Stories of Storage Shortages

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There are things about boat life that you don’t expect. Not unlike living in a tiny house or an RV, storage is at a premium. While it may seem obvious on a smaller boat, even larger mega- and superyachts can have their challenges. When you factor in that you are frequently in remote places, where loading up on provisions isn’t a given, you may be stocking up on groceries and supplies to last you a week or more.

Where are you going to put it all? And, how do you store it so that you can find it again when you need it?

Welcome to my (refrigerated) nightmare

On one luxury charter I was involved in a few years back, the challenges were — as they often are — about where to put fresh and frozen foods. There was a small fridge in the galley where I was able to store some items for immediate use, but we also had a large chest refrigerator and a separate freezer on the aft deck.

Unfortunately, the fridge was temperamental. I had been told by the owner that, in the summer, the cooling mechanism would likely not be able to keep up with the summer heat. What we didn’t know is that the fridge was often temperamental and, as luck would have it, the cooling system failed in the first weeks of the charter season. And, worst part…because we were underway for a week at a time, and we were in Alaska, AND it was an old unit, getting parts to repair it was not an easy task.

But, the show must go on, so for the first three weeks of our season, I had large plastic jugs of water in the freezer and my first morning task was to do what I called “ice management” — taking the melted bottles out of the fridge chest and put them in the freezer and cycle the frozen ones into the fridge. It also involves checking on the produce and perishables in the fridge chest to see what was suffering from the unreliable refrigeration.

The freezer had its own issues: because the boat’s owners had vendors they liked to support for their fish and meats, the boat was loaded with a whole season’s worth of protein before we even left our home port. Things were mostly portioned out and stored in vacuum bags, but you can imagine what a 4-month season of steaks, chicken, bacon, sausages, pork, and Costco butter (go figure!) looks like in terms of storage. Then we picked up an additional 30lbs of smoked black cod in Petersburg to add to the already-stuffed freezer. Storing (and accessing) these items on a weekly basis became a game of food Jenga! Every week. As we used things up on charter, I would try to rearrange things so that they were easier to find and get to, but it was a crazy process. Then, about every two weeks or so, I’d have to take EVERYTHING out, defrost the freezer, and repack things again…before they thawed out!

I’ve never SEEN so much Smoked Black Cod in my life! 30lbs!

And, don’t forget, there were all those water bottles and ice packs too…

I finally had a system where are my most perishable items such as liquid dairy stayed in the inside fridge, because it was the most reliable. Then, those items that were “second tier” went in the aft deck fridge but up closest again the ice bottles, but keeping them out of the water that formed from the condensation of melting ice. Anything that didn’t require refrigeration — potatoes, onions, melons, apples, citrus, etc — were stored in any “cool” space I could find. Under steps in boxes, in open spaces built in the voids along the salon and cabin walls. You’d be surprised how creative you get when you have to find places to put things!

Below is a video showing you what the regular “food maintenance” production looked like. I hope you find it entertaining. Again, it’s one of the many elements that makes this ShipboardChef job unique!

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