Monday, November 3, 2014

The Woes of the Provisioner- A Cautionary Tale

The work of any provisioner can be just as taxing as boat maintenance. No matter how hard you try, crew members never tell you everything until you are all onboard and underway. You can usually get the big picture, but the devil is in the details.

We have sailed with diabetics and vegetarians. We have dealt with the gluten intolerant, nut allergies, citrus allergies, and a wide variety of personal food dislikes. Again, big picture. It doesn't even begin to cover those personal quirks. So, here are my suggestions for trying to get a handle on the care and feeding of your new crew members. LUX often recruits crew for long passages, so we have had many opportunities to learn about all the things people will and will not eat! Here are some of the things I have learned.

Start with the big picture. Send out a request for information to new crew members. These questions need to be included:

- Do you have any food allergies and/or food sensitivities? (Be sure to ask about food sensitivities. People will tell you that they have a nut allergy, but they won't mention that cranberries give them serious acid indigestion until you serve the turkey and cranberry wraps.)

-Do you have any dietary preferences? (Make sure your crew understands that you are looking for vegetarians, gluten-free, sugar free, etc. Also, don't forget to stress this. Some crew members will tell you they will eat anything until you serve chili. That's when you find out that they NEVER eat beans of any sort.)

But, as I keep saying, the devil is in those details. I found it best to try to drill down to some basics. Don't waste your time asking folks what they would like to have for breakfast. Ask them to tell you what they eat most mornings for breakfast. People will tell you about their favorite indulgences for breakfast, but they will inevitably fail to mention that they actually eat yogurt most days to avoid stomach distress. Crew members will tell you they will eat anything, but they don't always mention that they ONLY eat a certain type of cereal. 

Also, don't forget those morning beverages and the accessories! It's not just coffee or tea. It's coffee with milk or coffee with soy milk or coffee with..... You fill in the blanks. Then, it is tea with lemon, or tea with almond milk, or tea with..... Again, you fill in the blanks. And, let me tell you about sweeteners. I have had to work my way through sugar, honey, agave, and every version of artificial sweeteners known to man. And tea...Do you have any idea how many varieties of tea there are? I do now. Or, at least I am working my way through them with each new crew member. So, a word to the wise. Ask your crew members to tell you exactly what they drink in the morning. And don't forget to ask about juices- not only what kind of juice but also do they add anything to it. No, I don't regularly carry Angostura bitters. And, I won't know to bring bitters unless you tell me.

Continuing with the beverage theme, crew members need to tell you what they drink regularly. Don't ask for diet Sprite after you said you would drink anything. I need to know what you want to drink - unless you plan to bring it along with you.

And speaking of bringing it along with you...Don't surprise me with last minute items that you wanted to bring along. At present, I have at least five pounds of carrots on this boat. I try to plan to have just enough food to get eaten. It won't work out if you surprise me.

So, when planning for a long voyage with new crew members, take some time to make them answer questions about food preferences. We quite often plan a crew dinner before we take off. It gives us an opportunity to get to know each other even better. And, it gives me time to "grill" them before I'm on the boat grilling that food they never eat!

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