Down Below - Reflections from a victualler
As I rest in my coffin bunk the day after a successful Mother Duty, watch #2 is driving us forward above deck to maintain our second position in Leg 2. My mind turns to the food and how things have been since we left Portsmouth. I have found the whole experience to be a rewarding challenge, here below are some observations. I am lucky my wife Catherine and my work colleagues helped significantly. Catherine produced a pack of recipes and an instruction manual, and my industry colleagues donated significant supplies of free food to allow our budget to stretch further for some treats, great thanks for this! Food is a key component to ocean racing - it sets a positive or negative mood to the team and of course provides something to talk about. Cakes and freshly baked bread are a great example - they bring a lot of joy to the crew; all it takes is time and a willingness to bake against the challenge of a 45-degree angle. Zhuhai have had many fun and happy times in the galley with some very funny memorable moments too (Chee Wah, thank you for the Miso Noodle lunch!)
The skill level is naturally different, yet everyone has been positive about being in the galley and either following the recipe provided or making their own version of a dish with the ingredients. The greater number of the inspired creations have been excellent in benefiting from the store cupboard ingredients. Sometimes things don’t always go right… when sardines have gone off in a dry bag, what a smell (and now the crew refuses to eat the ones we have on board!) - or else hot chocolate powder dusted heavily over myself and now Andy. The way different ingredients get used is fascinating to track - Leg 1 saw 7.5 kg of Nutella go in 4 weeks, while on Leg 2 lemon and ginger tea became the thing to drink. Extra snacks for the quiet moments have also helped pass the time, whether it’s pancakes at 3am, charcuterie boards at 4pm, or melon and Parma ham when dinner is running late. Even still snacks are a challenge in keeping up with the quantity that can be consumed: we had six 100 litre dry bags packed with snacks in Portsmouth to use for both Legs 1 and 2, but during Leg 1 we used all but one of these bags, (this was with some rationing!) Leg 2 has extra supplies purchased in Uruguay to last. I am hoping by the end of Leg 2 the circumnavigators’s will confidently know where things are stored or offer a solution, as it can be frustrating to be woken on an off watch to be asked where things are or if we have run out! Keeping an eye on the store cupboard stocks is a bigger role than expected. We don’t have a shortage of hot sauces but mango chutney, chutney, soy sauce are running low at this point in time. Ice pops were a great hit in the hotter weather and whilst packing the kites! At some points I felt like a parent allowing people to have one or two. There were a few uncomfortable moments when I had to say no to a request, across a number of occasions and products, because we must make sure to have plenty of food across the journey.
One strange menu success has been just soup and sandwiches for lunch, something so simple but comforting! The adage is true, “keep things simple”. It’s been a pleasure being part of a team that works hard to provide great meals in a happy environment and that enjoys both the highs and lows of galley service together - it’s just a matter of trying to forget the next day’s duty of cleaning the heads. We look forward to Leg 3 where we are going to change the menu a little with the help of Jun, ready for the cold of the Southern Ocean. Thank you, Zhuhai!