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Sailing with Charlie with Provisioning

Life today is full of challenges and yacht provisioning is no exception. Just going to the grocery store keeps you on your toes. The other day I needed a quantity of yoghourts. I found the right section and the flavors I wanted but when I happened to glance at the underneath of the little plastic containers I found I was being cheated. The bottom was indented by a full quarter inch, worse than wine bottles.

In the meat section you have to be especially careful. If you see mutton chops packaged and cellophane wrapped one on top of the other beware. The top one is likely to make your mouth water, being juicy and succulent looking meat. Hidden underneath, though, are two other chops of fat and bone. Yes, butchers are good at marketing. So at $7 per pound you are actually paying $21 for usable product.

The fruit and veg section is no better. One day I found a punnet of strawberries 'on sale' for a reasonable price, but on careful examination found the lower layers to be of a brownish colour with a whitish fur growing on them; non too appetizing. I removed the cellophane wrapping from several punnets and was in the process of making one good one when a large uniformed and monogrammed employee asked me what I was doing. Actually she said, "What de hell you t'ink you doin'." A long and heated argument followed but in the end I won. I clinched it by asking her how much she'd pay for rotten strawberries. After she left, with a disagreeable stomp, I made three good punnets from the fifteen that were on sale.

Items marked 'Special' can sometimes cause more trouble than they're worth. On one occasion I found a quality brand of cream cheese in little round containers. There was a pepper corn one, another with fines herbes, all well within sell-by date and I thought 'perfect for hors d'oeuvres.' They were priced at a quarter of their normal price so I picked up a dozen. At the check out the cashier rang them up at the regular price and another dispute erupted. I wasn't going to budge and finally a supervisor was called. Then there were enquiries to be made and checking to be done and a certain amount of sucking of teeth to be endured. The line of customers waiting to check out got longer and longer and more and more irritable. They seemed to be mostly large and impatient construction workers with a sandwich and a soft drink, and their lunch hour was dribbling away. Finally it was settled and, of course, I was right. I don't go into stores to cheat them. I just want a fair deal (and a free grape or two).

Merry Christmas!

Julian Putley is the author of 'The Drinking Man's Guide to the BVI', 'Sunfun Calypso', and 'Sunfun Gospel'.

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