Dock Lines: Setting up galley and food storage areas

No matter how well-designed, our boat galley never seems to have adequate storage space for my cooking equipment and essential cruising food supplies.

I enjoy cooking and entertaining and consider a well-equipped galley a necessity. Included in my inventory are a food processor, blender and hand mixer, plus extensive hand tools, mixing bowls, pots and pans, serving pieces and glassware. Add to that canned and dry goods, spices, fresh foods and beverages — and my galley lockers are too small. Hence the dilemma: where can I stow everything, so that nothing rolls, breaks, bruises or spoils?

The most important thing in setting up galley and storage areas is to decide what tools, equipment and food supplies are important to you. Look around your home kitchen and list everything you use regularly and consider a necessity. Remember: if you don’t use it at home, you won’t use it at sea.

Plan for the type of cooking and entertaining you plan to do aboard. Then allocate in-galley storage to your most frequently used equipment, dishes and food stores. Keep a week’s worth of bulky staples, such as flour, rice and pasta, and stow the rest elsewhere.

The challenge is to identify extra or unused space to transform into overflow galley storage. Select an easily accessible spot, cool, dry and dark, for stowing extra unrefrigerated produce. Most boats have nooks and crannies and underutilized lockers that can be used for supplemental galley storage. Many boats, particularly sailboats, have built-in cubbyholes throughout the boat reachable through removable panels. 

On our boat Arv, my husband, installed extra shelves in every galley locker to increase usable space and fashioned shelving in underused stateroom hanging lockers to hold small appliances, bowls and platters and, in a another locker, cans, bottles and dry staples. Under bed drawers filled with linens can also protect breakable platters.  

Arv created secure wine storage by fitting racks into a built-in former television cabinet and added shelving in the dry upper areas of our forward bilge to hold rarely used bulky items. This is also a good area to stash extra heavy canned food, low and near the boat’s center of gravity, padded in bins to prevent damage from movement. 

Whatever storage space you have, whether in the galley, refrigerator/freezer or elsewhere, save space by placing everything in heavy-duty plastic baskets and containers. Don’t use cardboard boxes, which can harbor pests, especially in the tropics.

It’s important not to skimp on quality when you’re selecting plastic storage units. Inexpensive plastic bins crack, break and, if they have lids, won’t seal properly. It’s cheaper in the long run to invest in high quality baskets and containers made by companies such as Sterilite and Rubbermaid. Look for bins with solid bottoms to catch potential leaks and ventilated sides to permit air circulation and reduce mold. Lock & Lock makes strong food storage containers with locking lids and squared corners which minimize wasted space.

Before buying any storage bins be sure to measure your spaces to ensure fit. Lay in a generous supply of heavy-duty freezer-grade plastic bags in several sizes for general use, including packing serving-size food portions in your freezer, as well as bubble wrap and tube socks to protect wine bottles and other breakables.

Martha Mowry of Tumbleweed, an Island Packet 420, increased her usable galley storage space, even in her refrigerator and freezer, by using baskets and bins, stacked in double layers as space permits. Because everything is organized in compartments she can locate whatever she needs quickly.

For more tips on galley storage, see Carolyn Shearlock’s cookbook and blog at

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Capt. Nicole Sours Larson

Capt. Nicole Sours Larson has spent more than 25 years boating in Southern California and Mexican waters as well as throughout the East Coast's Chesapeake Bay. A freelance writer, she holds a USCG captain's license and has been writing about boating since 2009. Previously she lobbied on boating safety and education issues for boating organizations at the federal, state and local levels.


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