Spreadsheet Ninjas

[An oldie but goodie! I wrote this on the eve of our departure from the Bay Area, but am just now getting around to editing pictures and giving it a second read though…but it's a timely revision as this morning marked my first adventure to a Mexican Costco!]

Helios is currently slated to depart on Wednesday. It's insane, and really, really exciting. Tomorrow will be the final day of what has been a bonanza of projects, chores, provisioning, errands, and organization. Since leaving work on December fifth, Dominic has replaced our entire head system, mounted the solar panels, finished installing the windlass, run the first and second reef lines into the cockpit, tuned the engine, and is patching the dinghy as I type this. My life has been a whirlwind of sorting, labeling, and purchasing, and then sneaking off to my parent's house in Martinez to enjoy a choice beverage, an enormous puppy, and a bubble bath. 

My parents, I really can't thank them enough. Aside from teaching us to sail in the first place, my mom crafted us four custom tote bags out of some surplus material I had. My dad is joining us down the coast as crew, and took on the duties of chef before he left. I am to reserve space in the ice box for the following:

  • sirloin tip pork roast
  • marinated pork tenderloin
  • chicken thighs in marinade
  • sausages in tomato sauce
  • meatballs in tomato sauce
  • two quarts chili
  • one corned beef brisket
  • boeuf bourguignon 

These two carnivores are very happy! Because my dad took care of fresh meat provisioning and precooking, I've been able to focus my attention on long term provisioning of canned and dry goods. We're planning on hop-scotching down the coast, so in all likelihood we'll be able to restock fresh goods as we go. But we don't want to run out of food, and while Dominic is happy eating chicken out of a can for every meal, I find unappetizing food to be demoralizing and require a certain amount of culinary delights. Not an outrageous amount, but I have no desire for this trip to be an exercise in deprivation.

So I did what I would do in any overwhelming situation, I harnessed the power of the spreadsheet to seek control over the complex universe. Over the last year or so I've kept a digital grocery list which has more or less mapped our grocery consumption, and I experimented with recipes from non-perishable goods.

A few references have proved invaluable should you find yourself embarking on this sort of thing. Carolyn Shearlock's blog, The Boat Galley, as well as the cookbook The Boat Galley Companion she wrote with Jan Irons (of The Commuter Cruiser). Similarly, the thread on Cruiser's Forum titled 'Vegans Make Good Lovers' was beautifully indexed and did not disappoint.

My process has been pretty simple. I begin with selecting ten delicious meals I can make from non-perishable goods. I then tallied the ingredients in each, multiplied by three to cover the duration of our trip to San Diego (it could take anywhere from one to four weeks) and built a gargantuan grocery list. At the grocery store I filled the cart full, then ran over my toe, and when I came home the real fun began. I sorted provisions into groups of what we would need each week so they could be labeled and stowed for easy access.

And, of course, the most critical container of all was the cheese bin.

This was all the relatively easy part. The challenge is being able to remember where we put something when we need in three weeks. I can barely keep track of a cell phone, must less where we are stashing the coffee filters. So, I pulled out my label maker and divided the boat into zones and built a spreadsheet that tracks each item we stow by the quantity, container, and zone.

It's amazing! I can sort it anyway I want to, and I can search for things and it will tell me exactly where they are (my enthusiasm makes me feel a bit like Liz Lemon when she, too, needs a spreadsheet to make her life goals come true!). The spreadsheet doubly awesome because I can just share it with Dominic and he, too, can instantly find out where things are stowed. Miraculous! Actually, I was inspired by Dominic's ultimate boat project spreadsheet (see lead photo) he presented me with when we moved on board. He listed everything we needed to do on the boat by person in charge, cost, due date, and woman-hours needed. Spreadsheets are a truly glorious my friends, and a practice I will certainly continue to utilize when we return to a land-lubbing lifestyle.