Frozen water may not seem so special, but it makes life aboard so much better! Ice lets you preserve foods and meats, allowing you to eat well as you travel far from shore. Looking at meat alone, your options when ice is involved is endless. Any form of meat can be kept frozen or cold for a long time to keep it fresh enough to eat as you cruise. Without ice, you would be limited to canned or salted meats. Don't get me wrong, Spam can be doctored up to be quite tasty, but the options are limited and at some point you will crave chicken, steak, or fish!
Ice comes in a few styles, cubed or block. They both have their merits and their weaknesses. Cubed ice is by far the most common and easily obtained. Any grocery store, gas station, marina, or convenience store will have bags of cubed ice. Cubed ice also conforms to any shape of ice box you present it to. The small pieces simply fall into place as they cram into the shape of the box. They will also tightly pack around your foods and help keep them very cold as you voyage away. The problem with cubed ice is it has a lot of surface area for the volume of ice you buy. This means that it will melt faster than the same volume of ice that was frozen in one piece, or block of ice.
Block ice is not as easy to find, but if you can get a hold of it and fit it in your freezer, it will serve you very well. Block ice has less surface area and therefore melts slower than cubed ice. This means that a 10 pound bag of ice cubes will melt in a few days while a 10 pound block of ice will last around 1 week in a properly insulated container. Keeping your ice longer also translates into keeping your food cold for longer! The problem with block ice though is that it is very unforgiving when it comes to size. You are limited to the size of the ice that is produced. If you can't fit it in your ice box, then you can't reap its benefits. Also, block ice doesn't really wrap around your foods, meaning that it will keep the compartment cold, but not necessarily your food as cold as cubed ice would, being how cubed ice would be right up next to the food on all sides.
This is where compromise can help you out! If you are able to get a hold of both forms of ice, you can reap the benefits of both! We like to fill the bottom of the freezer with block ice, that way it remains very cold in there. We then lay our food over the block ice and cover it with cubed ice. Now our food is laying on the block ice, and the top of the food is covered by cubed ice that we can easily move around to retrieve our food when we are ready for it.
We have found that this method will last around a week with the fridge off, but with the fridge turned on, the ice lasts even longer!
Ideally, you want to keep your ice above your food, that way the cold air from the ice will fall and the food will remain bathed in cold air from the ice above. This works great if you have a side opening fridge with an ice shelf. The ice can live on the shelf and you can open the door and retrieve any foods stored in the bottom of the fridge. If you have a top opening fridge, then you will have to reach around the ice and ice shelf to get at your food below.
We don't have an ice shelf, and our fridge is top load, so we have no way of accessing what is at the bottom without removing what is at the top. This has led us to the compromise of blocks at the bottom and cubes above. The chill plate is located high in the box, so when it is on, it does cool the air and that keeps the ice in the bottom from melting as fast.