If something in the galley is really bothering you, change it! Here's my story . . .

Hate Something in Your Galley?

Does something in your galley just drive you nuts?  Can you change it? And perhaps more importantly, should you change it?

Over the years, the cruisers we’ve met seem to fall into two camps:  those who would rather live with something the way it is, and those who always believe things can be improved.  While some take it to the extreme, never leaving the dock because everything’s not perfect, my feeling is that those who seek to eliminate those little annoyances are far happier cruisers and cruise longer.

Here’s my story:

When we bought Que Tal, Dave and I didn’t have much experience with cruising boats.  So I began researching what to look for.  And when we found Que Tal, a Tayana 37, she seemed to have everything we wanted.  One of the things that pleased me was the double sink in the galley.  Everything I’d read said that a double sink was better.

After two days of living on the boat, I hated that sink.

Both halves were so small that I couldn’t put one of our plates in it, even diagonally on edge.  None of my pans would fit.  The problem was only compounded by the way the faucet extended.  The picture above isn’t great (I never thought I’d publish it), but you can see how small it is when you see that 1-liter water bottle in the left part, or compare it to the Sharpie.  Obviously, those who had recommended a double sink were thinking of something larger.

Almost immediately, I said I wanted to replace the sink with a single bowl.  I was reminded by my sweetheart that we’d decided to cruise with the boat “as is” for a year before doing any work on it, so that we could decide what the priorities really were.  I grumbled every day, and he continued to turn a deaf ear.  Until he did the dishes one day.

Within two minutes, Dave said, “yep, we need one.”  “Huh?” I said, from where I was dozing on the settee.  “Your new sink.  You’re right.  This is awful.”

And so we began the process of changing the sink and faucet.  In the next “big city” — Puerto Vallarta — I began looking for a new sink and couldn’t find one that would work.  But I did find a stainless shop that was willing to custom make one for me.  And I bought a nice new faucet.

Then we began tearing the old sink out.  And I do mean “tearing.”  Turns out, it had been put in with 5200.  Dave, however, is very persistent.  Some would say stubborn.  And he had a bottle of Anti-Bond — the only thing that will work on 5200. He won the battle.

It took a couple hours to get it out.  And several more hours and two trips (by dinghy, half mile walk, then a bus) to the plumbing store, using my bad Spanish (thankfully we had a copy of Spanish for Cruisers), to get a series of connectors that eventually linked water hoses to a faucet designed for copper tubing.

But by late afternoon, I had a new sink and faucet.  Total cost about $175, including all the Anti-Bond, new sealant (not 5200) and plumbing parts.

All in all, we spent about three days on the project, although not in solid blocks.  And yes, it was a bit of a pain.  But, as those MasterCard ads would say:  “Being able to actually use the sink:  Priceless.”

That early experience with the dramatic improvement that a change can make led me to look at other problems with a new eye.  Whenever I found myself grumbling about the same problem over and over, I started thinking about what would make it better.

  • I hated tearing the settee apart before every meal to get to the food in the lockers below.  So I rearranged things several times until the things I used most often were in more convenient places and I only had to get under the settee every couple of days.
  • Initially, I tried to save money by taking my (very cheap) camping pans aboard the boat.  The were horribly thin and everything scorched.  Getting a good set of nesting pans was another fantastic upgrade.
  • The first few times we left a major city, I provisioned just by walking up and down the aisles and putting food in the cart.  Then I’d be frustrated a couple weeks later in a remote anchorage that I didn’t have something I wanted.  I developed an inventory and provisioning spreadsheet and pretty well solved the problem.

Yes, some of my solutions involved spending money, but far more didn’t.  Some were pretty simple:  my refrigerator box was huge, and hard to reach into the bottom.   A couple of blocks of wood on the bottom raised the bins just enough that I could reach to the bottom of them.

The budget just didn’t allow us to totally re-build the refrigerator with better insulation — or better yet, remodel the galley so that the refrigerator wasn’t next to the diesel.  But we could add insulation very cheaply in a number of places, as I detailed in an earlier article.  After doing so, we used a lot less power on the refrigerator, leaving more for the watermaker, microwave popcorn (Dave’s big indulgence) and an occasional DVD on the laptop.

We learned to talk to other cruisers and think creatively, and we were able to eliminate a lot of little annoyances.  At the same time, we didn’t let those little things keep us from cruising — we made improvements as we cruised.  After all, you can rearrange lockers just as well at anchor as in the marina!

No two boats are identical, and what bothers one person may not faze another.  Hopefully, though, some of the articles here will give you some ideas on ways to improve problem areas in your boat.  I can’t emphasize enough how changes — some small, some large — can make life aboard so much more pleasant.

In the galley, little things can change you from feeling like a frustrated galley slave to having fun, even if cooking aboard is all new to you and you’re a little overwhelmed.  No, changing my sink didn’t suddenly make me love to wash dishes — but I no longer hated it.

So what’s bugging you?  Anything you’ve changed that’s turned out well?  Anything you’re looking for ideas on?  Add your thoughts here, or on Facebook.

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  • Mid-Life Cruising!
    Posted at 04 April 2011 Reply

    Great article! In fact, we’re not cruising just yet but one of the first things I noticed and didn’t like was that little double sink! I’ve mentioned switching it out for a larger, single sink and now I can show this to my husband to help get my way! =)

  • Downeast32
    Posted at 06 April 2011 Reply

    My propane stove is tricky. Slight turn of the dial and the flame goes out. Which is a major pain involving re-lighting it, or if I didn’t notice it went out for a minute then I purposely wait a long while before attempting to re-light it.
    Went to walmart and got some convex mirrors normally used on a car’s rear view mirror for eliminating blind spots. $0.99. Stuck them on the spice locker directly level with the flame on the propane stove. Now I can see the flame on all burners and adjust it better without leaning over. And I can see it across the cabin from the salon and not worry if it’s gone out & have to get up to check. That’s a great 99 cents worth. Rarely does it go out on me anymore.

  • Kathleen
    Posted at 23 April 2011 Reply

    Love the article and Yes, I had to have a bigger sink. Luckily it wasn’t a double sink, but it was a tiny round sink and when we got granite! for the countertops there was the perfect sink sitting on the ground on sale for 100! Now I have a plush galley that took a lot of effort but not a lot of money! Also while we were in the states I went The Container store and bought a really nice dish rack. I had just enough room for it. Before I was grumbling about how small my boat dish rack was and yes it was convienant because it folded away, but It never held enough! So this thing that I looked at for about an hour. Measuring, calling my husband, measuring, thinking about it and finally made the *gasp* $56 purchase. I couldn’t be happier. We have been in 10-12 foot seas and that baby has stayed put with dishes in it!!!!

    So, about the husband only realizing what needs to change when he does the chores… My husband had to do laundry in the laundry mat while we were on the hard and I was still working and I came home and he said, yeah, we can’t do that anymore and we are getting a washer and dryer!! We have a small 37 footer, but there was this empy space where the diesel heater used to be and a splendide 2100C vented W/D combo fit perfectly. We had to cut a hole (for a lovely light emitting 27″X27″ Lewmar hatch) to get it downstairs, but It has changes our lives! In fact I can’t imagine not having it. I would promptly fold my arms and say I can’t go on without it! My hands and fingers are too valuable to me! All that squeezing was giving me arthritis!

  • Gillian
    Posted at 08 October 2011 Reply

    What I hate most is those stuuuuupid dinettes! … too high to get into comfortably and too small for more than 2 people.
    So, on our Alglas 33, we are pulling that sucker out, and putting in more storage space and counters. We are also moving the 10 cu ft fridge over there, and using the original fridge space for the microwave and a broom cupboard and a pantry cupboard.
    i wondered if you have any ideas about making a food storage bin in the counter. I’d like it to be bug resistant. I had thought that perhaps lining the bin with tin, sealed along the seams, and using a heavy lid that fits inside the bin, perhaps with some sort of gasket, and also lined with tin.
    BTW… we are also planning to convert the VB to accommodate a dinette.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 09 October 2011 Reply

      Sounds great! Haven’t really thought about building a locker to be bug resistant . . . but you may be onto something. I think metal lining would work, not too thick so it’s not too heavy, and a good gasket around the lid. The only way thing that you’d still have to be careful about is the bugs that come home in food from the store, such as weevil larvae in flour and so on. So I’d still follow all the normal food storage precautions, such as bay leaves in flour mixes, etc.

      Anyone else ever build a “bug resistant” locker and have some tips? Did it help?

    • Kim Johanson
      Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

      I too have a 33 ft Alglas and would love to see a pic of how your galley turned out. I want to change a few things in the galley and I really like your idea especially changing the VB to a dinette area.

  • Kim Caley on Facebook
    Posted at 20 March 2012 Reply

    Can’t wait to read it 🙂 (can’t read via my phone, but…will see this comment on MY fb page, then go read :)…)

  • Anne Showalter Mueller on Facebook
    Posted at 20 March 2012 Reply

    We’re cruising Mexico now and I am so hating the small double sink that we have on our Catalina 36 Spica. Changing to a single sink will be one of the first things we do when we get back to San Diego! My Aunt was visiting us in Zihua and she offered to pay for it after she did the dishes once!

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 20 March 2012 Reply

    Anne — amazing how “small things” (yeah, pun intended . . .) can drive you nuts, isn’t it? Believe me, you won’t regret changing it!

  • Annette Cleckner Baker on Facebook
    Posted at 20 March 2012 Reply

    I was going to write you about double vs single sinks. I want to switch out our double sink to single when we redo the galley (next year’s budget). I thought I could always put a small dishpan with a drainer in it when underway to keep those last few dishes from sliding around underway. We were just on a catamaran charter and it had a bin with a lid next to the sink for pots that had a drain and dish drainer in it. Clever idea but still needed space for the pots when using the drainer.

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 20 March 2012 Reply

    It’s funny as I sit here reading the comments . . . it seems like many of us hate our double sinks . . . I’m trying to figure out why “conventional wisdom” says a double sink is better. I just use a small dish to hold dish water, so it’s never a matter of conserving water.

  • Kim Caley on Facebook
    Posted at 20 March 2012 Reply

    I use my sink for booze & juie bottles underway (day charters). Also have one of those water saver things and it works like a dream. I’ve got a Catalina 36 MK II with the smaller double sinks…doesn’t bother me a bit. Altho my Seaward stove doesn’t allow very large pots, either. Haven’t graduated to a Force 10…yet

  • Michelle Rene
    Posted at 30 January 2014 Reply

    loved this article, thank you for always sharing so honestly and with such terrific research

  • Sue Norris
    Posted at 30 January 2014 Reply

    Get the skipper to do something about an issue by getting him to use the device. Seems to work every time.
    I love my 1 1/2 sinks. Bucket goes in big one with bench stuff in it, cups and drink bottles etc while on passage. Still have 1/2 sink to use as sink. Must admit it is a domestic unit. But it works for us.
    Love these articles. They gelp me cruise smarter and also confirm that we are doing some things right, although what works for some won’t work for others as each boat is so different .

    • Tom Ehman
      Posted at 18 January 2018 Reply

      Sue, you are right about that! On our old boat, a Tartan 37, we hauled in the anchor in by hand which sometimes can get heavy and mucky with mud. One day, I was unable to do it myself because of an injury so my wife tackled the job (pun intended). After she struggled and became a muddy mess, she agreed that we needed that windlass that I had been after for several years! Having your mate switch off on tasks can often clear up misunderstandings and make cruising go more smoothly when both partners fully understand what’s involved in a given situation/task.

  • Lynn white
    Posted at 02 February 2014 Reply

    My main gripe was with the ice box. We have a 31 island packet and with the top shelf being so large, you couldn’t do much underneath. So after my husband realized this, he cut the shelf smaller and attached a net on the side of it. Now I can slide my shelf over when I need to get underneath and pull it out when I need to get to something that’s resting in the net. The net also prevents things from falling off the shelf into unreachable places.

  • Dave
    Posted at 19 April 2015 Reply

    I recal that the reason for double sinks was that one side would be for soapy and the other for rinsing, but I don’t think it works that well In reality. Spraying insulating foam on the undersides and sides of the sink help keep the water hot in the sink, if you don’t use our preference, a homemade insulated dishpans for washing then rinsing.

    Our 24′ boat has no dinette or table for meals, which we prefer. We eat off trays. Setting up, storing, cleaning under and maneuvering around a table is a pain.

    The glint of the sun off stainless fittings on deck, especially stanchions, is bothersome so I’ve put non-reflecting tape on them in places.

  • Jan Bogart
    Posted at 17 February 2016 Reply

    Tayana 37 is a great boat.

  • Louis Derry
    Posted at 18 February 2016 Reply

    This article makes me giggle as Im definately the perfectionist and find myself staring at the problem such as the sink for days on end and then finally the soloution comes to me and its very satisfiying !

  • Jessica Heinicke
    Posted at 18 February 2016 Reply

    We made a great change in the head! To get hot water from the water heater to the shower used to take a full minute (and about a gallon of water). We used to let the cold water flow into a pitcher to use elsewhere and then turn the shower on ourselves once warm. Now, my husband has installed a valve near the shower head with a return line to our fresh water tank. We turn the valve and the water starts pumping but instead of coming out of the shower head it flows back into the tank. After a minute we turn the valve back and the water, now warm, flows from the shower head. No more wasted water waiting for it to get warm!

  • Julia Pilon
    Posted at 23 March 2017 Reply

    I am wanting to switch out a double sink for a single too and have looked all over the Internet for one that will fit but having no luck (in Canada). Any ideas where to shop?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 24 March 2017 Reply

      I had to get one made at a machine shop. A few people I know have found them at RV shops, too . . . and check for home bar sinks.

  • Terry Bogart
    Posted at 21 June 2017 Reply

    Always wanted a double sink while on our S&S sloop built in ’46/tiny sink. Now our trawler has one, it’s not small, but found a plastic sink colander that fits perfectly as a drainboard. Just read the comments under your article……granite on a boat? Oh my!!!

    • Diane
      Posted at 21 June 2017 Reply

      I don’t mind my small double sink. It can be difficult with pans. But we are not living aboard just yet. I may change my mind when I cook on board more.
      Our Catalina 320 has no enclosed storage in the salon except under one settee. All shelves. As a quick fix I started using the clear storage boxes until I could find a better solution. Turns out they are the easiest and cheapest solution. I found sizes that fit snugly with the lock top and we can see what is in it. None have ever fallen out when heeled over. And we both know where everything goes.

  • Monica James
    Posted at 21 June 2017 Reply

    So with you on getting rid of the double sink. We had the exact same problem and are so much happier with our large single sink.

  • Jim James
    Posted at 21 June 2017 Reply

    Hate something in your galley? Buy a new boat!!

  • Val Paget
    Posted at 25 July 2017 Reply

    The layout of our Catalina is good, but the counter surface has yellowed. I would like to re-surface the counter, but the cut-outs for storage and the sink, etc, make that a very challenging task. Has anyone found a product to paint over the laminate or any other way to improve this counter without tearing it all out and spending $$$$?

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