Living aboard full-time definitely has its challenges. It’s similar to living in a house, but house solutions don’t always work on a small sailboat. If you could see the pile of things I’ve gifted on you would know that a sad percentage of what I try just doesn’t work out. But some items really do simplify the work we do and the life we live. So I thought I’d share some things that HAVE worked out.
Knife Block and Grill Lighters
Yes, we have electronic ignition on our stove, but it frequently doesn’t work. So our backup is those grill lighters. However they’re mostly pretty crappy and always hard for my small hands to operate. We replaced them with electronic lighters which I really thought was going to be a gimmick. But I love them. I keep one on the usb charger and the other in the galley. They last for months before I need to recharge, then I just switch them up. I got two different ones in case one was better, but I like both the ones we found. When you click the power button you don’t get a flame like the butane starters, it’s just a purple spark at the end of the starter. Works like a champ, starts every time, no difficult trigger to pull. It would be particularly great for any people with arthritis.
But you need a place to store these that is handy to reach and easy to find. These are small enough they can easily disappear and there’s nothing more annoying than wanting that cup of tea and not being able to find the lighter! It turns out my all wood magnetic knife block did the trick. I have no idea where I bought it but it is similar to this Wood Magnetic Knife Holder on Amazon. We hung it vertically in the tiny space between a cabinet door and the cabinet frame – about the only wall space I had available in my galley. Perfect place an easy reach from the stove.
Door-hung Trash Can and Bag Retainer
Some of you have boats, like our last boat, that have a built-in trash can. These all have similarities and differences like any built-in solution. But what do you do if you don’t have a built-in solution? If you have cabinet doors under your sink like I do, this just may work for you. The 13 quart Hang It Mate Trash Can from the Boat Outfitters works very well for us. It uses medium trash bags and is 10.5″ wide x 14.5″ tall x 8″ deep.
The first thing to realize is that if you have double doors under your sink is that the trash can does NOT have to be as small as the door – in my case this would have made it impossible to find an under-counter trash can as my doors are doll-house sized. The trash bin can actually be larger than one door and still be quite usable. Yes, both doors bump open when you pull open the one with the trash can, but that’s no problem. The one I got is 10.5″ wide, a couple of inches wider than my door. The hanging bracket is quite simple and effective and made of a rubber or plastic that won’t corrode.
The second thing is that the trash can itself is one thing, but you also need something to keep the bag liner from sliding down just when you have a load of bacon grease or coffee grounds to dump. I found some large rubber bands that do the trick for a year or so, or you could easily make one from elastic cord. I put it around the top of the back section where the hanging brackets are, but then tuck it under the trash can lip on the other three sides of the bin. This allows me to remove the full bag without removing the trash can. Very handy! And, as Martha Stewart taught me, I put the roll of spare trash bags in the bottom of the bin so they’re there ready for use when I remove the full bag.
Storing Cooking Oil
Oil problem 1: Large tippy bottles
Cooking oil comes in a million differently-sized containers. And most of them are tall and narrow – just the type to fall over and spill on a boat. And the more money you want to save, the larger a container you need to buy. But who wants a huge bottle of olive oil sitting on the counter? So the big bottle goes into a safe, and therefore not-very-easy-to-access cabinet. If you cook a lot like me, getting that oil out of a safe cabinet several times a day is annoying. And just when you find a cabinet that it fits in you find you end up getting a differently-shaped bottle the next time you go – maybe the brand you’ve been buying is out or a different brand is on sale. And that bottle may not fit in the space you had been using. Sound familiar?
Oil Problem 2: Pourable or Sprayable?
Sometimes you need to pour oil in a pan or measure it into a recipe. Other times you would like spray oil to just moisten the food or pan. What should you do – buy cans of spray oil and bulk oil? NO! There’s an easier way that solves both issues with that same bottle of oil.
To solve these two problems I found two different decanters, one container is for pouring oil and the other is a cute little spray bottle from Evo. I have two of each, actually, one set for olive oil and one set for a neutral veggie oil. They are easy to refill from the large bottle and small enough to use easily even in rough conditions. Since the large bottle doesn’t have to be right out where I can reach it several times a day it can be any size within reason and there is someplace under the sink or under the stove that I can store it. I only need to get to it once every week or two. And the pouring bottle and spray bottle have easy-to-reach storage locations regardless of the size of bulk oil I had to buy.
Silicone Pot Lids and Other Silicone Solutions
I’m sure many of you have discovered these but they are so handy I just had to include them. I have them in several sizes for different pans. I also have glass lids for my saucepans but I’m always afraid they’ll break some day. And glass lids can’t hang safely on my galley wall so they’re not as handy. Plus there are times I want to cover my wok or my frying pan which didn’t come with lids. However, there are lots of alternatives out there in kitchen stores. The Core Kitchen silicone pot lid set has these features which I recommend:
- Look for the sizes you need in a set (less expensive than buying singly)
- Try to get lids in a rainbow of colors (easier to select the size you need)
- Go for high-profile handles so you don’t burn yourself
- Get hanging tabs if you wish to hang them rather than lay them flat
On the subject of silicone solutions, I also recommend a collapsing silicone collander, a silicone steamer that fits in your saucepan, and a silicone splash guard. These are well-made, strong enough to do what they’re supposed to do, and won’t rust.
Sweeping and Vacuuming
Are you a sweeper or vacuum-er? I generally prefer sweeping, but can’t handle a full-sized broom on the boat. I think vacuums are useful on a boat especially for rugs and quickly cleaning up spills, but a broom is essential to me. If I just finished a big sewing job I’d much rather pick up the thread ends all at once with a broom than try to coax the vacuum to pick them up. However around our rugs, and for the settee seats, even for the salon table after a big project – a vacuum is the way to go. So I’ve ended up with both.
Broom and Dust-pan
I finally found a collapsible broom that works for me. It stores with the dustpan attached and is only 24″ when collapsed and over 4′ tall when extended. I threaded a line through the handle and hang it on a hook in my head. It expands long enough that it’s pretty easy to sweep without getting on your hands and knees, although for quick jobs you can use it as a hand broom, too.
And as for vacuums, I think the Dyson V7 Car+Boat Cord-Free Handheld Vacuum Cleaner is the best for boats, albeit quite expensive, nearly $200. However it is small, powerful, charges by 12 volt or 110 volt, and it is very easy to dump the debris. It comes with a ton of accessories – I suggest a bag for containing it all. If you have a place you can store it while keeping it charged it will be very handy.
Tired of wimpy aluminum foil boxes that fall apart? Worried about bringing that cardboard on the boat? I found an aluminum foil dispenser that really works well. It is sturdy cardboard I believe, but it’s coated in a very robust plastic so it doesn’t absorb moisture or collapse under the weight of the foil. It can be refilled from any foil you buy in the store – just toss the box and put the roll in your super-sturdy dispenser. The integral cutter also works much better than the finger-shredding strip of metal on a conventional box of foil. This company also makes dispensers for plastic wrap and parchment paper, but the tin foil one is the most useful on our boat.
Cutting Boards, Prep Tools, and Hot Pad Trivets
The area around a galley stove is quite busy. Start with a small area, begin cooking a meal in it, add a rolling motion and, for some galleys, traffic through the space, and you’ve got a recipe for spills, burns, and the strange knowledge that you were meant to have three hands, minimum. There are a few things that can make this somewhat less traumatic.
First step is planning. Sounds strange but prepping the meal cooking is more important in the small space of a galley than in a modern large kitchen. And it’s as important when cooking a simple meal while sailing offshore as when preparing a more challenging meal at the dock. I try to never even turn a heat source on until I have all the ingredients prepped (cleaned, cut, measured) and ready to go. For spices this means figuring out which ones go in together, and measuring them all into a pinch pot or small bowl. For veggies and meat, cleaning and cutting them up into bowls or on cutting boards. Then you will even sometimes have time to wash a few prep dishes while the food is cooking – the dish washer will thank you for reducing the clutter.
But there are a few tools that can help the galley work be less fraught. First up is enlarging the area where you can put down a hot pot. For the typical two to three burner marine stove, especially when you may not have hot running water or a microwave, the burner space is at a premium. Being able to set down the hot kettle while quickly steaming the brocolli is very useful. But having a loose trivet rattling around, like I might do in a shore kitchen, is not a great solution on a boat. So I have two solutions for this issue I’d like to share with you. First, a cutting board that does double duty as a trivet, and a silicone trivet that stays put.
Custom Cutting Board / Trivet
Richlite is a tough, heat-resistant material that they make cutting boards from. As far as I know it only comes in brown or black, but we all have to make some concessions to effectiveness. But a cutting board/trivet that skates around is worse than none. What to do?
To the right of my stove, right where a right-handed person like myself would want to put down a hot pot, there is just a tiny formica surface about 20″ wide. And since I have staples wedged up under my cabinets that have to have room to be slid out, the available space is even smaller. But the Cutting Board Company came to my rescue. I was able to order a Richlite cutting board to my exact specs. Since it is sized exactly it doesn’t move around, plus I can safely use it as a cutting board when not in use as hot pot storage. You could also order various tree woods and bamboo, but they would not be as heat resistant. If you decide to get a really large one, say to go all the way across your counter, get it at least 1/2″ so it doesn’t warp.
Silicone is also a great heat-resistant material that has enough native stickiness that it will stay put in moderate conditions. This Le Creuset trivet comes in lots of colors and is attractive enough to put on the salon table for the most formal of events. Not that we have had any of those on Eurybia, but we’re ready if royalty come calling.
Silicone Pinch Bowls are useful in a small galley. They are “sticky” so don’t slide around, can be squeezed to easily pour out their contents, and stackable so they don’t take much space. Four is enough for any meal I’ve made. They can also serve nuts or small amounts of dressing or sauce. You can find them at any cooking store or online such as these silicone pinch bowls. Get ones with flat bottoms – mine are cute but they tend to roll. Most hold about 1/2 cup. I really encourage you to use them when you measure out spices, even salt. Otherwise it is very tempting to shake the container right over the steaming pot, introducing moisture just where you don’t want it. Measure first, cook later.
Well, folks, that’s about it. I hope one or two of these items solves a problem you’ve been noticing. Please let me know in the comments below what has or has not worked for you and your boat.