The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

The Perils of Open Spaces Aboard

Norm Cooper

Sarah Jean II
Saga 43
April 25th, 2015

Norm shares one more lesson learned while sailing in the South Pacific Ocean, from New Caledonia to New Zealand. This time, the lesson learned is about crew safety in the galley while underway.


The galley of our Saga 43, Sarah Jean II, is fairly open for an offshore boat. Seas were rough as we approached New Zealand, on passage from New Caledonia. Beth had been working in the galley preparing lunch. She was wearing a galley strap around her waist that secured her to a stainless bar running along the edge of the counter. She unhooked herself in preparation to go up the companionway to the cockpit. At that exact moment, a larger than usual wave flung the boat sideways. Beth was launched out of the galley, across the boat and through the open door of the aft cabin. She continued through the aft cabin and hit the door of the hanging locker head first, knocking the centre panel of the door out of the frame. Fortunately the door got the worst of it. Beth had a good size goose bump on her head, but was otherwise OK. If she had hit the corner of the door frame with her head, it could have been much worse.

Lessons Learned

Large waves can suddenly and unexpectedly roll the boat and send crew flying at any time, if the weather is a little rough. There is usually no time to react.

Large open space in an offshore boat increases the likelihood of serious falls. The more open the area, the further you can be sent flying and the more likely you will be injured.

Galley straps are helpful but they won’t be worn at all times, especially when crew are in the galley for just a few minutes to make a tea or grab a snack.

Areas where you spend a lot of time should be permanently fitted with protective rails, grab bars or other means to divide up open spaces, or otherwise reduce the risk of a crew member being launched.

The new stainless bars we added to the galley enclose the open space and provide greater security.

The new stainless bars we added to the galley enclose the open space and provide greater security.

Preventive Action Taken

We knew we would be on a starboard tack for much of the journey back to Canada from New Zealand. With our open galley located on the starboard side of the boat, we knew the risk of being tossed out of the galley again was very high.

We had already installed a sturdy table and grab bar in the middle of our cockpit to divide up this open space. The table gave us something to lean against and made it nearly impossible to be thrown from the high side of the cockpit to the low side. We decided to apply the same design concept to the galley.

When we arrived in New Zealand, we designed a stainless steel railing system to enclose more of the galley. We also designed a stainless grab bar to run along the length of the saloon table. Beth had found the overhead hand holds in Sarah Jean II hard to reach when the boat was heeled. We tracked down a good stainless fabricator in Opua and had the bars built. They took only a few hours to install.

The new galley bars provided a sturdy place to lean against when working at the sink and when working near the stove or digging around in the fridge. The new grab bar on our saloon table proved to be easier and more intuitive to grab than the overhead hand holds. On our 8,000 mile trip home, we felt much more secure and had no further incidents of being thrown about, even though we experienced some heavy weather. We wondered how we had ever sailed without these additions!

The new bar we added to the saloon table was much easier to reach and was intuitive to use.

The new bar we added to the saloon table was much easier to reach and was intuitive to use.

Most Open Spaces Can be Modified

With a bit of imagination, most large open spaces on your boat can be divided up with attractive and sturdy additions that will keep your crew comfortable and safe in offshore conditions. There is no such thing as too cozy a space or too many hand holds on an offshore boat!


Beth’s goose bump eventually repaired itself. Marine cabinet makers in New Zealand rebuilt our demolished hanging locker door so it looked as good as new!





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