Galleys Uppermost In Mind

When I first got involved in larger vessel work in the mid 70’s, the prevailing configuration for powerboats had a central helm position raised up to give visibility over the deckhouse and a main saloon centrally located with its floor at about waist height below the sheerline. The saloon floor covered the extensive engine hatches and consequently had little fixed furnishing. The main sleeping cabin or cockpit was aft and the galley occupied the only space left, forward of the saloon, four steps down below the saloon level. This was not identified as a “galley down” configuration, it was just the norm. The galley was about as far away from “the action” as you could get and very unfavorable for sea motion. Spousal sea sickness syndrome was part of the joy of boating apparently.

About that same time, “trawler” cruising boats came onto the market in a big way and a few forward thinkers featured a “galley up” configuration. This placed the galley within the enclosed wheelhouse/saloon space. The engine hatch issue was deemed less critical presumably and the fixed galley furnishings were allowed some encroachment.

By the end of the 70’s the catch phrase “galley up” was the new sales mantra of the powerboat market and all the manufacturers scrambled to work it into existing and new design offerings. This change in approach was concurrent with the recognition that “the little woman” was a thing of the past and if either partner was to make the coffee, the galley better not be an afterthought. It suddenly occupied prime real estate in many configurations. If it was tiny, that was a price to be willingly paid by many owners.

During all these developments sailboat configurations remained steady in regard to the galley, its location having been the subject of decades of informed consideration, fore/aft forming the substance of the discussion. Unless your boat was over maybe 60’, it was unlikely that there would be any up/down discussion.

The argument for galley downThe arrival of sailing catamarans on the market was overwhelmingly dominated by the creation of charter fleets. The cruising market that existed was and continues to be largely tagged on to charter configuration offerings. Catamarans are expensive to tool up for and the economics of large production runs favors the use of standardized plastic interiors, something like refrigerator doors. This made the classic “heads & beds in the hulls” charter configuration the foundation for most vessel interiors. An “owner’s version” is frequently created by the substitution of some minimal personal use accommodation in exchange for one of the head/bed egg crate sections. This alteration confines construction deviations primarily to one of the hull sections of the vessel, leaving the bridge deck with its saloon and rudimentary charter galley (who wants to cook on a one week holiday?) and the opposite hull accommodations largely untouched. This relatively minimal effort provides the catamaran sales team with something to try to sell a cruising couple. In an ideal world, the sales department would have informed design and production as to their requirements and some specific and extensive configurations would have resulted, but understandably, some heavy compromises have been accepted to dovetail cruising boat production with the charter boat line.

How do they market an obviously disadvantageous galley configuration to the cruising market? Fortunately, the old “galley up/ galley down” catch phrase can be resurrected and comes to the rescue. It works especially well to assault many sailing cruising people who are also peripherally exposed to the trawler market and the old good/bad association only needs a little oxygen to flare up. The market largely ends up offering the potential buyer a few galley configuration options, ranging all the way from micro to mini, almost all on the bridge deck as per the requisite “galley up”.

There is another way to approach things. If the sales, design and production efforts are all committed to specifically servicing the cruising couple, leaving the charter market to be dealt with by the numerous high production run companies, rationalizing the configuration decisions may produce quite different results. Accepting the limited production numbers requires a different approach to the construction of the vessel and will largely be composed of “stick built” wood components, rather than plastic inserted modules. This process requires a different production management and shop floor skill set, (and economic model), but frees up the design to actually accommodate the customer’s needs and make the best use of all the spaces available while offering a more traditional aesthetic.

If you own your boat primarily for its ability to host parties, standing and seating space, both inside the deckhouse and in the cockpit, may be of primary consideration. The galley need be no larger than required for the bar service and hors d’oeuvres for the expected number of guests and it should be right at hand to accommodate the inevitable accumulation of guests around the drinks. If the party goes on for a week or so, you may actually want to cook up some basic meals so a little storage and cooking may be provided for. This rational applies to charter vessels of all stripes. I have configured a few for very economy minded charter fleet owners. Rightly or wrongly, success is measured by the flow of alcohol, which overrides most hardship or dissatisfaction associated with a cruise of any duration, from an hour to a week. Bad weather, rough seas and longer term habitation are definitely not part of the equation. For an extended party, the “galley up” configuration may indeed be the vessel for you.

If you day cruise from port to port and look for the best restaurant available each evening, the galley may be largely a waste of space regardless of its placement or size.

But, if you want a boat with extended term cruising or voyaging in mind, the galley requirements are a most serious issue. Ideally it should be of size to store not only a number of provisions but all of the utensils and equipage we expect to find in a modern home, though perhaps on a smaller scale. Obviously a larger galley has never been an option for moderate sized monohulls, and you can make do with a very small space indeed if you have to, but there is an opportunity with the catamaran that good design demands you should not overlook.

The hulls accommodation envelopes are peculiar spaces. They are proportionally long and narrow and tend to make good halls, not particularly easy to use efficiently, with the exception of a galley. My father was a cook in the Canadian Navy during WWII and spent a lot of time aboard a 115’ patrol vessel, famous for its awful motion in a seaway. When I became involved in vessel design, he was anxious to communicate that above all things, the cook should have no more floor space than absolutely required and there should always be something to brace against, especially when handling hot liquids. He would love the catamaran galley “down”. With extensive counters ranged inboard and outboard along a floor at just the right width, it works so well. In a mid-40’s size catamaran you can get about 9’ of space to use in various ways, with cupboards and appliances placed for at-hand convenience. The provision of proper counter tops and stainless backsplashes throughout can make the fit-out a rival to many higher end domestic installations.

What about applying the old powerboat objection, it’s “galley down”? Does this make sense? The saloon in the catamaran is enclosed by a deckhouse with sides that can extend outboard to about halfway across the deck space over the hulls. This means that the galley placed in the hull can, in effect, have a cathedral ceiling with the deckhouse windows acting as skylights to supplementing large opening hull ports at eye level. Provided the relative floor heights between the galley and saloon are no more than about 30”, a person standing in the galley is in full visual and verbal communication with the occupants of the saloon and, if the layout is right, even the outside helm position.

Does this configuration really have any association with the old trawler galley? They have nothing in common in fact.

What do you do with the space on the bridge, deck freed up in the absence of a galley? There is no reason why you shouldn’t cater to entertaining, you can have a small sink, icemaker, drink storage, (and still have space for a washer/dryer). Maybe you would prefer additional seating? The saloon can be a more flexible living space without the imposition of cooking paraphernalia and activity. The dedicated galley space can be a blessing for the cook as well as the rest of the crew.

Disparagingly throwing the term “galley down” at such a configuration is not appropriate; it can in fact be identified as a point of pride. When you hear the boast “galley up” delivered, make sure you consider the alternative and decide which configuration best suits your kind of boating.


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