When I first heard the word ‘victuals’ I wondered what it meant – that was back in 1960 when I crewed aboard a converted St Ives lugger out of Dartmouth, England.
John, the owner of the 22ft ‘Petrel’, was not far short of retirement age and he took me along to help sail his gaff cutter. We would leave Taunton on a Friday afternoon in his fully loaded Austin 7, and after a weekend aboard we would return on Sunday evening.
At the beginning of the season his tiny car would have a large fisherman anchor strapped to the outside and on the top there would be a pair of oars with a folding dinghy. Fully occupying the back seat there would be at least four cardboard boxes of food and drink – these were the yacht’s victuals.
Our consumables were mainly tinned goods supplemented with fresh vegetables. We would always have several cans of soup. Our meals were deliberately kept simple, because all cooking was done on a single gimbal Primus stove. My job as ‘boy’ was to prepare the vegetables and keep an eye on them while they simmered in the saucepan. Each morning I had to make toast on a wire mesh which was placed over the stove, then, prepare salted porridge and hard-boiled eggs. That was our regular breakfast.
At mid-day we had salad and French rolls and we frequently drank tea with biscuits. Chocolates and hard boiled sweets were always to hand. The main meal was taken in the evening when we were anchored in some protected spot.
Because we never crossed the English Channel to France we didn’t have the excuse to take on board bonded stores. Such items had to be checked by the Customs, sealed and signed with a pledge that the tax free items would not be consumed until the ship was in international waters. Bonded stores for yachts going abroad can still be obtained today from Windward Sailing at Ocean Village, Southampton.
The history of bonded stores goes back to 1550 when the Navy Surveyor of Marine Victuals was responsible for overseeing the process of loading bonded stores aboard the Navy’s ships.