The wind blows hard. Waves higher than each other fill the horizon. Driving the boat requires strength, and the entire watch must be sharp every second, day and night. It cannot be done on an empty stomach. Fortunately, this has not been a concern on the Spirit of Helsinki.
We are now living through the traditional interim days between Christmas and New Year. Most of the boats are at the halfway parking in Auckland. Explorer and Sterna are still at sea. Crews have spent Christmas in different parts of the world. It is certain that everyone has enjoyed themselves to the fullest with loved ones and tables laden with delicacies. Perhaps even a slice of ham on rye bread.
But what about at sea? Is the stomach constantly rumbling from emptiness, and are the sailors gaunt-faced in the stage ports? Not at all. This has been ensured by months of planning before the start and the admirable commitment of responsible persons to the success of food supply. Kai Ylikangas, who himself sailed on the 1st leg, has been bustling as the food manager of the Spirit of Helsinki. Operating with a restaurant chef background, Kai took on the task willingly and approached it with due precision.
‘We started planning nine months before the start, and the pace accelerated towards the end,’ Kai recalls.
As a chef, Kai was not in the boat, but ensured that everything went according to plan. Food preparation is done on the boat according to a specifically agreed rhythm. Weather conditions affect whether, for example, the stove can be used. On the 1st leg, conditions did not significantly affect kitchen operations, and the menu was carried out almost without changes. And there was hardly any waste.
‘At the end of the leg, we ate quite a lot of canned food, although there were still Ikea meatballs in the freezer,’ Kai reviews from his notes.
It’s no wonder there were meatballs left. According to Kai, skipper Jussi Paavoseppä emptied the freezer of chicken and meatballs at the Southampton Ikea. A total of 72 kilograms were packed into the boat. Hopefully, Jussi remembered to show his Ikea Family card.
Kai knows from experience that good spirits often have sufficient and tasty food in the background. Energy intake is one thing, but the tastiness of food is just as important. Canned food can be made tastier with small changes. Calorie counts for carbohydrates and protein are tabulated with sufficient precision. However, the soup has many moving parts, and consumption is significantly affected by factors such as weather. The more demanding the weather, the more vigilance is required, and the higher the consumption. However, no one needs to be hungry.
‘If there’s still hunger, there are enough snacks on the boat,’ Kai says.
In addition to snacks, the cabinets are also stocked with delicacies, which there never seems to be enough of. For the 1st leg, 30 kilograms of biscuits, candy, and chocolate were loaded onto the boat. Some of the crew might even have had a candy embargo during the trip. Ship rats always find the stashes, I know from experience.
The offerings of port cities greatly affect how plans can be executed. The wholesale trade familiar from Helsinki is not found everywhere, and running after supplies is quite a three-day sprint. Availability ultimately defines the boat’s menu. Additionally, on the 2nd leg, New Zealand’s strict import regulations had to be taken into account. Food supply indeed has many cooks stirring the pot.
The baton of meal major passed from Kai to Antero ‘Ata’ Kaukonen in Cape Town. Ata will pass the baton to Tapani Holmén in Auckland, and Jukka Hopearuoho will bring it to the finish. The whole team is well prepared for their tasks. The original plan is aimed to be replicated as precisely as possible, but the supply defines the outcome. Well planned is half done, applies here as well. On the Spirit of Helsinki, no one goes hungry, and those with a sweet tooth remain satisfied.
The next leg starts from Auckland to Punta del Este on January 14, 2024, and time will tell what provisions the ship is loaded with.
The author of the blog, Jussi Evinsalo, is a Helsinki-based writer and journalist, who has the salt of the sea running through his veins thanks to the heritage of several generations. Jussi is a second-generation boating journalist, whose father (Seppo Evinsalo) was there photographing the departure of Fazer Finland in Portsmouth in 1985. Father and son, riding the same wave. Jussi has followed and will continue to follow the journey of the Spirit of Helsinki towards the starting line and eventually around the globe. The end result is the story of the Spirit of Helsinki, which is already worth reading.