Tuesday, 18 September 2012


Having done two passages on two different boats (SV Berkana and SV Sapphire)  -- in which considerable time was spent in the galley --  I’ve learned the importance of a well-laid-out galley to both the mental/physical health and safety of the crew and also the enjoyment of the passage.  There is nothing more nerve-racking than trying to pour a hot (!) cup of coffee as the mug is sliding back and forth on a slippery surface or more irritating than trying to sleep while improperly stored provisions are banging back and forth in cupboards.  Then there is the balancing act of trying to cook when the wind is blowing hard, you are heeled 25 degrees, and the boat is bashing on the waves, and the only thing saving you from taking flight is a well-placed galley belt.  

On my first passage -- 23 days from Hawaii on SV Berkana -- I learned from skipper Jim the importance of safely storing provisions so they wouldn’t tumble out of cupboards or bang incessantly, and to have a map of where the goods are stored so you could easily find them when needed.  I also learned from Barb (skipper Jim’s partner) the importance of meal planning and how to provision for a 20+ day passage (which actually meant buying enough provisions for half more the number of days, or 30+ days).  I found that planning a menu of tasty, hearty meals that could be eaten out of a bowl was the best and often the only way to go given the weather conditions.  If some of these meals could be prepared (and frozen) prior to the passage, this makes life in the galley more trouble-free, especially during the first few days of the trip when you are trying to get your sea legs.  Also, catching two tuna over the course of the passage certainly made the meal planning (seared steaks, chowder, ceviche) significantly easier for me.

Somewhat mistakenly, I came to believe/expect that all boats were like SV Berkana and came with well-appointed safe galleys with non-skid surfaces and safety belts to prevent you from going ass-over-tea-kettle in those rough seas.  So when it came to my second offshore passage – 8 days (5 nights offshore) to San Francisco on SV Sapphire – I was quite surprised to see that not everyone was as fastidious about galley appointment and safety or storage of provisions as Jim had been and had taught me to be. To be fair, although designed as an offshore boat, SV Sapphire is a liveaboard boat and it was only planned to make a “short” offshore passage (the skipper was moving to San Francisco). Part of the issue with galley safety on Sapphire had to do with the galley’s layout. The storage of pots/pans, spices/condiments, etc were located directly above and behind the stove which meant that when cooking you often found yourself having to reach across a hot stove for spices or another pot.  This was extremely precarious at times when the weather was bad.  However, easy things like putting down a simple non-skid surface so that dishes wouldn’t take flight, or the installation of a proper safety belt, would have made my life easier in the galley.  Unfortunately, these were not present, giving us a difficult time with sliding mugs, bowls and pots. Add to this, the various provisions (especially canned goods) and plates etc were stored such that they moved around, making for a considerable racket while crew tried to sleep.

For the San Francisco passage, I took on the responsibility for meal planning, preparation, and making the shopping list of provisions.  I made my galley life significantly easier by preparing five days of frozen dinners – (i) smoked salmon pasta, (ii) beef chilli, (iii) beef stew, (iv) pesto pasta, and (v) a chipotle ground turkey and bean chilli – for the “offshore” portion of the trip.  These meals could be readily thawed and heated up without too much fuss and served along with a salad or freshly baked biscuits (Bisquick is my friend).  Like the other two crew and skipper, I stood my watches but found it tiring given that the end of my watches often coincided with meal preparation so I had less time to rest.

In winding up, here are my few simple tips for those planning a passage (especially, those of you who are responsible for the galley):

  • There should only be one crew member primarily responsible for the galley.  That does not mean that the other crew members cannot assume some galley responsibilities, like cooking.
  • Make sure your provisions are properly stored so they do not shift.  You may want to put down some non-skid in the cupboards to stop tins from moving during the passage.
  • Make a map of where the provisions are stored so you can get to them easily when you need them.
  • Advance meal planning and preparation can significantly reduce your stress level during the passage.
  • Provision for 1 ½ times the number of days of the passage.
  • Plan hearty one-bowl meals than can be cooked and served in all conditions.  You may want to make extra for warming up for lunch the next day.
  • Ensure you have a non-skid surface in the galley to prevent dishes from flying.
  • Ensure you have a well-placed safety belt. 

Some additional comments from David:
  • In addition to non-skid (e.g., Scoot-Guard), it helps if the galley countertops have some method of dividing them into smaller sections. This helps keep cups etc in place.
  • The gimballed stove is your friend (and essential!) -- place pots, cups etc on it while the boat is rockin'. (It helps to have a flat section on the stovetop  -- e.g., a griddle or partial cover -- for cups etc.)
  • Consider stable places for cups/mugs in the cockpit too.
  • Michelle made extra large batches of the pre-frozen meals; the leftovers were left in the pot on the gimballed stove and provided a quick & easy meal (breakfast/lunch) the next day.
  • Pelagia has most of Michelle's suggestions; we are working on the others for next year's passages.

[There are many books providing good advice as to galley arrangements -- for example, books by the Pardey's and Beth Leonard's Voyager's Handbook, among others.]

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