Galley Updates: Pullout Drawers

The Vagabond 42 has a pretty dreamy walkthrough galley. In addition to a very workable cooking and preparation configuration, the space has tons of storage. Some cabinets hide smaller spaces best used for glasses and can goods while others are giant black holes perfect for hiding bodies if that is your jam. Ever since we bought the boat I have been trying to figure out the best way to convert the space to a more usable variation. The way it was originally configured is that the space is flush along the hull with two shelves. One tiny triangle bottom shelf and one super deep middle shelf. It certainly became a challenge any time I needed something I shoved all the way in the back. My end goal was clear – I wanted to build a drawer. My goal seemed simple enough, but as anyone who has done a boat project knows, nothing is simple when it comes to a boat.

One main difference between home cabinets and boat cabinets is that the cabinet doors on a boat do not open to reveal the entire space. The doors are usually inset slightly. This means I had to come up with a “boat solve” in order to use any drawer slides. I found these stainless drawer slides rated for up to 73 lbs, that pulled out up to 20 inches. I cut stringers wide enough that when I attached the slides, they just cleared the cabinet doors. This left me with about 2.5 inches of space on the left, and an inch on the right. To make this space usable I attached stainless L brackets to the stringers so that I can tuck my lids, oil splash guard and cooling racks to the side and still use drawer without everything falling over.

Using the original shelf as a guide, I planned to make my drawer out of marine ply. My drawer would have a base, sides and a back. The front would remain open and use the original trim on the shelf so nothing fell out. I subtracted the width of the stringers, slides and side panels from each edge and traced a new base. Instead of cutting the back to the shape of the hull, I cut it as a diagonal so I could more easily attach a back to it. I did account for the sloop in the hull and angled the back. Thanks to my jigsaw being able to cut on an angle, I was able to make sure all the pieces were flush when assembled. I then cut 5- inch tall sides for the drawer, rounding the front edges by tracing a bowl. Once the back piece was cut, I assembled everything and marveled at my beautiful work.

We’re now at the part of the process where I should have done a dry fit of the drawer, but didn’t. I wrongfully assumed that the cabinet walls were parallel to each other and immediately began covering the drawer in epoxy to seal it and reinforcing the edges with fiberglass mat. Turns out that the cabinet is actually NOT parallel, and while the drawer fit nicely in place when it was inside the cabinet, it didn’t when pulled out. In the end I had to recut one of the stringers purposely uneven so that the drawer could remain evenly spaced the full length. Take two.

Slides attached to a fiberglass reinforced drawer.
Side view of the drawers. Jason sanded them as smooth as he could without losing the point of the using the mat.

With a new drawer recut, assembled and dry fit, it was now time to reinforce the sides with fiberglass mat. Given the sides were going to be holding the weight of the drawer, I wanted them to be strong and not have to worry about the layers of ply giving out over time. The entire drawer was covered in epoxy to help seal the wood. Next up I applied about 5 coats of white paint so that everything looked nice and clean.

I repainted the inside of the cabinet so I didn’t have to look at the yellowing 35 year old paint anymore and then installed the drawer. I still need to install the front trim piece, but I’ll get to that eventually. This project took up much more of my time than I imagined, but I am so thrilled with the results. I’ll also be installing a light in the cabinet so that I can more easily see what is in there.

Beautifully updated galley cabinet aboard a Vagabond 42
Freshly painted cabinet with Reflectix along the hull for condensation protection.

Tools and products used:

  1. Makita Jig Saw
  2. Rockwell Compact Circ Saw
  3. Orbital Sander
  4. Mask (got to protect baby Sinclair!)
  5. Fiberglass mat
  6. Epoxy
  7. Mixing containers
  8. White latex paint
  9. Marine ply
  10. Solid wood for stringers
  11. Foam paint brushes and rollers
  12. Drawer slides
  13. Stainless screws

Total Cost: $47.22
I had most items on hand and only had to buy the drawer slides, foam paint brushes, mixing containers, fiberglass mat and paint.