Building a Galley Box for Arwen – Part One

By Steve Parke - Plymouth, England -UK

A purpose-built galley box idea has been in my mind for some time and recently I finally managed to get around to constructing one.

But wait, I get ahead of myself. I should introduce myself first. I’m Steve. I am lucky enough to have been able to build and sail a John Welsford designed navigator called ‘Arwen’ around Plymouth Sound and the south west coast of Devon and Cornwall in the UK; an area rich in maritime history, stunning scenery and wonderful tidal rivers and inlets. I am, I guess, a part time dinghy cruiser as well, occasionally camping on board ‘Arwen’ for two or three nights at a time. I came to sailing late in life and I write a blog that can be accessed at: www.arwensmeanderings.blogspot.com

I have a YouTube channel – just search for ‘Plymouthwelshboy’ or www.YouTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy

Arwen, she has a standing lug sail yawl configuration. Well that is what John keeps telling me it is. I know nothing in reality about boats so I trust his good judgement.

Up until now I have always had stove and cooking utensils in a plastic box inside a roll down waterproof bag. Food and water have been stored in another similar set up and these have been strapped to the cockpit interior hull sides forward of the central thwart area.

Those unfamiliar with John’s ‘navigator’ design should know that she is an open boat of some 5’8” beam. She has a centreboard, an aft cockpit well and a forward well that sits between the centre thwarts and the front thwarts. She is partly decked at the front, below which is an enclosed good-sized storage area with bulkhead hatch behind the mast. More details about her can be found at www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm and www.duckworksbbs.com/product-p/jw-navigator

I briefly share these details because in some ways ‘Arwen’s’ configuration and my sentimental love for a particular stove type, have dictated how I cook on board ‘Arwen’.

At anchor, when ready to cook the evening meal, I sit on the port side thwart in the rear cockpit. My faithful Trangia spirit stove sits ahead me on the thwart between the centreboard case and hull. Utensils and food box sit on the starboard thwart. This arrangement is fine when at anchor in sheltered conditions, when up a creek drying out on the mudflats and you can gain a better idea of my onboard camping arrangements from this short video:

But such an arrangement does have its limitations.

Take, for example, the Trangia stove design (trangia.se/en/camping-stoves-series-25/)

Simplicity itself, it cooks/boils quickly. However, the pan sits on clips inside a windshield which sits on a base. Mine has an 8” diameter, pretty stable but easy to knock over if you are careless. It can be slightly top heavy with a pan loaded with food being cooked.  To refill the little meths holder requires removal of windshield which needs to be placed somewhere. Its major disadvantage is of course that it is not gimballed in anyway and can easily slide around unless placed on some form of anti-slip matting.  Basically, boiling a cuppa whilst hove to along the inshore coastline is pretty much a no-no.

And so, a purpose built small galley box that stores both food, utensils and stove has been rattling around in my head for a while. Having recently retired from teaching, the opportunity to build it has finally come along.

So, what are my aims for such a box? Essentially, I want it to:

  • store stove, food and utensils/crockery/cutlery – enough for three-day trips;
  • be fully water tight and take up minimal space;
  • be used whilst hove to when coastal inshore sailing if need be and to provide greater stove stability and security;
  • take up ‘less room’ when in use during evening meal cooking sessions;
  • be able to support part of my body weight when I use it as a sleeping platform extension….you will see what I mean a little later;
  • be put in the car boot and used when ‘touring’ as well.

Having worked out the aims of such a box, I then considered its location in Arwen.

I have to confess, I am not the tidiest of sailors. A cockpit should be uncluttered and easy to move around. Mine is not bad when fully loaded with camping gear but it could be better. In short, I carry two anchors which are both securely stored in crates on the forward cockpit floor either side of the centreboard case. The underdeck locker has sleeping gear, roll mat, boom tent tarpaulin, clothes and toiletries. Under the front thwart go toolkits and freshwater bottles. The central lockers either side of the centreboard contain safety gear; the other is the fuel locker. The stern thwart locker has sailing waterproofs, spare lifejacket, outboard motor kit. In the aft cockpit there is a halyard bag which holds a flask, water bottle and day food/snacks along with a ditty bag containing gloves, hats, suncream, compass, etc etc. Fenders get stored behind the coaming around the aft cockpit thwarts as do spare mooring warps and until now food and cooking boxes along the hull side with the bucket!

I tend to keep the starboard side of the cockpit fairly clear. Rightly or wrongly, it is from here that I tend to use the bigger anchor; it is my preferred side to come alongside pontoons and mooring buoys when possible; it is the same side as the outboard hanging off the transom on its bracket. Thus, I decided that the new galley box would have to fit on the port side. Moreover, I wanted it to act as an extension of the side thwart. There is ‘method’ to this ‘mad’ suggestion. The side thwarts narrow somewhat towards the transom and by extending the thwart forwards using the galley box – I will be able to sleep more comfortably on this side thwart and not have to put up an extra sleeping platform extension piece each evening. In future, my head and shoulders will now rest on the galley box at night.

The galley box will fit in the space where the black dry bag is seen in this picture on the port side just forward of the central thwart area.

Having just retired, we are still working out our monthly living costs and so I didn’t want to spend too much on this box. It would have to be built from what I had lying around my workshop beneath the house.  Some foraging eventually found plenty of 5.5mm ply, some 1mm thick aluminium thin sheeting, some 10mm wooden ‘right angle’ moulding pieces and some tins of aluminium flake paint, PreKote and Toplac international paint. I had wood glue and contact adhesive aplenty.  In truth, the only outlay has been for some new paint brushes, cheapy ones and the brass turn buttons. No more than around £10 maximum.

Now I am not the best craftsman. A close inspection of ‘Arwen’ always proves testament to that. I’m not the world’s best 3D thinker either. A sad confession given both my father and father in law were engineers. (Old school engineers! Professional, precise engineers!! It is a heavy burden to bear!!) So, when I get an idea I tend to sketch it out on paper and then immediately do CAD (Cardboard aided design). I will also consult widely and here I find FaceBook useful. Some sharing of ideas on this social media website via the various dinghy forums I belong to bought excellent advice and thoughts. Several CAD’s were mocked up as a result before settling on the final design.

My final design, to fit in a space between thwart and centreboard, has the following features:

  • a dedicated cooking well;
  • a storage space for plate, mug, utensils and crockery;
  • three ‘foodstuff’ storage trays;
  • an area for bottles;
  • a lipped lid which doubles as a tray onto which saucepans and windshield can be placed. The inside lid will have rubber anti-slip, heat-proof matting to stop things sliding about;
  • two ‘pull out ‘doors that can lie flat inside the upturned lid out of the way.

The nearly finished box is shown below:

Part One – Part Two




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