Thinking hard about the little things increases efficiency
By Rob Lucey
Most production galleys are
fine for a weekend cruise, but if you’re thinking about a longer time frame for the galley’s use—extended cruising or living aboard—any shortcomings will quickly become apparent. Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for what you are given. For example, my wife and I converted the galley on our 38-footer—one that left us feeling like we were camping out—into a highly functional area. The improvements we made proved their worth during a three-year cruise that took us along the Gulf Coast, into the Chesapeake, and throughout the Eastern Caribbean. The modifications we made improved stowage, cooking, and passagemaking.
Even though some sailors think alcohol is a safer cooking fuel than propane, replacing our alcohol stove with a propane stove was our first priority. We’d heard too many stories about invisible alcohol flames, lower heat levels, and problems locating cooking alcohol abroad. Installing a new propane stove meant finding a way to fit the propane tanks in the lazaret and then making the area able to handle potential leaks. To do this we mounted a regulator and ran propane hose from the tanks to the stove. We also attached the stove’s gimbal mounts so the new unit swings clear of everything when the boat rolls. To meet American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards, we installed a solenoid shutoff valve at the tank and a shutoff switch near the stove. We held our breath when we turned the stove on for the first time, but we’ve never had a problem.
Refrigeration units can draw a lot of power, especially when cruising in the tropics. That’s why increasing the unit’s efficiency has a major impact on battery-capacity and generating requirements. Increasing the amount of insulation is the simplest way to improve efficiency. The refrigerator box on older production boats like ours is a perfect candidate for this upgrade because years of condensation and heat inevitably take a toll on the interior foam.
We attacked the project from several directions. The back of the refrigerator on our boat is also a bulkhead for the sail locker. To help insulate that area I epoxied sheets of standard Styrofoam insulation to the bulkhead wall and then screwed a sheet of plastic over the foam to protect it from external dings. Similarly, I added insulation and a plastic sheet to the inside of the refrigerator lid (Photo1). Although this sacrificed an inch of interior space, the increased efficiency was well worth it.
Inside the box I drilled a few strategic holes and carefully sprayed Great Stuff (http://greatstuff.dow.com/pro/) expanding foam into the voids. Then I sealed the holes with adhesive sealant. The result is a refrigerator unit that spends much more time resting. We keep a sheet of Techni-Ice (www.techniice.com/english/) on top of the small freezer section; this reusable dry-ice pack helps keep the cold air in place when the lid is open.
Reorganizing the refrigerator’s interior space was simple to do and also helped improve efficiency. Top-loading refrigerators like ours are not especially convenient; the contents always seem to seek the lowest level, and you end up standing on your tiptoes to retrieve something from the bottom of the box. That’s where a good stowage plan can help. A plastic tray on the top shelf holds condiments and keeps them from falling to the bottom of the box. It’s also more efficient to pull out just one tray than it is to take out a dozen bottles. We mounted a drink-can holder inside the box to keep beverages chilled, and we can stow a carton of eggs on top of it.
We have installed elastic cords on the shelves opposite the freezer box to help keep bottles in place. I made another shelf, level with the bottom of the freezer box, from StarBoard polymer; it’s used to stow bags of veggies (Photo 2). While preparing for a major food run ashore still tests our organizational skills, we now have a much better idea where specific items are stored.
The galley’s double sink had a 12-volt on-demand faucet between the two sinks, a hand-pump faucet on the left side of the sinks, and a foot-pump faucet on the right. I connected the foot pump to a seawater inlet so that we can clean all our dishes (when we’re cruising in clear water) with salt water before rinsing them with fresh water. The hand pump is connected to the fresh-water line, and we use it for nearly all our fresh-water needs; it squirts out a conservative 1/4 cup with each pump instead of the steady stream that comes from the electric faucet.
The only time we need to use the electric-pump faucet is when we refill the water bottles we store in the refrigerator. I added a standard Culligan kitchen water filter to the pressurized faucet. We refill our water tanks with rainwater when we’re cruising and away from a dock, and the filter will remove any stray debris that may have been washed into the tanks. Our hot-water tank is heated either by the auxiliary engine or by the internal coil heated by shore power.
We had drawn up plans for an elaborate rack for our plates that would be mounted over the sink. Then we saw a teak Marinco-AFI dish rack at a second-hand boat-supply store. We measured it and found that it would fit perfectly. We brought it home, gave it a good sanding, put on some varnish, and it was as good as new. The rack, which is mounted on the aft bulkhead behind the refrigerator, holds all our plates and drinking cups; our bowls don’t fit in the rack, so they remain in the built-in cabinets (Photo 3). All utensils are stowed in a silverware tray fitted into one of the existing drawers.
Kitchen knives must not be put in drawers or cubbyholes because they can get loose during a passage. A slotted teak knife holder was part of the back of the plate rack we purchased, but it was too wide to fit over the refrigerator and there wasn’t enough overhead space above the plate rack to get knives in and out. The solution was to shorten the length of the knife holder and mount it on a small bulkhead that separates the galley from the main saloon. We use two of the holder slots to stow our manual can opener (Photo 4).
We enjoy using spices when we’re cooking, but we weren’t sure where we could mount the three-shelf wooden spice rack we liked. We decided that putting it on a long, narrow space on the bulkhead behind the sink made good sense. Mounting it required chopping it into pieces and reassembling it as a single shelf. We sanded, stained, and varnished it to match the surrounding teak and installed brass eyes and elastic cords to keep the spice bottles from bouncing out.
Like many production boats, ours has a flat surface underneath the oven. After I boldly sawed a square piece of fiberglass out of the middle of the flat surface, I saw the space I knew existed between it and the hull. It had enough room to hold almost all our infrequently used pans and storage containers. (I also discovered a hammer that a worker had left when the boat was being built.) To keep dirt and crumbs out of this new storage area, I cut a sliding lid from 1/4-inch teak ply and put a recessed brass handle on the top (Photo 5).
We found a ready-made Marinco-AFI holder for our four wine glasses and again faced the question of where to put it. We ended up mounting it above the galley window just below the headliner. The location is out of the way, but the glasses produce a welcome glow whenever the sun is shining through the window.
Dry storage space is always in short supply; we found that the space above the double sink is an excellent place for a storage hammock. I screwed a brass hook in a headliner rib amidships and put another one on the same rib at its outboard end. The hammock that hangs between the two hooks holds our breakfast cereal, breads, and snacks. The hammock has worked so well that we added another hook to the rib for a smaller hammock that hangs above the larger one and holds our fruits and vegetables. We use a single hook to hang net bags of garlic and onions. The two hammocks have freed up enough space in the usual dry-storage areas to hold all the canned and dry goods we carry (Photo 6).
We installed a 12-volt outlet in the galley and used a cigarette lighter–style plug. I drilled one hole for the outlet and connected the plug to a bus bar off our house batteries using appropriate-gauge wires and its own fuse. Because the outlet is at the foot of the companionway steps, this addition has been very helpful, particularly when we are under way. We use it to plug in a handheld GPS unit we use in the cockpit, recharge our VHF, and power the 12-volt spotlight we keep on deck at night.
The 12-volt power plug motivated us to get a 12-volt thermos to heat water for drinks during night passages. We’ve tried a 12-volt blender, but it didn’t work very well. Of course, the real problem is that each new piece of gear we want to get comes with a new challenge—where to put it.
Rob Lucey and his wife, Jo, cruised for three years aboard their 38-foot Morgan sloop, Sea Spell. They now live aboard in Oriental, North Carolina, where they recently launched Carolina Currents, a regional sailing magazine.