Workshop Makeover: Luxury or Necessity?

Owning a large, complicated machine means you need tools, and a place to work on said large, complicated machine.  This is true for a boat, a house or a car.  In case you missed it the last 25 times, Galapagos has a great workshop area; storage and a proper bench with a vice and lots of hammers for wanging on stuff.

The shop before we even owned Galapagos.  A bit messy but full of potential.

The shop before we even owned Galapagos. A bit messy but full of potential.

I won’t lie, I am proud to have a boat with a workshop. It feels like a luxury that I could never have imagined on our boat. But it is a practical luxury, especially if you intend to live and cruise for extended periods.  Both Melissa and I would far rather repair or build something ourselves than to wait for someone to do it for us. If something is broken, at a minimum I want to beat on it with a hammer for a bit just to make sure it stays broken.

So, while the shop is a great resource on Galapagos, there were some fundamental issues that kept the area from being as useful as we would like.  Firstly, the bench top was hinged which opened to reveal what I think was originally a sail locker. Now, all manner of tools, paints, unguents and rags reside in this large, incoherent space.

The workbench raised to reveal the large storage area.  Lots of room but awkward.

The workbench raised to reveal the large storage area. Lots of room but awkward to access.

You can see the problem here.   If  I’ve just torn apart a winch on the bench top and Melissa needs the paint stored beneath, somebody has to wait or clean up their mess. Of late, there is always some project going on and bits and pieces inevitably are left out.  In the photos you can see a cut out in the Fiberglas front that does give some access to the contents below but even that is an issue since stuff just always seems to be creeping out of that hole. Never the stuff you actually need at the moment though.

So, with a year of using this area under our belts, we had some ideas that we hoped would transform the shop into a more practical work area.  I spend a lot of time here and I wanted a space that I would enjoy for years to come.

While we both are pretty skilled at general carpentry, we realized that this project would require a higher level of competence than either of us could muster.  Fortunately, we met Larry Simonds from when we were slipmates and he was working on a Cal 34.  Larry built a great drop down table for our Cal 34, Moonrise at that time, and he has done other small projects over the years. As a sailor and a woodworker, Larry has an appreciation of the vagaries of boat geometry. Together with his discerning eye for color and woodgrain, he is really a fine furniture maker. Fortunately for us, he likes to hang about the docks and can be plied with beer.  Be sure to check out his site for other examples of his work.

Larry Simonds: Chief, cook and bottle washer of Knot Et Al Woodworking.

Larry doing a little boat yoga

Larry doing a little boat yoga

Armed with our ideas and Larry’s skills, we set about to transform the space.  First on the agenda was to build drawers and tip outs into the space. With drawers, we could access items without having to raise the bench top.  The downside to this approach is that we lost some space but the space we do have is much more usable.  Larry made the drawers as long as possible, almost 22 inches to maximize storage. He also blended the stain to match the existing 40 year old coloring of the surrounding wood.  That’s how he rolls.


Three slideout drawers with catches plus a beautiful Red Elm top. Organizing is still a work in progress.

Since the hull shape greatly restricts the length of the drawers lower down, Larry decided to steal an idea from another drawer on Galapagos and build tip outs for the bottom.  These are used for storing lighter items and I have already dedicated one to rags and nitrile gloves.



Tip out drawers at the bottom provide storage of smaller, lighter items.

Tip out drawers at the bottom provide storage of smaller, lighter items.

For the bench, Larry had a piece of Red Elm which is just beautiful.  In fact, I am a little afraid to use it as it is just too pretty. Melissa put a vinyl covering on the old bench and I think that might be a good idea for this one as well.

Too pretty for a workbench

Too pretty for a workbench

Now that I can move into this new space, some hard decisions are in order.  I knew that I would lose some volume for storage but I minimized that fact. Now I want to have all of the tools plus our great collections of screws, nuts, bolts, washers and other boat bits all in the same area.  It simply isn’t possible and some compromises will have to be made.  Melissa will come down and help me think this through.  She can see things that elude me.

So, luxury, necessity or a little of both?