Thoughts on Designing a Small Boat Galley

30 May

When Boyd said he wanted to buy a boat, I said it was okay by me as long as he made sure of two things:

  1.  I could sleep at night (mind you, that’s not as easy a requirement as you may think.  I require a really good mattress and a room temperature hovering somewhere in the arctic range)
  2. I could continue to play in a properly outfitted kitchen

Well, as of this week, Boyd ticked both boxes!

As you probably saw in my previous blog entries, my bed-in-a-box is perfect, and Boyd’s air-conditioning know-how has created a lovely sleeping environment for me.

But, today I want to talk about this kitchen we designed and built…and, no, I don’t really care how much the hair stands up on the back of your neck every time I call my galley ‘a kitchen’ – you’re just going to have to live with it!

So, let’s talk kitchens… (those of you who couldn’t care less about ‘galley design’ can sign off at this point, ‘cause I’m planning on getting ‘into the weeds’ on this…sorry). When designing a boat kitchen there are a few very basic givens you have to think through:

  1. Boats are often small, so there’s normally not a lot of room for ‘stuff’
  2. Boats like to rock and roll…which is not the best environment when dealing with sharp knives and boiling pots
  3. Boats seem to enjoy being in moist environments (go figure!?!) so smart storage is critical (not only for food, but for towels, boxes, powders, etc. )
  4. Boats have a limited (and often hand-tying) electrical system, so there’s probably going to be a bit of mixing and matching of kitchen toys

So, let’s talk about my first point:  yep, boats are small! At least, they tend to be much smaller than most folk’s homes. So, each inch/centimeter of space is valuable! …both horizontally and vertically!

When we ripped out Bushranger’s old cabinets, we replaced them with cabinets that were not only deeper, but stood taller (we raised the countertop a good couple of inches). Boyd then installed wire shelving (it needed to be wire so we could see all the way to the back of each cupboard) after measuring the height of our normal cans and supplies.


We also installed a heavy-duty pull-out cupboard that was designed around the storage containers I planned on using.  The containers were stack-able, so optimized the allowable space.

pullout drawer

For the sink, we’ve installed a ‘bar facet’ — they’re a bit smaller. This particular sink has a soap dispenser built in so we don’t need to clutter the sink area with detergent dispensers.  I also found a really cool collapsible dish-drainer. It comes in three parts, so I can use any or all depending on how many dishes I will be washing

dishdrain open

…and when the dishes are done, it collapses and stores neatly under the sink

dishdrain stored

— slick, don’t ya’ think?

Now, when stocking my cupboards, everything MUST NEST!


No bowl, or pot, or plastic container will be solo in my cupboard! I just don’t have the space.  I even found pots that nest and have removable handles (they’re made by Magma and they work beautifully!).  It’s all very cozy in the cupboard…

So, having optimized the storage, we then needed to optimize the work space…which IS a problem, since I intend to continue my bread and biscotti baking while we live aboard this old boat…and bread baking requires a bit of space for kneading and mixing (I DO NOT use a bread machine!…those machines are noisy, and take all the fun out of bread baking!).

To optimize the counter space, we got a bit creative. We designed to stainless steel cover for the two burner electric stove (we choose not to have a gas stove…an open flame was a bit too scary for me…) that is a work space for chopping/stacking when the stove is not in use.

stove cover

When we use the stove, the cover flips up and become a back splash (Boyd has installed a small clasp that holds it in the vertical position, although we designed it so it is weighted on the back side and likes to stand vertically even without the clasp).

splash back

I think that’s enough on space…let’s talk about ‘rockin’ and rollin’…

…some things are obvious; like your cabinets and drawers need to lock closed, you need to have a lip on your counter-top to keep things from rolling onto the floor, and you need to secure anything that could cause you trouble if the weather gods are giving you a particularly hard time.

To make sure all my sharp knives are secured, we designed a special drawer that holds each one in a designated spot.

knife drawer

For all the bits and pieces of the kitchen that routinely remain ‘out’, we’ve place little ‘grab pads’ on their bottoms or Boyd has secured them (like the coffeemaker and the cup holders) to the Formica (by the way, we chose Formica for the counter-tops due to weight issues…but that’s a blog entry for another time).

Okay, now about our ‘moist environment’.  The most obvious requirement is the ‘venting’ of the cupboards.  This way, the air can circulate and maybe (if we’re really lucky) keep those pesky mold spores from partying behind all our stuff.  Also, all foodstuffs are in airtight containers (by the way, I know I’m not discussing how to outfit a bedroom, but we’ve also protected much of our clothing by storing them in Ziplock bags and Spacebags…in case you were wondering).  There is also a product called DampRid that helps suck the moisture out of closets and bathrooms. Finally, the air-conditioner that Boyd installed has a ‘dehumidifying’ option that I am sure will get quite a bit of use.

Right! Now to the real tough bit – the electrical considerations.  First, the bits and pieces of my kitchen are on different circuits (as best as we could do it). So, if I use my rice cooker on the port outlet, I can use the Smart Oven that is plugged into the starboard outlet. The stove, microwave and fridge each have their own outlets (Boyd actually installed a small ‘computer’ exhaust fan behind the fridge to help ensure it has adequate ventilation…which helps with its efficiency).  That’s not to say I can plug-in and run anything, anytime…no no no. I still need to keep an eye on the power monitor to ensure I don’t trip the breakers by trying to run too many ‘toys’ at once. Hopefully, I’ll get better at that as we go…

Now that I’ve bored you to tears (actually, if you’re still reading this, maybe I wasn’t as boring as I thought), have a look at the final product and tell me what you think!

New Kitchen

19 Responses to “Thoughts on Designing a Small Boat Galley”

  1. Catherine Taylor May 30, 2014 at 13:08 #

    Wonderful job and now you should enjoy the galley on your big ole boat. If you get bored cos you don’t have anything to do, you could write a book on boat renovations for those of us about to embark on the same journey you have just completed. Great job!

    • Mrs Bushranger May 30, 2014 at 15:52 #

      Hmmm, a book…nah, that sounds too much like work to me…

  2. Marianne May 30, 2014 at 13:46 #

    I am agog!

    • Mrs Bushranger May 30, 2014 at 15:54 #

      Cool word, “agog”! …sounds something that would go with “forsooth”…I LIKE it!

  3. Robyn Furness May 30, 2014 at 14:34 #

    What an interesting talk on kitchen design. I’m sure you two will enjoy it too the max! Love from Washington xxx

    • Mrs Bushranger May 30, 2014 at 15:54 #

      ya’ know, Washington is just a hop, skip and a jump from Northern Mississippi…

  4. Chris May 30, 2014 at 16:31 #

    Very interesting! You’re going to have a wonderful time cooking!

  5. Paul Kinghorne May 30, 2014 at 16:33 #

    Very flash “galley” Mrs R! Great work. Enjoy

  6. May 30, 2014 at 20:47 #

    I don’t care what you say. There is a book in this exclamation

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Barbie Robinson May 31, 2014 at 03:23 #

    As the father in “The Darling Buds of May” used to say, “PERFICK!!” And I would expect nothing less from a bright-eyed, highly intelligent Pilot/cook extraordinaire who is amazingly versatile and can turn her hand to any job on the planet and smilingly! and a methodical, conscientious, highly intelligent but practical Supply Officer/my brother who shares the same fastidious father!! WELL DONE you two! :)) Oh, and LOVE the vegemite on the top shelf and the Tuppaware in the pull-out pantry!! You said you have those moisture beads, well, in the Innovations Catalogue you can buy a Dehumidifier Egg for $30 for your wardrobe. You are both AWESOME!!! Lotsa love xoxoxo

  8. Rod Robinson June 1, 2014 at 00:59 #

    Brilliant you two!! Everything well thought out, which, from my seafaring days, needs to be. The final product looks very terrific.

  9. acresinfo June 8, 2014 at 15:02 #

    It is SO impressive! You guys could go into the designing of boats in your next life…you are that good!


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