siren call of salt water and ran to the beach.  Now, if you know me at all, you know I only run when large predators are chasing me or I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to get somewhere fast.

As a landlocked beach girl, seeing the ocean after almost 6 months brings out my rusty running instincts.  I spent the day tooling around beaches and marinas, watching fisherman, sailboats, and kiteboarders.  Dreaming of the soon-to-come days when I’ll be staring at land from the water, instead of vice versa.  Dreaming of the day when I will feel as urgent about getting to the shore as I now feel about getting to the water.

We drank champagne when we reunited, and hit the streets in search of Thai food.  As the weekend wore on, we added Greek, Mexican, and Chinese to our cuisine, satiating those cultural cravings that itch like hell when you live in a town that specializes in burgers and beer (even if it IS exceptional meat and mircrobrews).

Speaking of cravings, we also filled our urban hiking cup to the brim.  The best part about cities is that you can walk and walk and walk, and still see something new, vibrant, unique, or bizarre around every corner.  I love that my girlfriends love walking as much as I do, and that we had the same chill exploratory agenda for the weekend.

On Sunday, we trekked over 8 miles, stopping to sample premium green tea, Vietnamese coffee, falafel, artwork, thrift stores, a brewery, a roller skate park, and — of course —  beaches.  The 3 of us all love the ocean, and you could tell: we cartwheeled near the water line, did headstands in the sand, and tried to absorb as much salt-water-laden goodness as our eyes, skin, and hearts could hold.  These memories will feed us through the long Montana winter.

The highlight of our urban hike was walking the length of Golden Gate Park, where we had the pleasure of meeting these Barbies in a Boat.  I’ll end here because — in a lot of ways — these 3 Barbies happily jetting around sunny San Francisco symbolize how I felt with Gillie and Jo this past weekend: carefree, fun, free, and easy.


A Few Photos From San Fran:

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