Friday, March 11, 2016

A new food for Passages, and more

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I mentioned that I was going to experiment with a new food source I have been curious about.

The food is a powdered meal replacement called Sipreme.  

Background - Soylent and Sipreme

A little background may be useful.  There is a company called Soylent in the USA, that has been around for a few years now.  It was started by a group of software developers who switched course, and rather than developing the next great software project, they instead created a new food category.  How they started is an interesting story.  I first became aware of Soylent in 2012.  At that time, the company was in startup mode and was not selling to the general public.  They started deliveries after I had already started this cruise, and I have been curious ever since then but have not been able to buy any, as they were delivering to the USA only at the time (now Canada as well.)

Soylent is a powdered meal replacement.  This means that you can 'eat' Soylent for 100% of your nutrition needs.  It has carbs, protein, lipids (fat) as well as all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to survive.  Its in the general category of "food is fuel."  Its not meant to be savored and served at dinner parties, but rather, if you would like a quick, convenient portion of food that will provide everything you need, this may be for you.

Since Soylent's introduction, some other companies have started providing their own version of this food, if you google Soylent and various other terms, you will likely quickly find many alternatives.

When I was in Fiji last year, I did a little googling around Soylent and alternatives and discovered a new company in New Zealand called Sipreme which offer their own version of a Soylent like product.

Why I wanted an alternative

As I've been sailing on this cruise, and the previous one, I have mainly been eating normal food.  I have a small freezer aboard Luckness and before every passage I would organize my provisions for the trip.  This involved many trips to various stores buying protein (mainly chicken, beef, sausage, etc), veggies, onions, rice, eggs, bacon (if available), beans, seasonings, sauces, snacks, and so on.  Depending on the length of the trip, and the weather conditions experienced under way, this worked pretty well.  My longest passage to date is 21 days, from Hawaii to Neah Bay in the Pacific Northwest.  By the end of that trip, I had plenty of food left, however the veggies were down to things like carrots and maybe peppers, although peppers are nearing the end of their life at that point.  Onions last for a while.  Rice lasts forever, as do canned goods.

Preparing 'normal' meals at sea can vary between being easy, to an extreme, frustrating workout.  A normal meal for me on passage would be a one pot meal, something like: put some onion into a pot, along with oil and start browing; cut up your chosen protein and toss it in; let it cook for a while; cut up some veggies, toss them into the mix; add some sort of sauce or flavoring of some sort; add some cooked rice; cook a bit more; put it into a big bowl and try to enjoy.  Following this recipe you get a mediocre meal, that will sustain you, but won't win any prizes.  Prep, cooking, cleanup all take time.  Breakfast was normally scrambled eggs, bacon, some veg, some beans thrown in.

When sailing downwind in gentle conditions, going through all these steps was pretty easy really.  When you aren't sailing in easy downwind conditions, going through these steps can be quite challenging.  Its hard to describe, but imagine an amusement park ride where the room you are in is launching up and down and also rolling back and forth in, both in an unpredictable manner.  Doing something like cutting an onion can be a challenge - you need to always keep either one arm wrapped around something solid, or one hand attached to something solid otherwise you may find yourself flying across the cabin.  I have only gone flying myself twice, which is twice too many - an injury at sea, possibly thousands of miles from anything can be serious.  

I haven't kept track of the number of times the prep I was working on for a meal went wrong.  Its routine to: cut an onion; turn aside and find somewhere safe to place the knife (as you don't want the knife flying around the cabin); to return to the onion and see that its slid off the cutting board and needs to be gathered.  This is typical and applies to every step of the process.  Having cooked a large meal I would need to get it into a bowl to eat, and that step can go badly wrong.  Making scrambled eggs in the morning and finding the cracked and whipped eggs flying into a wall is a little depressing.

Preparing meals in an active seaway is a chore.  The thing is, I wouldn't mind going through all the work if the result was worth it, but one pot meal after one pot meal, even with a variety of flavors, gets tired.  I was basically just cooking as simply as I could in order to feed myself.  Meals underway aren't something I look forward to, the vast majority of them are immediately forgettable.  The only purpose they serve is to feed myself, hopefully with a variety of nutrients so that I can stay healthy as well.

Many times, if the seaway was too rough, I would revert to simply opening a can of something and eating that, cold, right out of the can.  Yum.  This is fine for a while, but eating cold canned spaghetti or beans gets old pretty quickly.

I wanted a food which was: easy prep; healthy; easy cleanup; which has a long shelf life.  It turns out that Sipreme (and Soylent, although I haven't yet tried it) satisfy all of these requirements.

Giving Sipreme a try

Once I arrived in New Zealand, for my second time, in November last year, I ordered some Sipreme to try out.

My goal was to see if I could use this new food as a Passage food, and as I plan on several long passages this year as I sail back to Seattle, I wanted to test my plan by living on this new food for at least as long as a passage, between 20 and 40 days.  So I decided to switch from 'normal' food to Sipreme.

Sipreme comes in an envelope which contains just over 2000 calories, an average daily portion.  I had earlier bought four 700ml protein shakers, and to prepare a days worth of either product, I would: divide the powder evenly between the four shakers; add water; use a chop stick to stir to avoid clumps in the corners of the shakers; then shake and put in fridge.  Prep for a day takes less than 5 minutes.

The first time I 'ate' a meal I was a bit apprehensive - what would it be like?  How would it taste?  Would I feel full?  After drinking one portion - 500 calories - I had a little giggle.  I drank the portion in a couple minutes and thought to myself - is that it?  Am I done?  Cleanup took no time at all and I started to realize that I may really like this new food.  I'd just saved myself at least 1/2 an hour, probably more, in prep, cooking and cleanup and it tasted just fine.

Some of the advice I had read about switching from a normal diet to one based on a Soylent like replacement was to start slowly.  Don't suddenly switch 100% from your old diet to the new one.  People who did this reported a few symptoms, such as headaches.  I knew this, but decided to switch 100% anyway, I was anxious to get started.  I did have mild headaches at first, something that I wouldn't have if I had switched over more gradually (as recommended.)  However aside from that, everything else was good.  I was wondering how my energy levels would be as I hiked on Urapukapuka Island - I found no change.

Living on Sipreme

After living on Sipreme for a little while, I found I missed crunchy food.  I've since added crunchy veggies (carrots, etc) along with humus and possibly some cheese and salami to the mix.

After living on Sipreme for the length of a passage - a little more than 20 days, I decided to keep on going.  I haven't cooked myself a meal since December.  Aside from morning coffee, my stove is now idle.  I've found that I really like this new food.

I've been at anchor in the Bay of Islands for longer periods than last year.  Since Sipreme has a very long shelf life, I was basically limited by the amount of fresh water I carry rather than the amount of food I have onboard.  I have since bought a new water maker, and so the length of time I can survive away from a store will depend on how much food I can carry - and Sipreme packs pretty compactly.

Sipreme aboard

I recently bought 3 more months of Sipreme, which will be enough for me to live on for the rest of my time in New Zealand as well as last me through my passage to Hawaii.

7 boxes of Sipreme = 7 weeks, 49 days of meals
A four week pile
Starting to fill a locker
One months food supply
Easy access to three weeks of food

Finally, wrapping up

If you're a sailor and are looking for a food to try out on Passages, give this a try.  I would suggest you try living on it before heading out to sea - you don't want to be experimenting with something as basic as food before a long passage, do your experimenting before hand.  That's what I have done, and I'm glad that I did.  What started as a new Passage food for me has become, simply, a new type of food, one which I'll be eating regularly.


  1. I completely understand the need for this kind of food on a boat. You just forgot to mention one thing: what does it taste like??

    1. Hey Marie. You wouldn't eat this food because of its taste. BBQ ribs you eat for their taste. Curries, smoked meat of any kind, a nice wine, good beer, all things that have taste going for them. But if you want a little more of an answer - Sipreme comes in three flavors, I've settled on vanilla. When I eat it I don't finish thinking how delicious that meal was, its really all about being a convenience food. The taste and texture is a little neutral.

    2. Just took a look at their website. It looks like those old diet shakes from the 80s!

    3. :-) I'm not familiar with the nutrition profile of those diet shakes, but the Soylent site, which this product is related to, mentioned that there have been many previous attempts at powdered meals, but they are largely meant as supplements, not replacements. With Sipreme, you can live on it. I think its different?

      But on the subject of dieting, I have wanted to lose a few pounds and have never been a calorie counter. With Sipreme, once I split a pouch into my four portions, I know each portion is 500 calories and that I need around 2000/day. If I eat two portions with a supplement of veggies and maybe cheese, I'm below that 2000 threshold, very easy. Anyway...I've lost a few pounds I think, so maybe it is a diet drink!