8 Things I Learned From a Lazy Man’s Galley Makeover

Before the makeover. The wonders of flash photography make it look a lot better than it was.

We are blessed with a boat that has an Herreshoff interior—white painted surfaces with varnished cherry trim—that (with the help of a couple of repaints) still feels just right, and not at all dated even though the boat is 30-years old.

However, there was one niggling exception to this happy state of affairs: the galley countertop was covered with very old and scarred off-white formica around an equally scarred stainless (once) steel double sink. Worse still, this was the first thing that caught our eyes each time we came down the companionway.

And the problems were more than just visual, since the caulking around the sink had long failed, allowing water into the plywood.

Not Easy

So why had we not dealt with this earlier, you ask? Well, the previous owner had added some glued-in-place adjacent cabinetry and a cherry backsplash on top of the counter.

Not My Strong Suit

And, added to that, while over the years I have done finish carpentry to a reasonable standard—I learned from Poor Stupid Bob (see Further Reading at the end of this post)—I'm not naturally gifted at it, so it takes me an age. And then there's the matter of the huge pile of miss-cut expensive lumber that always seems to magically appear as I work.

The result was that every time I thought about tearing the whole lot out, replacing the countertop, and then repairing the inevitable damage to the surrounding cabinetry, I emulated Mark Twain's approach when he thought about exercise: I lay down until the feeling went away.

But finally, two summers ago, the ever more deplorable state of the countertop overcame my herculean resistance to the project and I got serious.

Wait, Not Boring

Now, at this point, I'm suspecting that many of you are thinking, "oh dear, here comes one of those mind-numbingly detailed how-I-fixed-something posts that boating sites are prone to".

But before you stop reading in favour of a more interesting activity...like watching grass grow...stick with me, because this story has a never before occurring, at least on a boat, twist:

The whole thing turned out to be way easer and less expensive than I thought it was going to be, and the result is both attractive and functional.

This then is the story about how laziness can be used to come up with easier, and better, ways to do things, and the eight lessons I learned along the way:

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Clay

I’ve been putting off buying TurboCad for Mac for awhile now. I need to redo my galley also. Which AutoCad was satisfactory for your purpose? There are a few different prices. If I don’t need TurboCAD Mac Pro v10 for $499 … then good, if TurboCAD Mac Deluxe 2D/3D for $199.99 would be satisfactory. Couple of projects like a hard top bimini and refridgeration I’d like to draw up. Maybe start at $199 and have to go up to $499 if needed … later.

Dave

John

We also have a 30 year old boat with the exact issue. I was able to find a source for 1/4” Avonite, similar to corian. This helps keep the weight down, is easier to fabricate and keeps with original design. I chose to reuse the varnished teak fiddles for the look even though solid surface would be more durable. It’s the age old argument of form versus function.

This has been a fun project. It allowed for the redesign of the galley counter, sink, faucets, soap dispenser layout the way we wanted. And yes, the Fein multi tool will accomplish tasks that no other tool can do. Mine has paid for it’s self many times over the years.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Really nice article and excellent advice.
One procedure I am using more and more as time goes by is to “dry fit” a project as much as reasonable. Some projects lend themselves to this more than others, but I have been surprised by the problems (and unexpected solutions and easier ways to accomplish goals) I have discovered in executing the dry fit. In doing this, my guiding mantra is to do no harm; it is for research and planning and the time to pull out the tools is yet to come.
For me this is an intermediate step between the detailed planning you correctly recommend and the actual drilling of holes or dismantling. I often make templates and jigs using sheets of cardboard if I can find them. One project that benefitted greatly from a dry fit with different parts and design was the installation of the Refleks stove (for heat), but I have found almost any project can benefit.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

Great article, John. My main issue with our galley is slightly different: the Corian’s in good shape for the compelling reason that the galley hasn’t been used during the refit process, but I could use the whole area raised by a few inches/cms. to get the sinks to drain properly on starboard tacks now that I’ve raised the pipe nipple for the galley drain and gone to a Marelon ball valve. Did you have those considerations to field? The height looks more or less identical. I love the deeper fiddles to keep the washing up confined!

I also have not the Fein Multimaster tool, but a reasonably priced knock off that’s survived several seasons to date with visibly hard use. I concur that it’s the sort of gear you wondered how you lived without once you use it with intent. It’s like that right-angle, “orbital” drill bit attachment I bought ages ago. Can’t do a lot of jobs without it!

Marc Dacey

This is the thing I mean: a Milescraft Orbiter. Solved problems aboard plenty of times that otherwise would have involved massive disassembly: https://www.milescraft.com/product/orbiter/

Alastair Currie

Wow! This is a like reading my own galley upgrade, white Corian, built from offcuts, so lower cost, glued in. I had both the forward and aft sections of the galley top fitted for GBP500 by a Corina licensed kitchen fitter. I changed from two small twin sinks to one larger, deeper sink. And yes, I too bought a Fein Multimaster for the job. Yours sure looks good.

Alan Bradley

Hi John,
Great result. Very impressive. And thanks for giving me a new angle on some of my own projects.

In case you were not aware, I wanted to pass on a couple thoughts about that Scandvik faucet from my own experience. I’m actually surprised the spray/stream button failed. What has happened to me — before I realized the weak point in that faucet head is the plastic construction — was cracking it at the hose connection point by pressing the button without supporting the head. Second, I’ve had very good service dealing with Scandvik in Florida and found that they will sell replacement parts directly to the end user. In your case I would think they might even want to replace the faucet head at no charge, given the early failure, just for goodwill.

Stephen Actor

We had a custom stainless steel sink made at Crown Sheet metal shop in San Diego for less than the price of a Scandvik. They put in 2 drains so it would drain on port or starboard tack. We sized it so we could drop in stainless steel trays that are sold at restaurant supply houses for double sink functionality when needed for food prep. I installed a butcher block cutting board that overhangs the sink slightly. It has a “blood groove” routed around it and drains into the sink (except on a starboard tack). Nice for cutting up fish.

Bryant

Hi John,
A beautiful result. One thing to think of when contracing people who don’t muck about with boats for a living is to ensure they understand that the finished product has to fit through the hatch or “some assembly ‘  may be required on the boat. It may be worth paying a call-out fee for them to undestand the environment

Steve Holloway

The Fein is the most used tool on my boat, it has some attachments for sanding places you wouldn’t reach with any other sander. It’s also possible stick a bit of Brasso on a cloth and use the oscillating motion for the fastest brass polishing ever! Also there are some specific boat tools like a little hooked blade specially made to remove caulking from teak decks, works great.

Austin

I did a very similar galley project on our boat recently and used a general contractor to cut and fit the counter-top, which is glued to a new plywood base with NP1. I noticed your sink is fitted under the counter. I pondered doing that as well but in the end I had the plywood under the counter-top cut for the sink to sit on top and the sink opening in the counter-top large enough to set the sink down onto the plywood and I siliconed the sink and counter-top to seal the joint. I may never want to remove or replace the sink through the life of the counter-top but if I do I would want to be able to save the counter-top. I salvaged and reused the teak fiddle boards mainly because they have a unique opening in a raised portion on each side of the galley that serve as excellent hand holds if you aren’t strapped. Nice project John.

douwe

Thanks again for a very nice article! I am wondering how your “refrigerator hatch” is hinged. Do you happen to have a detail photo of that? We now have the hatches without hinges which is dangerous in any kind of sea.

Thank you!

RDE

Seems I’m always the contrarian! I never have liked the look of monolithic backsplashes, whether in plastic or welded stainless steel. As a result I find the original rotted plywood counter plus Home Depot sink more aesthetically pleasing than the Corian replacement. Hard to argue with it’s functionality though—-.

Of course if the wood bits had been completely sealed with penetrating epoxy at the start along with all plywood edges they would have had another 30 years of life expectancy—-.

Regarding the question of designing everything in CAD, at least at the scale of entire boats I do have reservations. I’ve worked with highly skilled designers and five axis milling machines large enough to produce the mold for the Boeing 757. The inherent problem is one of scale. The designer works on a small screen. He has digital tools to tell him what a fair line is, but those same tools don’t tell him what an esthetic line is. For the scale of a jetliner this works just fine, but for a yacht where you are in intimate contact with details at different scale, 1/8″ can make the difference between pleasing and functional and great art. At least for me, my shipwright’s eye and hand can tell the difference, where only the rare CAD designer can.

Eric Klem

Hi Richard,

Funny, I guess my aesthetic tastes are similar to Johns. I actually think that his project looks great and by all descriptions was a major success all around.

On your CAD comment, I actually think that CAD lends itself really well to large scale design. CAD is only a tool that is used by a designer and there are both good and bad designers like everything else. One of the things that I try to figure out when I am interviewing someone is whether they can think in 3D or 2D only. A suprising number of people who are employed as either CAD Designers or Engineers (probably naval architects and architects too but I can’t speak for them) really can’t think in 3D so have to employ a sort of trial and error version of designing where they keep using views in CAD to cheat. I spend a lot of time with CAD showing at full size (yes you need a giant monitor) and putting human models or tool models into CAD. Finally, CAD is not an excuse for skipping a mockup, it just makes the mockup more likely to need less tweaking. From an engineering perspective, I feel that a design that does not have human interaction should be pretty close to right the first time you build it and if there is human interaction, you often need some mockups to really check things.

Eric

RDE

Hi John,
Absolutely. Esthetics are a matter of personal choice– there is no better or worse! As for designing small bits like a galley sink and making sure they fit, CAD is superior. In one of the companies I worked for we had a guy from Boeing who came from what the Lazy B called the “Packaging” division. His job had been to pick out a small item like a door handle (make sure it hadn’t been originally designed by his boss!) and redesign it to be cheaper and lighter.

As for CAD design of whole structures like yachts and airframes, that horse has already left the barn regardless of what old fossils like me think!

Wayne

Another particularly well done article John, which for you is saying something. I particularly value your summary style and the hindsight of your “lessons learned” from the project and not “just” an overview of the project itself. I did a similar galley renovation on our last boat, a 52′ steel Bruce Roberts cutter but chose to do all the counter tops in SS. I was in Fiji at the time and had access to some very good SS workers who worked with me to bend and weld up an entire U shaped galley with integrated deep double sinks, fridge & freezer top loading doors and fiddles all round. Very different aesthetic from yours but I liked the look in combination with all the teak cabinets and checkered blue & white tiled walls.

I too was fortunate to have my trusty Fein Multi Master on hand for this project having found it years previously. I continue finding more and more uses for it and can’t imagine being without one.

Picking up on the CAD discussion a bit if I may, my thoughts and experiences match yours and others here very closely in its value for both planning and building. I am no doubt biased having been a CAD instructor at high school and vocational schools in BC for many years thought this was many moons ago in a “former life”. Echoing your and others comments I find that being able to quickly model things in 3D has made a huge difference in my initial “What if…..” explorations which then evolve nicely into the detailed planning and more ad more these days being able have these models drive various CNC tools to produce the parts themselves.

As I type this, my wife and I have just begun the building phase for our new boat as we make the transition from sail to power so we are certainly putting 3D modeling to extremely good use to collaborate with our designer and builder. We have recently started a blog to cover our latest adventures in designing and building this boat at Mobius.World if you’re interested in knowing more about this project. Our designer Dennis and builder Naval Yachts both use Rhino/Orca 3D as might be expected from such professionals and my wife and I have this running on our computers to work with them on our most effectively. However in the hopes of adding some value back to AAC I thought it might be of particular interest to you and others here to be aware of a different CAD software program which I am rapidly learning and loving to do the interior planning, cabinetry, etc.

I have only been learning and using it extensively for the past 3 months or so but I’m already finding Fusion 360 ** to be an incredible tool. It seems to be very aptly named as it “fuses” together such an enormous range of functionality including all forms of 3D modeling, rendering, animation of assemblies, simulations for stress and other testing, machining with CAM and creating 2D drawings. That is an awful lot stuff into one program and common interface yet so far for me it works extremely well.

Perhaps most relevant to this comment stream Autodesk has a novel business model for Fusion 360 in that it free not only for schools and students but also for what they term “startups or hobbyists” which they define as those with “less than $100k/yr total revenue or wholly users” which I suspect would apply to most of us here. If this piques your curiosity what worked best for me to find out what this software was all about was of course to turn to You Tube! If you just type Fusion 360 into YouTube you’ll come up with hundreds or more videos with everything from overviews to tutorials which is how I am learning to use and understand this tool.
** In the interest of full disclosure I worked for Autodesk the maker of Fusion 360 for over 25 years but I have been retired for over 10 years now and have no connection with the company any longer. My interest is purely in finding tools like the Fein MultiMaster and I thought this might be of particular interest to many of you as well.

Thanks again John for yet another high value article on AAC and to the many members who comment here. Christine and I learn a great deal from all of you and we are now putting these lessons learned to great use.

Mathieu

Would it have been possible to have the sink made out of corian, everything in one unit?

Maneuvering that into place would have been “interesting” but I really like the look.

Neil

Hi John,

Interesting for the lessons learned, thanks as always.

I notice you have a Seagull filtered drinking water tap (faucet) in the photo and wondered if you are using with Aluminium water tanks, as we are, and if it has been sucessful?

Unfortunately we have found the filters clog up really quickly, apparently due to using regular corporation pop (aka mains water) in alu tanks…

We have been using dockside prefilters (5u sediment and then 5u carbon) which did seem to help at first, but not so now, even though we regularly change the filters.

Neil
Yacht L’escale