Galley Klatch

In this roundup of sailboat owners, designers, builders, and liveaboards, we learn that people like the amenities of the modern home kitchen so much that they're carrying them off to sea. "Hands-On Sailor" from our June 2010 issue

beneteau galley 368

Double sinks and durable countertops in the Beneteau 54 are just some of the results of decades of client feedback.Gilles Martin-raget/benteau

It started with sea water standing in the galley sink. Each time Gwen Hamlin and Don Wilson's Tackless II, a CSY 44 walk-through, sailed on port tack, the sinks backfilled if someone forgot to close the through hull. At anchor, they gurgled. A macerator installed in the sink's exhaust line solved that.

While they were at it, and considering that they were about to head out on a 10-year sojourn through the Pacific Ocean, they ripped out the old sinks and installed a new, deeper, stainless-steel double. They also threw in a household pull-out sprayer faucet, molded countertops that shielded the oak joinery from stains, and a cutting board that fit over one of the sinks and could be slid from side to side while the boat was under way.

Moving on, they converted a starboard hanging locker to hold canned goods, had custom nesting box shelves built in to hold onions, potatoes, and tomatoes, mounted a microwave under the cockpit deck, and set up electrical appliances on an inboard ledge.

That work doesn't even take into consideration a massive redesign, repurposing, and repowering of the fridge and freezer compartments.

Just as Gwen and Don wouldn't head off with tattered sails or a natty inflatable, they wouldn't dare overlook one of the most important components of their liveaboard boat-the galley.

Their vision would score points with any number of designers, fellow live-aboards, and builders who've spent time focused on the galley's critical role, no matter what size the boat.

The refits that cruisers have undertaken, as well as the observations made by industry experts about layout, innovations, and improvements over the years, yield a hefty platter of points to consider when you're contemplating your own refit project or boat-buying prospects.

A Sense of Proportion
On the other end of the spectrum is Brandon Somers. who lives in the seaport village of Wickford, Rhode Island.

Somers, who grew up aboard the beefy 63-foot Lemsteraak Dutch sailing barge Brandaris, has chosen to downsize as an adult. With his sights set on cruising among southeastern New England's anchorages and islands on overnights and weekend excursions, the 24-year-old Somers is midway through a complete refit of the modest galley on his 28-foot Pearson Triton.

As the plumber and mechanic for Jamestown Boat Yard on Conanicut Island in Rhode Island, Somers did his homework by photographing interiors of Pearsons he liked and had worked on.

Among the problems in the old galley? The starboard length of the saloon was entirely countertop, the boat lacked needed shelving and stowage, there was no table, and the icebox, with access from the cockpit, wasn't really usable.

Among Somers's additions are a two-burner stove, an accessible sink and icebox, a dinette that seats two, and a pressure water system. He'll use propane for the stove and construct a deck box at the mast to accommodate the fuel source. And he'll make a cushion/bunk on the starboard side of the saloon. "You need a place to sleep amidships," he says.

A sense of proportion and creating a space that's useful yet convenient are in line with Somers' priorities, and it's a wise choice as a project, according to designers and builders of leading production models.

A Designer's Eye
Apply methodical thinking to your situation, urges yacht designer David Pedrick. Pedrick's prolific career has yielded such diverse results as America's Cup racers and superyachts, restored one-off classics, and successful production models, including the Freedom 35.

"As with anything dealing with yachts," he says, "space is precious. There's never enough. You have to prioritize how to use space in a desirable way."

The choices grow proportionately with size. A 30-footer is very limited, a 40-foot-plus boat gives you more latitude for, say, a three-burner stove with oven, and by the time you're considering a 60-foot boat, cul-de-sac shaped galleys aren't out of the question, Pedrick says.

With each incremental growth in boat size comes a threshold at which you have to think twice before adding the next amenity, yet even in a 30-footer, "you still want a sink that's big enough to hold a pot or a dinner plate," he says.

As amenities start to include things like microwaves and pressure water, Pedrick says, "You realize that it isn't just galley space you need. You need power capacity, too."

Real People, Real Numbers
Typical cruisers sail about 10 percent to 20 percent of the time and spend the rest on the hook or in a marina. That realization in the last 20 years is what has largely influenced galley innovations, says Bruno Belmont, Beneteau Group Sailboats Development Director. With that title, Belmont's been involved with oversight of designs for a wide range of Beneteaus as well as sailboats from Lagoon and Jeanneau.

"People used to comment about their sailing vacation by listing the number of miles sailed," Belmont says. Acknowledging that actual miles sailed may be less in some cases made it possible to change perspectives about what a cruising sailboat should deliver, especially in the galley. Results have ranged from improvements in countertop surfaces and material to larger, more practical sinks, stoves and ovens of usable size, properly located lights, and last, but not least, practical and more energy efficient refrigeration. According to Belmont, refrigeration is the second biggest energy drain on a sailboat, after belowdecks lighting. ( "Reefer Madness")

Adding that "a long battle has raged for years between front opening and top loading fridges," Belmont says the end result is a stroke for power efficiency: front opening compartments for the refrigerator, and top loading compartments for freezers.

As well, Beneteau designers have improved the ability to use the galley under way, focusing attention on handrails, fiddles, hanging bars, and stove protection.

Housebroken
Though the galley has always rated key consideration in sensible yacht design, changes over the last 25 years on the domestic front are influencing changes in the galley design, says Gerry Douglas of Catalina.

"It's similar to what's happened in houses," says the Catalina corporate vice president and head of engineering. "Years ago, the galley was utilitarian. In some boats, the galley counter was actually a companionway step. Sometimes the galley was in the peak-if you had a paid hand."

In residential design, Douglas says, the kitchen in the last 20 to 25 years has become a social space. More people are focused on food and food prep as a social activity.

"Food also takes on importance in cruising, and now the galley is front and center in the main cabin," Douglas says, referring to changes in such newer Catalina models as the 445. "The cook's at the sink and has eye contact with other crewmembers. The cook's now engaged, looking into the main cabin, not with his or her back to the social space. It's subtle, but important."

While trends borrowed from home design enhance the galley experience, borrowing too much from designs meant for living on land can yield regrettable trends, he says, among them, "odd angles that don't seem to make sense."

"The galley is an interesting space-a combination of aesthetics and function," he says, adding that the G, L, and J layouts give cooks a way to brace themselves under way.

Douglas's enthusiasm for accommodating food preparation doesn't include acceptance of all modern-day conveniences, like watermakers and microwaves. "Watermakers are like electronics," he says. "They're always getting better, cheaper, and easier to operate. Don't buy one until you really need it. Also, realize that having one isn't dependent so much on the size of the boat, but how much you actually use the boat."

And, as for microwaves, "they're the world's most expensive bread box," Douglas says, expressing his personal view, as microwaves are a feature that Catalina offers.

A Movable Feast
Island Packet founder and designer Bob Johnson has a simple, direct way of expressing his priorities for the galley.

"If you're going to cook a meal on a boat," he says, "it should be like cooking a meal at home. Eating granola bars and drinking bottled water for days is not the way you want to go."

That opinion and all it implies has guided the highly successful galley walk-in and walk-through variations Johnson has created for IP hulls in the 30 to 50 foot range. Besides the larger center cockpit models freeing up belowdecks space and sight lines nicely for the galley, while allowing "amazing walk-through space between counters," all IP galleys, whatever the length, "must have working space for real people and all the safety considerations," Johnson says.

And regardless of the make and model, even on a 30-footer, Johnson says, you need stowage for cutlery; dishes; dry storage; a good icebox either of one or two compartments; and a two-burner stove.

Expanding on signature must-haves (see his list), Johnson explains what goes into his thinking when it comes to the designing of IP galleys.

"It's nice to be able to find the oil, have a place to chop vegetables, have the spices within reach," he says. "I prefer to dry dishes and let them nest. You need a stove with a good oven. You need to be able to operate it safely, so it needs to be gimballed and you need to be able to strap yourself in with a harness. You can put a very large pot under the gimballed stove."

And Johnson agrees with Catalina's Douglas that the best in home-kitchen design can also find an appropriate corollary afloat. "Like a house, the galley is the central gathering point," he says, noting with irony, "I eat better when I'm sailing than I do at home."

"As a designer, cruiser, and onboard cook," he says, "and knowing owners who enjoy cooking on board, it's practical to consider these points."

He Wrote the Book
When Donald Launer got to his 17th sailboat, the bare fiberglass hull of a schooner, and was faced with constructing everything from scratch, he went looking for advice in his vast nautical reference library at home in New Jersey.

He couldn't find much of anything written about galleys, either new or refit. The Galley: How Things Work ($18; 2009; Sheridan House) is his way of filling that gap, by documenting everything he did. It's a thorough compilation of galley infrastructure and resources, materials choices, and galley hardware, from types of water tank materials to stoves, fuel, pumps, electrical requirements, as well as construction considerations.

"I had experience in putting things together," he says. "It seemed appropriate to help others who were either modifying or building their galleys from scratch."

Galley Classroom
"Before you go cruising, it's hard to imagine exactly what it will be like," says voyager, author, and website creator Kathy Parsons.

"The galley is a real important part of the boat and a segue to learning about other things, like refrigeration and plumbing. This is a really great way for women to transition into the cruising life," she says.

Besides creating the Women and Cruising website (www.womenandcruising.com) to address resources geared to female crew, Parsons interviewed 18 women solely about galleys. The result is a gold mine of advice and ideas about provisioning, what works when living aboard, what doesn't, what they like, and what they've changed.

Many of the women, like Hamlin of Tackless II, undertook extensive refits and in at least one instance, design, aboard a variety of boats, from a 46-foot Crowther catamaran to a Whitby 42. Even in the most minimal of projects, recurrent themes and a few surprises emerge. One woman, a professional interior designer and the co-owner of the Crowther, lofted the galley on paper and then made a plywood and cardboard mockup to test usability of the new layout.

Aside from that owner, most of the women are aboard used boats. Their liveaboard priorities are strikingly in line with those of builders and designers of new boats: better, more efficient, front-loading refrigeration; more and accessible stowage; more counter space made of durable materials; roomier walkways to accommodate more than one person; stronger lighting and additional ventilation; range/stove hoods; filters for water taps; pressure water systems; eye contact with other crewmembers while cooking; and double sinks.

The main element of surprise is that these liveaboards, no matter what size the boat, altered galleys to accommodate a host of electrical appliances, particularly, microwaves. Read each woman's account carefully and realize that a range of personal preferences and divergent opinions also emerge and influence their work.
You've gotten a taste of valuable insights into galley refit and design. There's only one thing left to say: Bon appetit!

CW deputy editor Elaine Lembo has earned her keep working in galleys luxurious and rudimentary throughout New England and Caribbean waters.