Sailing 101: Arm the Galley!

Ahoy Sailors, now that you’ve learned the most efficient way to stock and structure your galley, let’s talk about the best ways to incorporate safety features in your galley that will combat the strongest of waves. Stay tuned for your next lesson which will construct a sailing checklist that accounts for sailing essentials and designated roles for the crew.

A galley can become an explosion of cups, plates, glasses, and food when seas become choppy. From dishware to a galley layout, here are tons of tips to keep your galley secure, prevent you from hurting yourself, and keep your belongings safe while cooking out at sea.


Grab Rails and Handles


When it comes to the boat galley, you need to enter with caution. One of the biggest threats to a cook at sea is the prospect of being tossed across the galley. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is by having handles and grab-rails within reach; some prefer tether systems. The debate will likely continue through eternity, but most long-term cruisers prefer handles and grab-rails as it keeps them mobile in case of emergency.


Never put anything behind the stove that you might want to use when a burner is lit or when there is a hot pan on the stove!


  • If you’re wearing a top with sleeves, a sleeve can catch fire if it comes too close to a lit burner.
  • Steam from a boiling pan can burn your arm while you’re reaching.
  • If the boat moves as you’re reaching across, you can fall into a hot pan – possibly burning yourself where you contact the pan, the burner itself, or knocking hot food. Just because you’re in a calm anchorage doesn’t mean the boat won’t roll when another boat, or Jet Ski, passes by.


Turning the burner off before reaching across doesn’t eliminate the risk, as the hot pans are still there.


If you have the option, install a stove with two burners. Three burner stoves tend to be too crowded and offer more opportunities for pots and pans to slide, collide, and fall off the stove. Also, at sea, you’ll always want to use a fiddle, what some sailors call pot restraints. They generally have metal bars that screw into each side of the stove and “hug” a pan on a burner. You loosen the knob slightly to swing the bars into the correct position, then tighten the knob back down so that the pot doesn’t slide with the boat’s motion. These will help keep pots secure if your boat starts a-rockin’.


If your boat finds a groovy motion while you’re cooking, it’s wise to wear protective clothing and aprons if the unfortunate situation arises where splashing and spilling occur.


It is helpful to have a galley strap on board. If you have a U-shaped galley, you can place a strap across the opening. While it won’t hold you in one place, it will keep you from being thrown 6 feet or more, and you can move around the galley and get out of the way of spills if need be. In addition, it will prevent you from being thrown into your hot, lit stove.


Non-skid padding is also a great idea to keep around. For those sailors who prefer ceramic plate wear because it retains heat and keeps your dinner warmer for longer, a non-skid pad can be beneficial when a not-so-smooth anchorage is in motion. If you don’t own a non-skid mat and you’re reading this out at sea, a damp paper towel can also help.


Sometimes plates can be a slippery surface for cutlery. Rimmed edges are your friend in the galley and anywhere else you want to eat on your boat. Pie tins work great and offer a small barrier, so your fork and knife don’t slide off your dish.


This tip might upset you, but here it is. Wine glasses and other stemmed glassware were not designed for sailing. It is always best to use a rocks glass or even a lidded mason jar when enjoying a beverage. It is self-explanatory, and I’m sorry to bear this bad news.


Installing a spring latch on your pantry doors will lock the door in place while you need it open and will stop the door from smashing back into you. It’s also good to install swing latches on the door and door frame as a backup lock in case the door lock doesn’t hold up against rough waters.

This next tip isn’t about safety, but it is helpful. When buying equipment for your galley, whether it be coffee mugs, the screws you’re using, or your water faucet, stainless steel will last the longest without rusting. Likewise, avoid metals such as chrome or iron because they are susceptible to rusting faster.


Lastly, one more non-safety galley tip is to own the Cruising Chef Cookbook by Michael Greenwald is a bestselling, extensive sailors’ cookbook. Seasoned overnight sailors consider it essential equipment. The new Cruising Chef is a book of nautical wisdom in the disguise of a cookbook. It contains hundreds of tips plus more than 300 recipes. The cookbook includes an extensive discussion of preparing for a voyage and resupplying in native markets. “Special Cooking Techniques” describes pressure cooking, stir-frying, grilling, and handy techniques for the galley chef.

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