Are double sinks best on a boat? Is there really an advantage?

One Sink or Two?

Should a galley have a double sink or just a single bowl?  That’s a question that I frequently see in cruising and boat-buying forums.  Boat listings often play up that a boat has a double sink in the galley.  But is it really that big of deal?

Supposedly, the advantage of a double sink is that you need less water for dishes.  On a couple of boat-buying forums, I’ve seen people who are looking at boats with a single sink say that they can use a dishpan.  I can’t imagine finding space to store a dishpan where it wasn’t a pain to get out every time you did dishes.

The reality is that I know few people who actually fill anything as large as a sink or a dishpan with water when washing dishes.  You just don’t need to.

  • For just a few not-real-gunky items, you can just put a little dish soap on a damp dish cloth, wash and rinse.
  • If you have several items, put a little water in a dirty coffee mug or small bowl and add a bit of soap.  Stick your dishrag in the soapy water as needed.
  • For gunky pans, put an inch or so of water in the pan and add a bit of soap.  Use this as your “dish pan” and rinse other dishes over it so that the rinse water helps to soak the pan.  When everything else is done, wash out the gunky pan, which will have had a nice soak by now.

Bottom line:  Despite all the experts saying that double sinks are almost mandatory in a galley, I disagree.  I don’t think it really matters, with one caveat:  whatever sink you have, make sure that your pans and plates will fit in it.

This was my big gripe with the double sink on Que Tal:  the two halves were so small that I couldn’t put a plate in the sink, even diagonally on edge!  Changing to a single bowl sink was one of the first upgrades we did (read the story here).

All that said, if you’re looking at boats and otherwise love one but the sink is too small, does that mean that you should pass on it?  I wouldn’t.  No boat is going to be perfect for you as is.  Changing the sink (assuming there is space for a larger one; making a double into a single usually doesn’t take any extra space) is one of the least expensive upgrades you can do — much less than electronics, canvas, upholstery, dinghy, ground tackle, engine work, new sails or even just re-doing brightwork.

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  • Jim Shell
    Posted at 08 March 2013 Reply

    We use a plastic tub used for hospital inpatients inside our large single sink. It lives in the large sink most of the time. Our plates and most of our pans fit in the tub. We consider the main sink as contaminated and don’t want our washwater there. I once considered a double sink an asset, but now we have a system that works well.

  • Debbie Wasserman
    Posted at 08 March 2013 Reply

    I love the double sink on my boat. Both are large enough to fit my dishes and pans so I fitted one side with the in-sink dish drainer you suggested. My drying dishes are out of the way and save precious counter space.

  • Carlos
    Posted at 07 April 2013 Reply

    We love the double sink in our boat. One used for cleaning and the other for drying…

    Cheers and good winds!

  • Frances
    Posted at 01 November 2013 Reply

    I’ve always had a double sink wiith each sink large enough for our plates (!which were bought for the boat – fish shaped – so kind of oblong – which helps them fit). I have a slight preference for the double sink because thy are smaller (though large enough) – and when we’re underway – I end up storing things in one of them.

    One thing that helps make a small sink somewhat more acceptable is a faucet that goes up pretty high. That way you can fit a pot under it – to fill with water for boiling spaghetti noodles, for example. You can also fit a piece of clear tubing on it which gives you more flexibility in where the water goes.

  • Tim and Kathy
    Posted at 06 November 2013 Reply

    First upgrade we did on both our Ericson 35 and our Caliber 40 was to either increase the size of the single sink or swap out the double for a single. A faucet with a pull down sprayer is also a good addition.

  • Brenda Harbottle
    Posted at 22 November 2013 Reply

    I love our single sink. I have a plastic dish dryer that completely flattens for storage that we bought at RV World that I use and move over the sink when the dishes are washed. I’d rather have the counter space for prepping and cooking and holding cocktail stuff in the evenings. (We have a tiny ’76 Catalina 30). The double sinks look cool but I don’t think I would use both enough to warrant it.

  • Julie Sandler Lambert
    Posted at 23 November 2013 Reply

    Love my single bowl!

  • Kathleen Spidell
    Posted at 23 November 2013 Reply

    Single is best for me! Collapsible dish drainer is great, also.

  • Jennifer Davis
    Posted at 23 November 2013 Reply

    I like my double sink simply because I can leave dirty dishes on one side & soapy ones in the other while I rinse them, but it’s not a crucial detail. I agree on the collapsible dish rack, I got a bamboo one at TJ Maxx for $10, looks great & easy to fold up & stow when underway.

  • Paulag
    Posted at 17 June 2014 Reply

    I have loved the double sinks on both our Seafarer, and now our Caliber. I use one sink to wash (I never fill a sink with water to wash, but rather use the water-conserving measures you describe in this article) and one to (air) dry. I leave the clean, drying dishes in the second sink, with a dish towel draped over them for a neater look until I have time to put them away. But, more than that, the nice deep sinks in the Caliber are perfect for holding things that could spill or crash while underway. I sit my thermos coffeepot with melitta filter in one sink while it drips, underway or not. If I am down below getting a meal ready, while heeled, placing various items I’m using in the empty sink keeps them secure and close at hand, avoiding a mess. I value double sinks in any house I live in, as well as on my boat. I think a single sink on a boat could quite possibly be a deal-breaker for me, because I really love my double sinks and use them all the time.

  • Phyllis Pardee
    Posted at 03 November 2014 Reply

    One large sink for me after having double sink in sailboat for 17 years….dishes didn’t fit, pots didn’t fit….I gladly use a dish pan in my big sink and am able to wash everything I need….and I can even clean a fish in the big one!!!

  • Richard M. Burger
    Posted at 03 November 2014 Reply

    One to wash, one to rinse.

  • Monika Ludewig Bradley
    Posted at 03 November 2014 Reply

    Two reasonable size deep sinks in my trawler cat. My square Corelle dishes are a perfect match! Best purchase ever.

  • Jennifer Dean Neumann
    Posted at 04 November 2014 Reply

    In theory, two. In reality, I have seen few boats w large enough double sinks to be able to make good use of them. I went w the largest single I could when I remodeled my galley. I love it.

  • Donna Chiappini
    Posted at 04 November 2014 Reply

    One! I have double sink on a 40′ with decent sized galley. Nothing fits. Next boat will have one or I will retrofit.

  • Connie Lacelle
    Posted at 04 November 2014 Reply

    boat or not, double sinks are best for me. More options.

  • Kerri Brooks
    Posted at 04 November 2014 Reply

    I love my double sink. Smaller side on the left for washing and bigger on the right for rinsing. Also good for keeping everyone’s cups corralled while under sail. Any spills are no big deal.

  • Gerald Hemming
    Posted at 05 November 2014 Reply

    I like deep sinks, they can hold a coffee thermos on a 20 degree heel without rattling around and they don’t spill in ruff running.

  • Jennifer Johnson
    Posted at 05 November 2014 Reply

    We are on a cat, and my one large deep sink is perfect. I use dish pan to wash, rinse on side. All my kitchen counter things ( like olive oil) go in the sink when weather picks up. Double sinks are nice IF large enough, which I have only seen on much larger boats.

  • Trish Draze
    Posted at 18 July 2015 Reply

    I have a double sink and I absolutely hate it….I will change it to a single when we decide to update the counter top. It is too small….barely lunch plate size across. Drives me crazy when trying to clean..constantly bumping the sides, the faucet, water goes everywhere.

    If we had a larger boat then it might be different but we don’t so time to modify and make practical.

  • Kathy Orr
    Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

    In general, the only advantage to me in our double sink is that it’s a handy place to put things like our tea kettle or coffee pot when underway. They can be wedged in so that they don’t fall over when we rock and roll. I’d love to put a new counter top and single bowl sink in. I love the composite sinks, and have had them in a couple of houses and found them VERY easy to keep clean and looking great, unlike stainless, but don’t know if they’d hold up under the stresses on a sailboat.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

      A lot of new boats are using them. Like you, I don’t know how they hold up, but I’d guess they do well.

  • Tony Gariepy
    Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

    Judging by the comments on the subject, I’d say this is as hot a topic as mono/multi-hull!! Lots of different opinions. Thanks Carolyn:-D

  • Jamie Hemphill Leavey
    Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

    I want to replace my double sink with a one bowl model, but am having a hard time finding one that will fit. Any advice on where to look? The problem is the length from front to back needs to be about 15 inches. Thanks!

    • Kimberly Young Price
      Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

      We just did ours. We found a steel fabrication company that did it for us. Look for local fabrication places and called around ( we are in the states). They guy we found only charged $250.

    • Jamie Hemphill Leavey
      Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

      Thanks! I’m looking at RV stores online right now and might have found something that would work. That’s encouraging, though, that you could have one made for around $250 – I assumed it would be a lot more. We’ll be in Boston this month, so I’m thinking one way or another, I should be able to get it done. 🙂

    • Kimberly Young Price
      Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

      Our original sink was damaged when we replaced the leaking faucet. I was desperate and called around to RV shops and spent hours online looking. I had no luck because the measurements were so weird. Once I lined up the fabricator, we pulled the old sink and let the fabricator use it for a size template ( of course with one bowl instead of two).

    • Dee Byers
      Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

      We lucked out and were able to use a “bar sink” we purchased at Lowes. Installed it backwards and it fit perfect in our Gemini.

  • Candy Ann Williams
    Posted at 01 October 2016 Reply

    On our endeavor 37 we have 2 deep sinks and like Kathy Orr stated the only advantage is that have an extra place to put stuff while underway. On our Hamatic 40 pilot boat (English) we have a shallower large single sink with built in drain board that I dearly love…so handy. I woukd love to have the same sink in our E-37.

  • Ann Snider
    Posted at 02 October 2016 Reply

    We don’t live aboard but we do travel on board for a few weeks at a time with a family of 6. I find the double sink to be handy not only to store stuff when we are under way but also to manage the hand washing of the dishes. Any cooking water gets put into the left hand sink as we are prepping dinner and the dirty dishes go in there after being scraped off. Then I can wash them with the cooking water and soap and put them in the right hand sink to wait until I’m done and then I rinse everything at once. As I’m rinsing one thing, the other things are also getting rinsed so by the time I am getting near done, everything left in the sink is rinsed and I can just pull it out and put it in the drain. It works well for us. 🙂 I wish I had the same set up at home!

  • Donna Chiappini
    Posted at 17 October 2016 Reply

    We have an under mount double sink in our 45. I would prefer a single sink as neither sink is large enough for pots and pans I feel. But it would be too difficult to replace and it came with sink tops for added counter space. I used to store coffee pots etc while underway but I now use a collapsing crate in the aft stateroom for all my items that need to be put away while underway. This leaves the galley completely free for use.

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