Learning to Love my Small Galley

In early 2012, Tom, flew across the country to Hingham, Massachusetts and bought us a Freedom 30 sailboat. That December, we moved aboard.

You might question my sanity for letting this happen. But I was prepared. I’d seen the Freedoms many times at the Seattle Boat Show and at brokerages. Renowned Northwest yacht designer and Sailing magazine boat reviewer, Robert Perry spoke highly of the Freedom 30 on SailNet. Ferenc Mate wrote glowingly about it in The World’s Best Sailboats. I knew it was a good boat.

Still, in the run-up to ownership, I’d missed taking in the dimensions of the galley. Blinded by the rose colored glasses of the liveaboard life of my dreams, I didn’t look critically at what I was getting myself into vis`a-vis cooking until that hot August day I first stepped aboard Sunshine.

The Galley of a Stock Freedom 30 is Wicked Small

the galley plan of a freedom 30 - smallest galley

The entire food prep and storage space aboard Sunshine measures 4’10” x 4’6” x 4′ high. That’s about as big as the front seat of your car. The area the cook stands in is 2′ x 2′ with 6′ headroom. Smaller than the security scanner you walk through at the airport.

Here’s what’s packed into that space:

  • Counter top work space: 24” x 21”
  • Icebox: 8 Cubic Feet
    – Located under the counter top and accessible only through the counter top.
  • Sink: 14” x 10” x 14” deep
  • Cutting Board: 18” x 10”
  • Stove: Alcohol fueled 2 Burner, 18” x 10”
    – Located under the cutting board.
  • Oven: Alcohol, 8” x 15.5” x 11”
  • Dish Storage: 8” x 21” x 15” high
  • Cupboard Behind Stove: 48” long, 14” high, 9” at the deepest, tapering back to 5”
  • Cupboard Under Stove: 24” x 7” x 9”
    – Sloped, and with hoses running through it. Can get wet when on a port tack. Best for canned goods, which must be in a plastic tray to avoid rust.
  • Cupboard Under Sink: 20” x 15”
    – Shared with water supply and drain lines, refrigeration fittings, coolant coil and hot water heater hoses.

The previous owner had added a couple of nice touches:

  • Shelf Behind Stove: 23” X 8”
  • Freezer Compartment/Refrigeration Unit:
    – Turns the icebox into a refrigerator (when on shore power) and turns one 5” x 12” x 12” section, into a freezer.

Reality Sinks In

As the size of the galley finally hit me, I thought, this is impossible.

We’d just moved from a 3,000 square foot house where my kitchen included a 48” commercial range, double granite sink, Subzero refrigerator and swaths of granite counters. I had some adjusting to do if I wanted the adventure of sailing, cruising and living aboard, because none of those things were coming with me.

galley aboard sailing vessel Sunshine - smallest galley

Over six years on this small sailboat, with its tiny galley, I’ve learned a few things about what you really need to cook well, what you don’t need, and how to make the most of limited space. And turns out, it’s not impossible at all.

Despite what the kitchen design and food media seem to say, we don’t have to choose between having a vast kitchen with a million specialized machines, or relying on canned chili and fast food restaurants. It’s not hard to cook great meals in a small space, even on the water. And after years of enjoying the less is more lifestyle, when I occasionally have to cook in a big kitchen I find myself pushing most of the things in it to the side and relying on the standby tools.

Learning and Flexing

I’m still learning. Still collecting tips, tricks, gadgets, ingredients and hacks. Still weeding out things I don’t need. Every week brings some new idea for streamlining a dish or organizing things better to fit the sailing lifestyle.

I’ve met many other sailors and liveaboards who also work from tiny galleys. Some even live without any kind of refrigeration. I haven’t tried that one yet. They’ve all shared tips and ideas with me. I’d love to hear your experience cooking in a small galley too. Get in touch through the comments or at my contact page.