Overheard at the Boat Show . . .

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2013 • all rights reserved

I overheard variations on one comment about galley layout several times at the boat show.  It's equally true of older boats . . .

In 2013, Dave and I went to the Annapolis Boat Shows.  First a day and a half at the powerboat show, then three days at the sailboat show.  And we went aboard a lot of boats.  I have no idea how many, as I didn’t take photos of them all (many had too many people for me to get a decent photo).

At the sailboat show, I overheard variations on the same comment several times on monohulls under about 45 feet:

Why do they try to cram sleeping for 6 (or 8) in here?  If they’d make the table smaller, there could be a lot better galley!

You know what?  I agree.  And it’s equally true of many used boats that I see (don’t get hung up on the fact that these are new boats in the photos, please, and simply consider the layouts).

Take a look at that photo of the Moody 41 galley at the top of this post.  There are lots of great things about the boat, and the galley isn’t bad.  In fact, it’s got a fairly good layout.  But to me, a 41-foot boat is large enough to be able to have a great galley.

Right now, when you remove the covers from the stove and sink, there’s only a little bit of counter space other than what is over the (top-loading) refrigerator.  And the section over the refrig is tucked back into a corner — so it’s not the easiest to work on.  If there were 3 or 4 inches more counter space between the stove and refrig lid, it would be a phenomenal galley.

In house sales, the kitchen is considered one of the big selling points, whether it’s a new home or a realtor is marketing an existing home.  There’s always a photo of the kitchen in the best possible light.

But somehow, boat builders don’t seem to get this.  For them, it’s all about the number that a boat can sleep.  And to increase that number, they make a large table that can covert to a bed.  That space has to come from somewhere, and it usually is the galley.

Let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to have 6 people sleeping overnight on a 32′ boat — or even a 40′ one.  Two is more likely, with four (kids or friends) also a possibility.  But six?  Eight? Not too likely.  I’m sure that some people do have this many on this size boat, but that doesn’t seem like a reason for every boat to be designed for the possibility.

And guess what?  Two to four people don’t need a huge table to eat at.  But they probably do want to eat, and a few more inches of galley space makes it a lot easier to prepare meals.  And that makes for happier sailors.

Now, I’m not asking for a huge galley.  Frankly, a huge galley can lead to the cook being thrown across the boat in rough weather . . . or if a passing boat kicks up a big wake.  But many times, just a little bit more space in the galley would open up a world of possibilities for counter space and storage of often-used items.  I’ve posted photos of some of the galleys I saw at the Boat Show on Facebook, and I’ll be writing more about specific features and trends I saw.

I’ll admit that there were some boats that — to my way of thinking — had better layouts, but there weren’t many.  Most had variations on the same plan.

But not all.  Take a look at this galley on the Gozzard 41 (same length overall).  To me, it’s much more inviting to cook meals in, with enough counter space for “normal” food prep.  Since boat’s layout is unusual, I’ve put it below the photo of the galley.  While there may still be things I’d like to change in it, overall it seems a lot more liveable for the typical two to four people.

By designing the boat to sleep 4 at most, the table can be smaller and the galley larger, with an actual “sitting area” in the bow (the sitting area transforms into a v-berth).   Someone thought about how the boat would actually be used!

I overheard variations on one comment about galley layout several times at the boat show.  It's equally true of older boats . . .

I overheard variations on one comment about galley layout several times at the boat show.  It's equally true of older boats . . .

Finally, while I was hearing this comment as people looked at new boats, it’s a problem on older boats as well.  Our Tayana 37 (sleeps 6!) had a much larger table than we really needed (it made into a longer than standard bed — sheets wouldn’t fit it) and a definite lack of counter space.  The only real counter space I had was over the refrigerator, meaning that I’d move whatever had been on the counter onto the companionway steps whenever I had to get into the refrig.

I overheard variations on one comment about galley layout several times at the boat show.  It's equally true of older boats . . .

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  1. As our rigger/friend told us, when someone asks how many people your boat sleeps, no matter the size, the only answer is 2;-)

  2. A lot of the “sleeps 6-8” dynamic is an echo of the decades old push to get people to buy boats to put in charter. So what if the galley is small — for a week in paradise, who cares? The problem is this dynamic bled over into the boats that were never going to be put in charter. Very few builders build uncompromised full time cruising boats. Those that do generally end up pricing themselves well above the undifferentiable charter boat crowd — and these days that means they price themselves out of a struggling market and in some cases out of business. Survival of the fittest has long included a component of mimic the successful. For too long now this has meant mimic the least common denominator in the fleet — the weekly rental boat.

    When someone asks us how many our boat sleeps it sets our teeth on edge. We tell them “drinks 6, feeds 4, sleeps 2 unless we are at sea, when its sleeps 1”

    We sail a Caliber 40; it is our home.

    • I think you’re right . . . and the flip side is that it’s really hard to find a smaller boat to charter if you just want a 2-person charter.

      • Yep. we chartered a Nonsuch 30 and a First 32.5 in ’89 & “92. The Nonsuch had quite a galley for a 30 footer.

        Recently we asked about boats this size and the agent was speechless for a moment and then said, “who would want to d that?” Then she realized the guy on the other end of the call (me) was who.


    • Peter Robertson aka The Boatchef says:

      We actually contacted a shipwright and carpenter to get a broad estimate on modifying galley space and installing a gas stove and oven in boats we look at. As for current boats we have found the same problem of piddling little galleys especially in new boats. Most galleys barely handle weekending and usually with a Microwave/convection oven emphasis on micro/tiny. Very little counter and storage space. We use our boat for up tp three weeks at a time all year long. We bake, saute boil and fry as well as BBQ outside. Our older Carver 33 has 3 beds but it sleeps two!

  3. Parties 8, feeds 4, SLEEPS 2.

  4. My husband and I are power boaters; but I notice this same issue. My galley has a three burner ceramic cooktop, a sink and not much else as far as counter space. I do have a little counter space above the galley that I use a LOT. I think part of the reason is because so many people are only weekend boaters. They don’t cook! At our marina of 150 slips; most people cook very few meals. Some barbecue up on the hard; but many, many eat out. Or they bring picnic food that requires very little actual cooking. People always comment about how we “eat healthy”. I guess because I cook all weekend.

    When my husband and I go to boat shows; my biggest disappointment is always layout when looking at boats. I always tell him that it’s not a woman doing the design!

    • I definitely noticed it on many of the smaller power boats — and frankly, some of the larger ones had plenty of space but the layouts just didn’t seem all that convenient. I mean, an oven 6″ off the floor?

  5. Our 34′ Seafarer originally slept 6 and had a HUGE table that went over our centerboard with fold up leafs. When the leafs were down you could barely get around with even two people in the boat. With them up it was impossible. If there were six people sleeping on this boat I would go crazy. We ended up tearing out the table, extending the galley and cutting out two of the sleeping spots. Now it is a LOT more friendly for us living aboard (Just two of us, and our two dogs).

  6. Great article

  7. Ken Arnold says:

    This is the most interesting built for “2”, 32′ Boat, The Fridges are even built into the Floor for saving space. It can also stand on the Bilge Board style Keels and Rudder.


  8. Dan thomas says:

    I was going to suggest you look at the Gozzard line up. They are designed for a couple to sail, with the occasional friends sleeping over.

  9. I agree with the comment that galleys were not designed by women. I like to cook. On our 1977 Newport Mk II that is a bit of a problem. Refrig box in a corner hard to get into for me because I have short arms. One sink although deep, not very wide to wash up pans, and dishes. We haven’t changed out the faucet nor the foot pump to dispense water to an electric pump yet. Some useable counter space although narrow. One long slide door storage for small items like spices, coffee and the like. I don’t like the fact if you don’t plan on which spices you intend to use before turning on the stove, there is a real fire, and/or scalding if you have to reach over the hot stove. Then the 2 TINY drawers that is a waste to me. And finally, storage of food storage bags and things like that are concealed behind the back rest of the seat near the table. Boy, that rant felt good! But, I do manage and enjoy our boat anyway. Next boat I will pay special attention to galley layout. Now I know what is important to me. BTW, it sleeps 2, and like it that way lol

  10. RedFeather says:

    The answer to the original question may lie not just in the charter business but in the increasing number of cruising (or wannabe cruiser) families with young children or teens. My husband and I are looking for a boat and frankly we could care less how big the galley is as long as it has the basic functionality. What is much more important to us is having berths that allow each of our three kids to have their own space. I don’t how many of you have tried or done this, but can you imagine being on a 40′ boat with one bathroom and two or three teenagers? Not pretty if they can’t retire to their own space, even if it’s just a berth with a curtain.

  11. We bought our Cape Dory 36 a little over two years ago. After sailing on the coast of Maine the last two and a half seasons, our biggest frustration is placement of the icebox next to the engine, and the small double sink. We run our Frigabot unit while under power and use lots of ice, but the heat thrown off by the engine offsets of the cooling. Would have preferred to have the icebox where the sink is located and to have a larger single sink where the icebox is. Otherwise we love the boat!

  12. We have lived aboard our 1979 Niagara 35 (Mk 1) for 10 years, 5 years as year-round liveaboards in Toronto, 5 years cruising in the Caribbean. Our (my) galley is actually quite good for a 35 foot boat, but the layout of the Mk 1 is (was) very non-traditional. The boat was designed as a coastal cruiser for two people. She sleeps 2 in luxury, 4 in comfort, and 6 in squalor.
    Nobody has to stand on their head to get into the fridge; the sink is amidships, so it can be used regardless of the point of sail or tack; there is a hatch right above the sink and stove so there is an exhaust, good lighting, and airflow. The counter space isn’t horrible, and we added a swing up counter to augment what there is. And the fridge is far away from the engine compartment! It isn’t perfect, but it is far more workable than the vast majority of galleys we have seen.
    It would be nice if designers put more thought into the galley, but until cooks, not just sailors, get involved in the process, we are stuck with what we have.

  13. My husband and I just bought our first boat (35′ Beneteau) this year and I so agree with you about the size of the table. The galley works pretty well for me even with the small counter space, but the table size is frustrating! Way too big for us and difficult to get around. We had a discussion just this past Sunday about the possibility of replacing it with a smaller tabletop (because I seriously doubt we will ever use it as a berth).

  14. Debbie Richey says:

    What I don’t get are the round shallow sinks in the newer galleys. A dinner plate doesn’t even fit in there. I have a Newport 33 Pilothouse and the one big thing I would change is the location of the icebox. Like the other Newport, it’s in a corner and there’s no way my short arms can reach the bottom of it.I keep trying to figure out how to fashion a small stool so that if I was just a little taller, then I could reach. But I love my boat and really enjoy going out on it and cooking on it.

    • Yeah, that’s another problem. While some manufacturers do a good job on galley design, the sad truth is that many could be better. Not to be sexist, but many women do the cooking on boats and manufacturers say they are designing boats to be more attractive to women. While some of these galleys look pretty, anyone who has actually cooked on a boat is likely to spot flaws. Maybe someday some of the designers will do a mock-up and then ask people to use the galley and see what works and what doesn’t.

  15. Sue Norris says:

    Our boat sleeps 2 just us. Our fridge takes up a pilot berth, but I love it with easy access. No freezer. The freezer is a cool store for things like red wine, chocolate, medications, fruit, Sikaflex. None of these things like 38-40degrees. 15-18 is good. I have a domestic 1 and 1/2sink. I have used a chopping board over one of these as a work top. I love my galley except in a BIGsea, because it is not in a cosy corner andi can be thrown across the saloon. Our table is quite large but it is our nav station as well. Our boat is old, not glamorous. We have been living on it for 8 years, and have cruise the east coast of Australia and Asia.
    One other thing I love about my galley is the amount of room we have for food storage.So many boats dont have storage for long term storage of food basics.

  16. While not a sailboat the Great Harbor N37 has a galley as big as my one at home – it also sports a 23cft refrigerator. I concur with the answers to how many can a boat sleep – we always answer it’s not hw many it can sleep but how many you want to feed.

  17. Gozzard 41, my dream boat, but incredibly happy with our Gozzard 31with pop up extra counter space!

  18. I completely agree! We bought a very stout, well respected Allied Mistress 39′ and sure you can fit 6 people around the galley table but why would you want to? Guess these older (’76) sailboats were built for tall skinny guys making long voyages and spending little time at anchor. The sailboat is a wonderful value and very safe which were our priorities.

  19. Well said. Have yet to be impressed by a modern cruising boat at the boat shows for years. Our 43′ wauquiez Amphitrite has a workable galley but we could use deeper sinks. We have a section of countertop that flips up to provide more space. I’m astounded by what I see in new boats. Clearly not built for the liveaboard family of 4 on our vessel!

  20. Sorry the countertop is covered with drying dishes but we live here. Real photo just taken after real nice dinner!

  21. I would like to address the table size mentioned in your article. Ours was so big and stationary that it condensed the main salon to a hallway in our Pearson 36′. We removed it and replaced it with a small round table top using the same base. What a huge difference in the usability of the salon.

  22. Another question along this line. For you experienced live a boards: Do you like having the kitchen opening to the cockpit stairs or having the kitchen more central? Although convenient to the cockpit, it just seems odd to me.

  23. one thing I did to give me more prep space was to have a piece of star board cut to fit over one side of the double sink. It ended up being about the same size as the top of the refrigerator. Still leaves one side of the sink open during prep, easy to remove for clean up and fits under the sink for stowing. The edges (fiddles?) of the counter top and the faucet hold it in place easily if there is a wake or a wave. (I haven’t tried it in anything rough) I can’t cut on it but that’s okay, I can lay a thin chopping board on it. If I need 2 sinks I pick it up and set it on the fridge then move it back. In my Hunter Passage I have a pretty nice U shaped galley that works well for even 4 or 5. I also had a second table top made that screws on top of the existing table. The larger table gets stowed under the V berth for cruising. Then it comes out for company for board games or socializing or chart plotting before a trip.
    Wish boat builders would actually make functional more important than just pretty. I know the builders of new boats are more interested in making it “pretty” to attract the wife but if the truth be told, my husband does most of the basic meals and I’m the one that makes bread, desserts and fancy meals. Why buy a new boat and ‘fix’ the galley when it’s more cost effective to buy a reliable older boat and invest the same amount into the galley?
    Well, that’s just my thoughts.

  24. Robert Karlson, food for thought.

  25. We cut a smaller table for our last boat to have a more comfortable seating area – with the original table my husband couldn’t cross his legs at the table! Kept the original table at home for resale

  26. Eva Persson says:

    Well, traditionally men design boats, men sail, men do not cook. That is tradition.
    At boat shows I feel there are a lot more men there and they usually look more at the technical details and not so much practical issues onboard. The designers should ask around whoever cooks onboard about smart details around the galley. When we have had boats I have so much more time than at home, and have cooked amazing meals for us and guests (but they don’t stay on the boat :)).

  27. Indiana Clarke says:

    We bought an unfinished boat to fit out for long term cruising. The galley was too small, with the tiny sink and draining board under the deck head. The heads was nearly non existent with no door. People always ask me how many people our boat sleeps. The original design is for 6 but not including provisioning space, fuel and water for long distance. We designed a bigger galley and heads. The price is that we have lost half the saloon space. It is no longer full width but since this is a boat for two, it doesn’t matter. The bigger galley wastes much less time shuffling things about and at long last one can wash up properly in a sink. It’s still small enough to wedge in next to the engine bay when chopping or tending to the stove.

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