How To Get Your Provisioning To The Boat | Become A Cruiser
How to get your Provisioning back to the boat

How to Get Your Provisioning to The Boat

Provisioning is a big part of the Cruising lifestyle. We normally keep about six months worth of canned and dry goods on the boat which can make for quite a shopping trip.

I love all of our provisioning trips. It’s always an adventure. I love seeing what’s in the supermarkets in new countries and what interesting vegetables we can find in the fresh produce markets. Getting our provisioning back to the boat is always part of the adventure.

In the interim, we go to town for smaller provisions for fruit, vegetables, fresh proteins, and beer (we always seem to need more beer). How we get our provisioning to the boat depends on whether we are doing a big stock up or a quick trip to town.

Smaller Provisioning Trips – Get Your Provisioning Home Without a Car

There are some places cruisers visit where the store or supermarket is within walking distance of the dock. In these places, we tend to do smaller provisioning shops and carry our shopping home ourselves.

Before we got properly organized getting our provisioning home used to be a heavy workout. Just as with life on land. No matter how hard we try even if we just pop into the store for one or two things we end up bringing one or two bags home.

I highly recommend buying some reusable shopping bags. I have a bunch of these which live in my backpack. They fold up small, are sturdy, and very comfortable to carry when filled to the brim.

A good comfortable backpack is my cruiser handbag. I never head off the boat without it. I never know when I’m going to see some delicious fresh produce being sold on the side of the road. Or happen to find a hardware store that has that missing part we’ve been looking for.

Not only does a comfortable backpack work well as a ‘handbag’, but I am able to load it up when I go provisioning and carry the load on my back.

Treat Yourself, Buy a Good Cart to Get Your Provisioning Home.

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Buying a sturdy cart has made getting our provisioning home so much easier.

Our Mac Wagon has made getting loads of provisioning back to the boat so easy.

Backpack and shopping bags aside, my Mac Sports collapsible folding outdoor utility wagon is the pièce de résistance for getting our provisioning home.

We have had this little gem for over two years and use it regularly. It has no rust or damage and we don’t baby it. Its wheels are nice and big making it good on any type of surface, including the rough terrain it is regularly dragged over.

The Mac wagon has carried everything from beer and provisioning to jugs full of diesel and on one occasion friends’ house batteries. Everywhere I go people ask me for the name and where I bought it.

It weighs just under 25lbs and carries loads of up to 150lbs. It folds up to about 29.5″ x 20″ x 8″ and has a cover that easily slips on to keep it neatly folded.

Before buying the Mac Sports Wagon, we went through multiple different types of carts, they either broke or rusted. Our lives have been so much easier since we bought this cart.

How to get your provisioning to the boat
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Our Mac wagon in the dinghy on the way to do a quick provision in town.

Big Provisioning Trips

If the store is within walking distance we do our big provisioning trips with our mac wagon, reusable shopping bags, and backpack and load ourselves up.

When cruisers get to a place where provisioning is reasonably priced it is a good idea to do a big shop to save money. For more ideas on money-saving tips while provisioning around the world take a look at my post to find out where to find the cheapest provisioning.

In some places, the closest store to provision at is too far from the dock to walk to. In these places, we use different forms of transportation to get our provisioning home.

Marina Shopping Shuttle

If you are staying in a marina it is worth asking the office if they have a shopping shuttle. Some marinas have a shuttle service that runs once or twice a week and will take you into town for provisioning.

This is a great way to get your provisioning home at little or no cost to you. At Shelter Bay Marina in Panama, the marina ran a regular shuttle to Colon, the closest big town just under an hour away, and a once a month shuttle all the way into to Panama City.

Local Bus

How to get provisioning back to the boat
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The bus depot in Saint George’s Grenada

In many of The Caribbean islands, there are private local bus services that will take you downtown or to the closest supermarket. The ‘bus’ is normally a minivan filled to exploding with people. The price is right at about $1 to get from anywhere on the island to downtown.

It was more expensive in Antigua, about double the price of Grenada each way. And two busses were needed with a connection to get from many of the anchorages to Saint Johns (downtown). Although it wasn’t often necessary to go downtown as there were smaller corner stores closer to the anchorages for some basics and a great supermarket in Jolly Harbour. The main downtown attraction was the well-stocked fruit and vegetable market.

I love the local busses. the busses are always full of happy people and interesting characters, crammed on top of each other. Passing judgment about the driver’s skill seems to be a national sport in some countries. The nonstop smart comments keep the passengers roaring with laughter.

Normally the bus stops on the side of the road to pick up passengers, there are seldom marked bus stops. The busses will also honk at you while you walk down the road to tell you they are coming by. Just raising a hand, a finger, or an eyebrow and the entrepreneurial driver will slam on the brakes hard to make sure you get a ride. Don’t worry, the bus is never really full as there’s always room for one more person.

When the busses stop to drop off children and elderly people, the bus driver even gets out of the vehicle to make sure the children have crossed the road and gotten home safely or are handed into their teacher’s caring hands. A young passenger will make sure the elderly person’s shopping is carried to their doorstep or even into their kitchen while the bus full of people happily wait for the volunteer to return to carry on their journey.

No one is in a rush and waiting is “No Problem Mon”. If the driver is going too fast the old lady in the back will pass comments like, “Hey Driver, I wanna meet Jesus, just not today! I tell your mama you is reckless!”

How to get your provisioning to the boat
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Believe it or not, this is not a ‘full’ bus. I loved riding the bus in the Caribbean. The People were such characters.

If you are taking the local bus home with your provisioning keep in mind that generally, all your shopping has to fit under your seat or on your lap.

The busses that leave downtown are chock-a-block full, and normally don’t have any trunk space. If you are doing a big provision I would suggest taking the bus downtown and a taxi home.

Get Your Provisioning to The Boat in a Taxi

Before you rent a taxi to get your provisioning home talk to some of the cruisers who have been in the area for a while and find out what the normal going rate is for a taxi.

You may also want to ask if there is a recommended taxi driver to use and where taxis can be found. Sometimes, the stores are quite far away from the dock so a taxi is required for both trips.

It is important to negotiate the rate with the taxi driver before getting into the taxi as in certain places the tourist rate is much higher than the local rate.

In places where the stores are far from the dock, it is good to negotiate for the taxi to wait for you to bring you back, this is often more convenient for the taxi driver too as he knows he has a roundtrip fare and is more than happy to wait for you to shop.

How to get your provisioning to the boat
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Often taxis don’t have a meter and frequently the ‘taxi’ is just a car driven by a friend of someone at the marina.

When ordering a taxi try to get a van, pickup, or a flatbed truck. This way you have loads of space to get your provisioning home.

If a van or truck is not available while negotiating with the driver ask if you can see the inside of his trunk. In South and Central America, the taxi drivers often have large car speakers that fill up most of the space in the trunk, leaving no place to put your provisioning. The drivers were generally quite put out that we wanted to try to put something in their trunks.

Get Your Provisioning to The Boat in a Rental Car

How to get your provisioning to the boat
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It is amazing how much beer you can fit into the trunk of a compact rental car.

Renting a car is always my favorite way of getting my provisioning home. In most places, you can rent a compact car for a reasonable daily rate with just a credit card and a driver’s license. Some places may also ask for a passport, so remember to take it with you.

Renting a car is lovely because you are on your own schedule and don’t have to worry about the hassle of finding the right taxi.

Another bonus about renting a car is you can go and see a bit more of the country which you are in. We also rent a car when we are looking for specific boat items that may take us to various stores.

Agent / Facilitator

In many places, some Agents or Facilitators can help you with your provisioning and purchasing of boat items. These people are often quite expensive and not often used by the cruising community.

However, in Colombia and Panama, we found the agents to be very reasonably priced.

In Panama, there are several agents. We used Panama Cruiser Connection. I highly recommend Rogelio who was amazing! He has a big van, great for getting your provisioning home, charged a reasonable hourly rate within Panama City for his time.

Rogelio is extremely friendly, speaks perfect English, has excellent local knowledge, was able to find us all sorts of items we needed. He also avoided big expensive chandleries saving us a ton of money. One of the other bonuses of using Rogelio is that he has a Price Smart card that you could use.

As an added bonus Rogelio of ‘Panama Cruiser Connection’ is a Panama Canal agent and makes arranging to transit the Panama canal a painless experience.

In Prickly Bay, Grenada there are a few local agents/taxi drivers who can drive you around and help you find the difficult to find items for an hourly charge.

Finding these agents isn’t difficult. Speak to the local cruisers or the marina, or even the closest restaurant or bar to the marina.

Something To Remember

Here is a tip that took us way too long to learn. If you are going to do a big provision at one store. As soon as you enter the store go to the customer service and tell them you are doing a big shop.

Ask them if they offer free transportation for you to get your provisioning home. Many of the supermarkets do this, others will organize a taxi (at your cost) to take you home. Make sure you go to customer service as you arrive to avoid having to wait for your ride.

For more information on food storage with limited refrigeration and how to store dry goods to keep cockroaches and weevils off your boat take a look at these posts.

Edit How to get your Provisioning back to the boat
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Hi, I’m Nic! Our Family of four have been out cruising since 2016. We have sailed about 15,000nm, almost halfway around the world. We sold everything, took the leap of faith, and bought a 10-year-old Lagoon 380 ex-charter catamaran. We’ve fixed every system on the boat, often more than once. Cruising has been such a wonderful, positive experience for our family that I want to share my tips to help you Become a Cruiser.

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