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Galley Tips! Water, sinks, and dishes...oh my

Updated: May 8, 2021

While washing the dishes the other day, it occurred to me that maybe I had some useful tips for the cruising sailboat-galley. So I thought I’d do a quick little write up to share some of our experiences in the galley and what little changes have made our lives easier. But first let me give you a quick idea of our current set up.

Right now we have one large sink in the galley, and we’ve set up 3 faucets. Two faucets give fresh water; one is a manual hand pump and the other is a faucet that’s fed front he water-pressure pump. The third is actually more of a sprayer, and pumps out saltwater.

Excuse the messiness...

Plumb saltwater straight to your galley sink!

We’ve loved this set up since we installed it in 2020, and I would recommend a saltwater option in your galley sink to help cut down freshwater use while underway, or in general!

In 2019 when we first purchased this boat and sailed it to Hawaii, our home base at the time, we did not have a saltwater option plumped to the sink. We left the west coast for Hawaii with the bare essentials - as much fresh water as we could hold (4 x 50gallon water bladders), as much fuel as we could hold for the engine, gas for the generator, sufficient energy to run our fridge and navigation system, a repaired rig, and functional sails. At that time, we were on a delivery, and couldn’t take our time to slowly fix up the boat and then head over. We sailed the crossing as a crew of 4, 3 experienced sailors and one greenhorn. Oh yeah, and I was 7 months pregnant at the time as well.

Water conservation is essential on a boat, as in life, and we would often dip buckets into the ocean while underway and use that “clean” saltwater to wash dishes. We’d then give the dishes a quick rinse with fresh water, or just dry them off right then and there, and voila!

Having a saltwater option plumbed right to the sink in 2020 for our South Pacific crossing was such a convenience on everyone! Not only was it easy to wash dishes, but we also didn’t need to worry about crew having any overboard accidents while trying to pull up a 4 gallon bucket of ocean water while fighting the forward momentum of the boat. We also had a much more turbulent crossing in 2020 than we did in 2019, and bucketing water wouldn’t have even been feasible.

Mainstays plates, bowls, and cups! Thank you, Walmart...

Okay, I know for some people these might be too tacky. But let me tell you, if you’re washing with saltwater all the time, you’re going to want plastic dishes! Yeah, we rinse our dishes with fresh water, but eventually salt gets into the metals and rusts. It’s inevitable when living on the sea, the air has salt in it!

“Well, what about glass or that nicer hard plastic?”

Glass- please just don’t. If you absolutely need glass in your life, at least do yourself a favor and lock it away during passages. At anchor, glass is a fine option, though even at anchor or docked there can always be an unsuspected wake that throws your precious glass cup to the floor!

And as for the melamine plastic. What I’ve found with these types of plastic is that they don’t hold up well over time if they experience accidents. We had a lovely nautical themed dinnerware set in this type of plastic, and within a year or so all the handles to the coffee cups broke off. It’s frustrating really, because they look so nice and seem so sturdy, but they aren’t nearly as hearty as these cheap mainstay sets.

Another great thing about these dishes is they’re microwave safe! And yes, I said microwave... We kept some luxuries for those times when we’re running the generator to charge the battery bank and just need to have a plate of microwaved nachos... I speak mostly for myself here, haha!

Consider alternative sink options to stainless.

Salt water....we always come back to its unavoidable corrosive properties. We are looking into composite sinks right now so we needn’t worry about the repetitive saltwater usage on the sink. I guess if you decide to keep a stainless sink, one thing you could do to try and prolong its life, aside from rinsing with fresh water and wiping it down with religiously, is waxing it! If you decide on this route, it’ll surely become a part of your regular maintenance list, but it might be worth it if you just gotta have a beautiful stainless sink.

Here is an example of a composite sink. FIY, there are multiple color options for composite sinks!

Manual pump option for Freshwater!

I think every cruising boat should have a manual pump option for freshwater. I absolutely love our pump, though sometimes I wish it were a foot pump instead of a hand pump due to laziness. But I still love our pump and wouldn’t change it, and here are the reasons why!

Using a manual pump keeps the user conscious of how much is being used, which is huge! When you come from a house, or let’s just say an environment in which you don’t need to be mindful of water usage, it’s amazing how easy it is to be completely unaware of how much water is used for even the simplest things- like brushing one’s teeth. When you have a faucet going, there’s really no way to gauge how much water is coming out unless you sit there with a measuring cup and measure out exactly the amount of water you need.

Our manual pump puts out a ¼ cup per full pump. Prior to sailing with us, one of our crew would use on average, ½ a cup or more of water just to rinse off a toothbrush BEFORE brushing. I know it sounds like I’m being a bit of a water freak, but when you sail long passages like we do, you kind of have to! Water is life, and it’s good no matter what setting you’re in to eliminate as much wasteful behaviors as possible. By the end of the trip, this crew member was down to half a pump to rinse and ½ a pump to rinse afterward - a great improvement! And all this talk of consciousness in usage brings me to my next point...

General idea of how long the tanks should last!

When you know roughly how much water you’re using, you can do the math to figure out how long your water tanks will last before you need to refill them. We normally have 200 gallons on board for a crossing. Our last passage had a crew of 6 adults, and one baby. We generally allotted 1 gallon a day to each crew member. That’s 7 gallons a day that you then divide from 200 to get roughly 28 days. This doesn’t include water used for dishes, cooking, or fresh water rinses after saltwater showers. So now we can round up because I like whole numbers, and assume that we’ll use 10 gallons of fresh water a day to run the boat (or less hopefully!), that would give us 20 days on the water before we need to run a water maker Or pray for rain. With an average passage from Hawaii to Tahiti (or Mexico to the Marquesas) lasting normally 21 days, plus or minus a week, the captain can plan from there how much water the boat will need to carry, where it’ll be stowed, and when the water maker might need to come out.

Note: If you have a badass watermaker, none of this really matters for you. But we are still building up to that luxury, so we plan our lives with a little more OG style functionality. We do have two water makers, one we got for free that we repaired, and the other (manual) basic Katadyn Survivor 35 manual watermaker that pumps 4.5 liters per hour, if you continuously pump. We use our water makers in emergency situations, otherwise we try to be as conservative as possible, and take as many rain-showers as we can! :p

Lastly, we can’t forget to mention food hammocks.

Hammocks in the galley are a great option for stowing food, or whatever you want. We had our fruits and long-life veggies like onions and garlic in our hammocks. And in another I kept my everyday goodies like coffee, tea, snacks, breakfast foods, and baby foods. Get yourself a hammock and try out the life with a food hammock in the galley. I’m sure you’ll find it more useful than annoying. Please though, if you buy a west marine hammock, be sure to whip the ends extra tight over the existing whipping because it does unravel after so many months of weight in the hammock. Also be sure to add some kind of chaffing gear to the eyes depending on how you mouth the hammocks and what kind of pad eyes are used, because you don’t want a hammock full of food braking on you!

So there you have it, some quick and minor tips for the galley that totally makes our lives easier, and hopefully it can help someone else out too!

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