Hardtack and scurvy

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The fascination for the deep blue oceans and what is laying behind them, the adventure of exploring barely known lands and islands make us to set sail and go into the open. Sometimes however it takes weeks to get to the desired destination and we all know the tragic stories about hardtack full of maggots and scurvy because of severe vitamin C deficiency.

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Text Mallika and Images Deep.  Latest update: 25 December 2018.

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For centuries people are sailing the oceans of the world. In the first place to explore, to colonise new lands and to trade, but nowadays a lot of us are just sailing for the fun of it. The fascination for the deep blue oceans and what is laying behind them, the adventure of exploring barely known lands and islands make us to set sail and go into the open. Sometimes however it takes weeks to get to the desired destination and we all know the tragic stories about hardtack full of maggots and scurvy because of severe vitamin C deficiency. Or dying crew because of too small portions of food and potable water. How do you make sure you will have sufficient healthy food and drinking water on board?

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A big difference with the old times is the invention of the fridge which makes life a lot easier during long crossings. We are lucky to have a big fridge on Yemaya. However, on our former sailing yacht, Zeebeest, we didn’t have one. Maybe it took us more preparation and planning ahead but in the end we always managed well without having problems at all. You just get more creative. For example we cut the cheese in pieces, put it in olive oil, added garlic, peppers and spices and just kept it for ages. The cheese actually became more tastier the longer we kept it.

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To keep vegetables and fruits fresh is a bigger challenge. And we always like to take the challenge to be able to eat fresh produce till the end of the passages. Uptil now, with some important tricks we are able to do so. First of all we don’t store certain fruits and vegetables together with others. The second important thing is to keep everything in a cool and dark place with a bit of ventilation, so better not stuff the whole bunch to close together. And the third thing is that we try to buy a part of the vegetables and fruits unripe and let them ripen on the way.

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There are some vegetables and fruits which in their ripe form make other fresh produce ripen faster. Therefore we never keep ripe tomatoes and bananas together with other vegetables and fruits. On the other hand it seems that lemons decrease the ripening process of other produce, so storing them in between the other vegetables and fruits keep these fresh longer. It is always a happy moment when the green tomatoes get red and the green bananas yellow to start with a new fresh cycle.

It is also easy to plan the first dishes with vegetables which you can’t keep so long and save the cabbage, carrots etc for later. Maybe you have to add some canned vegetables in the end to keep the meals attractive. We always make sure to have a big amount of canned food as well in case of emergencies in which it might be possible the passage will take as twice as long. We also have vitamin and mineral supplements on board which we can take if we think we need something extra. Our potable water supply is stored in big, suitable tanks and when a shower happens to cross our way we make sure to collect as much water as we can to top up our supplies.

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When you plan ahead properly and are creative in making delicacies from scratch, you can nowadays have long passages with great and healthy food. You have to try hard to die of scurvy these days. Good food is also important for your mental health during the long hours at sea. Every day we have a moment together with a nice treat. And on special occasions, like crossing the equator or having covered half of the trip, there is always a tasty surprise waiting for us.

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