Replacing a Boat Galley

3 May

My apologies for the length of this entry.  We thought it might help others if I wrote down a few things that we’ve figured out about rebuilding our boat galley. So, you can either pretend that you’re fascinated about the process of rebuilding a galley (aren’t I being good about referring to my KITCHEN as a galley?) and read the whole entry until you chin drops down to your chest and your eyes glaze over, or you can just pretend to read it and make some pithy comment at the end…either way, works for me…


We’ve learned a lot over the past year.  When we bought Bushranger (she was named Quixote then), we knew that we would need a better kitchen (since I love pottering around in the kitchen). We started looking for someone who could help, but, wow, that wasn’t as easy as we anticipated.   We looked at cabinet shops, large hardware chains, and just about any place that talked about cabinets in their advertising.  The problem was that none of them knew about the materials needed, or the problems associated with a marine environment. Everybody sold cabinets that would probably just end up dissolving in our marine environment. After looking around for over a year, we determined that we would probably need to build it ourselves….which was hard since there were so many other things we needed to mess with (like engines and tanks and stuff).

See, the thing is, putting a kitchen (fine, a GALLEY!) in a boat is not like putting one in a house.  I don’t believe there is one truly ‘right angle’ or perfectly flat surface anywhere in Bushranger. Also, you need to make your kitchen out of materials that will survive the marine environment. Finally, there’s not a lot of room in a boat (or, at least, OUR boat doesn’t have a lot of room) so you have to be smart and really optimize the existing space.  So, this is what we figured out:

  1. Use the right wood – if you’re going to use plywood, make sure it is marine ply – otherwise, it’s just going to fall apart over time.  Also, teak is a lovely wood for a boat, but BOY is it expensive and hard to get! So, how about ‘oak’ you ask? Well, white oak is good for a boat, but red oak isn’t.  It’s all a function of how porous the wood is.…and don’t forget to use stainless steel screws, otherwise you will be dealing with lots of rust over time.
  2. Check all the existing surfaces – previous owners have been known to hide some really nasty stuff! When we bought Bushranger, the owner told us that he had painted the teak walls to brighten the rooms.  Well, maybe, but we discovered that the walls were rotted under the paint, that was under the other paint, that was under the false covering.  We ended up ripping out all the rotted wood and replacing it with proper marine grade wood…and it took a long time…
  3. Measure everything – not just the distance along the back wall, but the distance between what will be the forward edge of the counter.  I bet that the walls are not exactly straight, so the countertop should not be cut with right angles.
  4. Weight is important – so many countertops just won’t work in a smaller boat because they’re just too heavy. Forget all the ‘stone’ countertops – Formica is probably the best option (it is much more robust than it used to be and there is a great selection out there).  Then, you can always replace it a few years from now, since I bet you will want a different color anyway…
  5. Storage is critical – so we actually raised the height of the countertop and extended the depth of the cabinets so we would have more room underneath.  Then we gave the drawers heavy duty slides so we could use all the room. All the drawers and cabinets snap securely closed with flush-mounted latches (we didn’t want anything to protrude into the passageway since it’s such a small space), so nothing will end up tumbling onto the floor (Boyd tells me I should call this a ‘deck’…okie-dokie) if we end up really ‘rockin’ and rollin’ up in the Great Lakes’.  We also had the cabinet doors ‘vented’ to allow air to flow and help impede mold/mildew growth.
  6. Remember that there is going to be lots of movement — we put a teak rail along the countertop to help keep all the bits and pieces from sliding off.
  7. Make sure that all your kitchen equipment makes sense – if the bowls/glasses/pots didn’t ‘nest’ then we didn’t want them.  We bought a cool set of marine pots and pans by Magma that takes up almost no room (they nest and come with two removable handles) but are well-built with a nice heavy bottom – very cool! They work great.pots open pots nested
  8. Bench space is limited – so we had to optimize everything. We needed a sink that was big enough to easily handle our biggest pot/bowl, but didn’t eat away all of our bench space (I need that space for kneading my bread dough). We determined that two burners were all that I need for my stove (I almost never use more than that). We purchased a great countertop oven called a Breville Smart Oven.  It does everything I need and it takes up almost no room.  I can even make my pizza in this oven (and it doubles as a toaster). We went back and forth on whether or not we needed a microwave, and decided that ‘yes’ it was a good idea.  I think that most people cook with the microwave (I don’t…I like my oven) so it is important for resale. So, we designed a space for the microwave into where the kitchen drawers are.
  9. Machines like to make hot air — we actually went to Radio Shack and bought a little $5 computer cooling fan to install behind the frig to help optimize its output.  That’s also one of the reasons we went with a countertop oven…an enclosed oven needs too much room around it for proper heat dissipation.

So, there you have it: the evolution of rebuilding a galley.

…Oh, I never did tell you how we found a cabinet maker….we just kept asking anyone we met if they knew anybody that did this kind of work. So, a friend said that he ‘knew a guy’ – and, sure enough, it was true.  They did a great job, don’t ya’ think?!


10 Responses to “Replacing a Boat Galley”

  1. Kathy May 3, 2013 at 12:52 #

    Looking good!! I read it all!

    • Mrs Bushranger May 3, 2013 at 15:38 #

      You are very dedicated… I don’t think I could have slogged through that long thing!

  2. Paul Kinghorne May 3, 2013 at 15:39 #

    Thank you for the update. The galley looks fantastic.

  3. Lisa May 4, 2013 at 01:05 #

    It looks amazing guys! Well worth all your hard research.

  4. Rod Robinson May 4, 2013 at 16:15 #

    Quite a process. But final product looks great and you’ll appreciate all your efforts when you’re out in the “oggin” turning out meals.

  5. Pat May 24, 2013 at 16:26 #

    Thank you for putting us back in the loop. You have yourself a good looking kitchen!

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