The Elements of a Galley
Though boaters have been known to go on and on about how different things are aboard a boat, and especially how different a galley is from a land based kitchen, in fact a galley is a kitchen – a room for cooking.
The same elements apply to cooking spaces worldwide. Whether they’re found in a London flat, a camp on the Pacific Crest Trail, a village on the Serengeti, or Bangkok’s floating market, all cooking spaces have:
- A support surface
- A heat source
- A water source
- A receptacle for cooking tools
- Storage for foodstuffs
Galley Design – Form Follows Function
What is different about galleys is motion, and that’s always been the primary consideration of galley design.
Traditionally, the galleys of sailing vessels were planned to accommodate meal preparation regardless of tack, heeling, and riotous seas. Ships cooks did not have the luxury of waiting for shore power and calm anchorages to feed their customers. Their job was to slap meals together in all manner of conditions.
And so galleys were placed as low as possible in the ship, while maintaining a source of ventilation, at midships, and close to the center-line, in order to minimize the motion the cooks had to suffer.
The design of yacht galleys followed this commonsense pattern, usually placing the galley forward of, but near the companionway, for ease of ventilation and provisioning. The stove is placed outboard, or along the hull, and is gimballed so that it swings with the heeling of the vessel, always keeping the top burners as level as possible. The sink is located on, or close to the center-line so that it can drain on either tack. The sink is also usually quite deep, to keep dishwater from sloshing around the cabin.
Moving beyond the basics, the advent of steam ships, power yachts and multi-hulls changed galley design. No longer was the motion of the vessel in the seas the primary concern. With the stability of a catamaran, the need to place the sink in any particular spot pretty much evaporated and some are now located quite high up in the pilothouse.
And just like any kitchen, a boat’s galley can range from large, fully stocked and opulent to small, basic and utilitarian and everything in between.
Regardless of hull style, size and budget, the yacht galley takes one of four shapes – the straight-line, the corridor, the L, and the U.
The U is generally considered to be the preferable shape for mono-hull sailboats. It’s compact, with everything within reach, and safer in a seaway, as it allows the cook to wedge into a corner, plant feet and brace knees and hips strategically for the angle of heel. By contrast, a straight-line galley that runs along one wall and is open to the cabin, makes staying in place difficult unless the cook is strapped in.
The corridor or passage galley is essentially a U shape, except that both ends are open, creating a hallway that allows access to other sections of the boat. This style galley is common on sailboats that have a stateroom aft.
The L galley – a U with one side cut off – is the next best thing to the U because it does have that one valuable corner for the cook to brace against. Being able to brace gives the cook an extra hand.
Work With Your Galley Shape
I do my boat cooking in a U shaped galley, and I’m biased. But I know, without a doubt, that great meals can be prepared in any galley design. If your boat has a corridor or straight-line galley, you’ll develop tricks to make meal prep easy and safe. And if your galley is even smaller than mine – if it’s as tiny as those that provide lunch to shoppers at the Floating Market, you’ll find you can still serve good, healthy, inspired food to your crew. In fact, limited resources can have a remarkable effect on ingenuity. The old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention,” works particularly well in diminutive galleys.