A recent kitchen renovation project in my home got me thinking about cooking facilities on boats–or more specifically the usual lack thereof. What philosophical change in boat design would be necessary to improve the floating cooking universe? If you’re in the market for a new boat, what should you be looking for in galley accommodations? Just emptying the cabinets of my home’s kitchen in preparation for makeover made me realize how much space we have for stuff ashore versus the amount of cooking gear carried onboard, at least onboard any boat I’ve ever had. At best, onboard cooking situations on boats I’ve owned over 20-feet in length resembled the makeshift camp setup I put in my dining room while demolition was underway in my old kitchen. An icebox or place to refrigerate food, a small work surface often no bigger than a cutting board, some camp-stove like equipment to heat food—and that’s it!
Onboard there often isn’t much space to store food or cooking equipment and the overhead, ventilation, and prep space on boats is limited. When I think of the space planning that has gone into my landside kitchen—the triangle between stove, fridge, and sink, or things as mundane as cabinet rollouts—I realize that galleys are most often afterthoughts on boats.
Why not design a floating galley first, then build the boat around that? After all, we all need to eat and, if we really want to improve our time on the water wouldn’t having a better galley make it more likely we will spend more time on our boats? Our homes are built around our kitchens, why aren’t our boats?
Granted, you are probably thinking of your new boat in terms of going sailing or fishing, or as a vehicle for transporting you over the ocean blue and not a place to live for long stretches. I encourage everyone to think of use before buying any boat. Hopefully, you will entertain friends and family on your new boat so galley accommodations should be given some priority. If your new boat can sleep more than 2, you should consider graduating from camp cooking. You might not want granite countertops and a fancy Subzero fridge onboard but real refrigeration, a microwave, realistic storage, a gimbaled range, an adequate sink and prep space should be on your list as you think about how you’ll use your boat.
We all love to grill, and adding a grill to the stern rail of any boat can suffice for some people. Personally, I like gas grills better than charcoal ones on boats just for the cleanliness factor—especially if you store the grill and don’t leave it permanently on the rail.
Here are a few tips to consider when evaluating cooking facilities on boats you might buy.
Boats under 30-feet: Camping and picnic-like equipment works best because you can stow it when the meal is complete.
- An Ice chest (with adequate tie downs)
- Disposable paper plates and plastic utensils
- A rail mounted gas grill
- Butane or propane camp stoves for down below. Consider Forespar’s gimbaled Mini Galley with quick detach mounting bracket (my favorite)
- Boats over 30-feet: If you will spend consecutive days onboard or you plan to entertain a lot, a fixed galley might be more convenient.
- Built-in refrigeration such as Adler Barbour
- A gimbaled propane stove with oven
- Dedicated food storage
- Reusable dishes and utensils with dedicated storage racks
- A good sink with fresh water supply
- Microwave & fridges (will require an inverter for AC power
Don’t forget the blender for mixed concoctions. For offshore trips I find prepared frozen foods like lasagna in disposable baking pans help with refrigeration until ready to eat, keep prep time onboard to a minimum, and when popped into an oven make delicious hot meals when most appreciated. Cleanup is a snap. When looking at boats to buy, consider if the galley fits how you plan to use the boat—unlike kitchens at home you’ll probably sell the boat before you renovate the galley.