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27 November 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 8) - Galleys, Heads & Beds

Ah...sleeping and eating. Two of my favorite pastimes. So, I'll be paying close attention to galley (or kitchen) set-ups and berths (or beds) when we go boat shopping next year. I'm not that interested in toilets, but if you're going to eat and drink, well then knowing something about heads is probably important as what you eat has to end up somewhere.

So, let's start off with galleys because it is usually easier to fall asleep in your berth when your belly is full and happy. Galleys are basically the same as the kitchens you have on land. The big difference is that they're smaller, which impacts on what appliances (white ware) and equipment you have. You also need to think differently about power consumption and energy sources. I've found the "Kitchen-Sink Galley Checklist" on the Women & Cruising site to be a great resource for learning what to look for when it comes to galleys. Here is what I'll be looking for when we go boat shopping:

1.  Layout - I want a U-shaped layout so that it will be easier to cook when underway by wedging myself in. We currently have a bench set-up with the galley running the length of the port side. It works fine as our current boat is small (26') and I haven't been really cooking underway. It will be interesting to see how it works out when we do move on our boat full-time this summer and cooking takes on a more real-life flavor, rather than feel like camping.

2.  Location & Ventilation - The key takeaway for me from the Women & Cruising checklist is to be wary of the location of the galley relative to the engine. If they're near each other, you want to make sure that you can still cook while engine maintenance and repair are being undertaken and you want to make sure it doesn't get too hot in the galley when the engine is running. We sail in New Zealand where is doesn't get very hot so ventilation hasn't been a critical issue for us, but as we hope to be sailing in warmer climates we'll need to pay more attention to making sure there is good air flow, venting etc. And of course, most importantly, we'll want to make sure the galley is convenient to the cockpit so we can snack while we sail.

3.  Counter & Storage Space - You will generally have less counter (bench) and storage space on a sailboat than on land. Unless you have a mega-yacht of course. But then, you probably have a chef preparing your meals for you and you never need to step into the galley. That's not us so we'll need to look for clever things like cutting board tops you can put over the sink to give you more space when needed and fold-down counters. And one thing to look for in counters on a sailboat are fiddles. These are railings along the edge which keep things on the counter when the boat gets tippy. Something you would never think about having on land. Fortunately (or not depending upon your perspective), we currently have a small apartment in Auckland (roughly the size of a shoebox) and it probably has the same amount of counter space (if not slightly less) as we have on our current boat, so I'm quite used to food prep in a confined space.

4.  Appliances - The three basic appliances I'm looking for in our next boat are a stove (hob), oven (cooker) and a fridge. As there are only two of us, we can live without a dishwasher (and did so for many years in Scotland) and while a freezer would be nice (think ice for gin and tonics) we can do without. Appliances in a boat the size we'll be looking to buy (somewhere between 35-38') will be smaller than those on land. The stove is likely to only have two burners (maybe three) and the fridge will be tiny (like something from those days living in a dorm at university). But Scott has been very cunning by getting me to live on our 26' boat this summer with no fridge and no oven so that I'll be thrilled to get an oven and a fridge, no matter what size, on our next boat. He is a devious one - it pays to keep an eye on him.

The other big difference in boat vs. land appliances is how they're powered. I imagine the stove and oven will likely be fueled by propane or something similar which adds that element of danger which makes cooking so exciting. The fridge will be likely be powered by electricity. I've learned that electricity is a precious commodity on a boat so no standing with the door open staring into it for ages trying to figure out what you want to snack on. Evidently, there is a game that boaties play called "Amp Up the Amps", which is apparently more addictive than Candy Crush (I am currently stuck on level 86 - help!). I worked in the energy sector for years but didn't pay enough attention during all those training courses and still don't really understand how electricity works. Fortunately, I found this - it all makes much more sense now.

5.  Water & Sinks - Water is one of the most important things on your boat. You need it to stay alive, brush your teeth, wash your dishes and cook your pasta. So when I'm looking at galley set-ups, I'll be checking out how the water is pumped into the kitchen (electric or manual), how many taps there are and what kind (hot, cold, freshwater, saltwater), if there is actually a hot water heater (assume I can live without one?) and how many sinks there are (two would be ideal). And I'll want to make sure there is sufficient headroom in the galley so Scott can comfortably stand and wash the dishes (hopefully he isn't reading this part).

6.  Safety - This is the scary part of the checklist. It asks questions like, "Can you safely get out of the galley if you had a flare-up at the stove?" and "Do you have a safety strap to hold you in place in rough conditions?" After reading this, I'm thinking we'll only eat cold meals that require no cooking and sail in calm seas. Probably not realistic though.

So once I've gotten over my fear of cooking on the stove while we're underway in rough seas and I've cooked us a fabulous, gourmet nutritionally balanced, edible meal, our full bellies will make us sleepy and we'll need to have a lie down. And that's where berths come in. If you have a larger boat, then your berths might be very similar in size and shape to that of your bed on land. But for us, we're likely to buy a boat that has those weirdly configured berths which you can't find ready-made sheets for. There are a number of different types of berths you'll encounter:
  • V-berth - This is named for its shape. It looks like the letter "V" and is located in the forward end of the hull where the boat gets all pointy and turns itself into a V-shape. We have one of these now. Works well for me as I'm short, but the only way Scott can sleep in it is if he turns himself into some sort of pretzel shape. And when the two of us are in there it becomes really cramped and people end up getting elbows and knees jabbed into them.
  • Settee berth - This is basically like falling asleep on the couch that runs the length of the boat. Depending upon your configuration, you might have a set-up where you can drop a table down and turn two settees that face each other into a large bed. If you're sleeping in these while underway, you need to have a lee-cloth which is basically like a railing made out of cloth that keeps you from falling out of bed when the boat gets tippy.
  • Quarter berth - This is a single bed which is located near the cockpit. We have two of these on our current boat. They are like sleeping in a little cave-like pipe as you slide yourself in with your head peeking out into the saloon. I find them creepy and claustrophobic. We use ours to store stuff. However, they are good if you're sailing at night and want to be close to the cockpit. You also won't fall out of them when the water is rough and choppy. I can see why people like catamarans, no tippiness and worries about falling out of bed.
For us, the important thing when considering new boats is to make sure the berths are long enough for Scott to sleep on and that I don't end up feeling claustrophobic because I'm cramped in some weirdly shaped bed underneath the cockpit.

In addition to galleys and berths, the other big consideration down below is the head. They're generally pretty compact on the size of boats we'll be looking at and might require some sort of contortions to move about in them, but that's one of the trade-offs when you're restricted in the size of your boat. Ideally, we would have a head which has a separate shower compartment. In many of them, you shower right there next to the sink and toilet which means water is splashing everywhere. When we're sailing in warmer climates, we would probably be happy showering in the cockpit and keeping the head tidy and dry, but when it is cold out I guess we may have no choice but to shower in the head or play the "stinky game" where we see who can go the longest without a shower. Scott will definitely win this one.

The other thing you have to think about when it comes to heads, is how the toilet works. Does it have a manual pump or an electric one? How does the holding tank work? Does your toilet have a macerator? It's all too icky to think about and I can't even begin to imagine how gross it will be if it breaks (or when it breaks as everything on boats appears to break all the time). So, I'm not going to think about it anymore.

Okay, I'm off to fix a snack and have a nap now. And, of course, dream about our next boat.

If you're interested in other slightly eccentric posts on how to buy a sailboat when you know nothing about sailing or boats, check out this page.

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This is our current galley. One sink with a fresh water tap (hooked up to the water bladder with an electric pump), two burner stove and a broiler (which is great for making toast). We usually have a jerry can filled with water with a spigot on the counter behind the sink  which makes that area unusable. The counter space to the right of the stove isn't huge but it works out okay with a bit of juggling around of things. And a fair amount of storage space for a relatively small boat. You can also see the tiny V-berth which is way too small for Scott to sleep in comfortably.

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