Choosing Your Catamaran Galley

Important Things To Consider

Estelle Cooking Royal saluteGalleys traditionally have always taken a back seat on sailing vessels and were viewed mainly as a necessity rather than an integral part of the boat. With sailing becoming more accessible to more people and to families, and with the popularity of recreational sailing rather than racing only, galleys have established their rightfully important places in the yacht. In fact I believe that a good galley is equally as important as the sailing ability and safety of a cruising yacht. More women are embarking on the cruising/sailing dream and with that, women bring with them family, friends and the comforts of home. The galley therefor is vitally important and should be well situated and practical.

Catamaran Galley Up or Galley Down?

There are different schools of thought about the two options of galleys on a catamaran- the ‘galley up’ or ‘galley down’ options. People have strong opinions about their particular choices and both options have their pros and cons.

  • For catamarans 50ft and smaller, the ‘galley up’ is most often the preferred option for cruising couples and for charter boats for ease of entertaining and for safety, i.e. Lagoon Fountaine Pajot, Discovery 50, Island Spirit, Leopard etc.
  • However there are some dedicated followers of the ‘galley down’ option on smaller catamarans like the Antares, Seawind and St Francis. Typically the salon areas of these boats are smaller and having the ‘galley down’ in a hull, frees up the living space in the salon.
  • Bigger catamarans, 60ft and up, usually have crew and the chef typically would rather have a more “private” galley area to prepare for guests and these galleys would be situated in one of the hulls rather than in the salon area.

My Personal Preference: ‘Galley Up’ Option

  • Safety

Cooking a meal in heavy seas can be dangerous and let’s face it, we all experience bad weather while under way at some point. Now, we could argue that we simply should not cook during heavy weather but in my experience, keeping the crew’s moral high is very important in order to operate at full alert when necessary and that means the crew should be well nourished. I always have a hot meal ready because nothing can quite lift the spirits like a nice hot cup of soup, chili or coffee when you’re cold and tired. So being able to use the galley safely is of utmost importance. Running up and down stairs from the galley down below in heavy weather with hot food in hand is difficult and dangerous. Having the ‘galley up’ and being right there on the same level with the rest of the crew to help out, is invaluable and the chef/cook can easily reach the cockpit for a little breather if necesary.

  • Convenience

The ‘galley up’ is usually conveniently located at the entrance to the salon area, which makes serving a meal very easy and pleasant for either ‘el fresco’ or inside dining. With a pass-through from galley to cockpit, everything is easily accessible from the galley without having to pass or carry food up from down below. The barbecue is a natural extension of the galley (I cook on the grill more often than not) and with the galley located conveniently at the entrance on the salon, makes that a breeze for the chef.  

  • Entertaining

When we have guests on board or even when it’s just the two of us, it is fun to hang out together where the action is. I hate being stuck down in the galley prepping when my guests are upstairs visiting. After all, cooking is a social event. Having the ‘galley up’ allows the chef to be part of the fun and it can even encourage others to get involved in the process.   

  • Ventilation

I think ventilation is better in a bigger area. The salon has a bigger area with more opening vents, so it’s easier to get rid of the heat and cooking odors with opening hatches, ports and the large sliding door.

  • Stability

Crew fatigue is one of the biggest problems on a long passage specifically when done in bad weather. Catamarans in general reduce fatigue enormously, since you don’t have to hang on and balance yourself while sailing. The more stable platform of a catamaran therefor makes cooking so much easier while moving and you don’t have to be strapped in like you may have to be on a monohull in heavy seas, bracing yourself is usually enough. Having the galley up further allows you to be comfortable, stable and close to the crew for easy delivery.

  • Seasickness

If you are prone to seasickness or just general queasiness, going down below in a closed-in or small area to cook is absolutely not advisable. Even on a calm day, it can get pretty stuffy down below but cooking in the ‘galley up’, it not only allows for more air but the light airy space in most salons in catamarans makes one feel so much better and it’s an easy few steps out into the cockpit.  

These are only my opinions, derived from personal experience but like I said before, there are people who swear by the ‘galley down’ configuration and I welcome their input. These are examples of Galley up designs:

siyaya galley Galley
This a picture of my galley in my Island Spirit 401 “Siyaya”. See the U-shaped galley, great for bracing, the stove and sinks conveniently close together, lots of counter space and lots of storage. The front opening fridge is also close at hand on the island. Note also the convenient pass through window at the cockpit.  Note this galley, how everything has a special & safe place like the microwave, coffeemaker etc. With that you know that everything will always stay in place even in rough weather. Also, note the light airy feel with the big windows in the saloon area. Obviously the rest of the counter space is not visible here (in the island) but this galley also seems really well appointed.

Below is an example of “galley down” in the hull. It has all the good qualities of galley up except maybe having to climb the stairs to the salon but perhaps not as much ventilation and light.

09 galley

Checklist For A Good Catamaran Galley

My first concerns are always safety and functionality on board and that is also how I judge a galley to be a particularly successful and good galley. It is no use having a beautiful galley with the best appliances and gadgets if they cannot be used when needed. 

  • Adequate Ventilation And Lighting

It should have either an extractor fan or an opening hatch above the galley and or opening ports. The galley gets hot very quickly and cooking smells can get overwhelming so it is imperative to be able to let out the steamy, smelly air. Another good thing to have is a dedicated fan in the galley. Make sure that you have good, bright lighting. 

  • Safety

Cook/Chef should be able to brace him/herself for safety. Most modern catamaran galleys have u-shaped galleys that makes it easy to brace. Make sure the distances between the countertops are not too wide, so as not to be able to brace. 

  • Storage

The galley should have adequate accessible storage. I make sure that I have good storage in the galley for everyday items like spices & condiments and groceries that is used daily. Bulk items are stored in a pantry below or in more difficult to get to areas in the salon. I always make sure that my galley can withstand violent seas, so I clear my countertops which means EVERYTHING has a safe place. As they say, a tidy boat is a safe boat. I always prepare for the worst so I don’t have to deal with the clean-up and mess afterward.

  • Stove

One should have either a gimballed stove with pot clamps or if the stove is not gimballed like in most catamarans, one should have good pot clamps/restraints and deep pots/pans to cook in while in bad weather to prevent spillage. I apply this philosophy almost always in all conditions while underway…rather be safe than sorry. Also, make sure that the oven can hold a good size chicken, leg of lamb or can hold two bread pans. Also, make sure that the stove is fitted with a thermometer, if not get a good quality thermometer, you will not be sorry. 

  • Good Refridgeration

When we first started cruising over 20 years ago in the Indian Ocean, a fridge was a luxury and a freezer was an absolute extravagance! Fortuanately, refrigeration on boats has evolved and most fridges are very efficient and reliable. Top loading as apposed to front opening fridges is another discussion altogether and we will cover that another time but my personal preference is front loading having tried both options. 

  • Sinks

Should have big and deep enough sink or double sink if possible. Not all yachts have the space for a double sink but it is nice to have and make sure that it’s deep enough to fit pots and pans. I like to have a pull-out faucet in the galley for ease of cleaning. I also have the luxury of a sink outside in my cockpit close to the BBQ. It’s great for entertaining!

  • Adequate Workspace/Countertops

Countertops for galleys come in all shapes and sizes and modern honeycomb cores allow even for real stone countertops. Whatever your choice, make sure that the workspace is laid out in a practical way for maximum unencumbered space. Working on top of a top loading fridge or cabinet could be a pain! 

  • Propane Solenoid

Should have a propane solenoid switch at the galley with an indicator light to ensure that the propane is always isolated when not being used.   

There is simply not a “perfect” galley on a yacht. With limited space and awkward angles being the norm, it’s difficult to create the “perfect” galley but as long as you have these few things taken care of, you can live with most imperfections!

Tips For The Best Catamaran Galley Design

“Galley up or galley down?” I have been asked this question more often than any other about catamaran cruising life. The only answer in my opinion, is galley up. When at sea, every meal comes from the galley, so live-aboards spend a lot of time in the galley and many cruising couples and families find that the separation is not ideal. Therefor, in modern catamarans, the most popular galley design option is galley up which makes it a focal point of the main living and entertainment areas. Read More>>


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2 thoughts on “Choosing Your Catamaran Galley”

  1. Yes, I see your point. However, the incredible amount of windows and overhead storage in the Seawind galley, in my opinion makes the kitchen layout in the Seawind the winner. It also keeps the mess out of the dining and lounging area. After cruising the Whitsunday islands in a Seawind 1160, I think the Seawind 1260 is the perfect Catamaran for us. I just cannot get into any other Cat. No outboards!

    1. Estelle Cockcroft

      Hi Steve, thank you for the great input. We dont see too many Seawinds on this sade of the planet. But I have been on the Seawinds in the boat shows and you are right, the storage is nice.

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