Galley, Sink Cabinet, Part 1: Analysis, and Cutting of New Hole

The new hole for the cabinet beneath the sink
The galley on the Ericson 25, like the galleys on many pocket cruisers, is a split-style, with one side devoted to a stove and the other to a sink. The split-style galley has its advantages on boats in the 25 foot range. For one thing, it allows for more space in the main salon. On the Ericson 25, for example, it allows for two, full-length settees/berths. The split style galley also has its disadvantages. One of the most obvious is the lack of counter space. This lack of counter space translates into a lack of cabinet space, or at least very little of it. As is often the case, however, with many production sailboats, regardless of their size, there is additional storage space to be found, if you go looking for it, and if you make some modifications to open up this previously inaccessible space. On my boat, there was quite a bit of space underneath the galley sink. The only problem was that the small cabinet door, which came with the boat, provided limited access to the space, at best. In this multi-part article, I describe how I opened-up and modified this space on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, to provide storage for plates, bowls, cups, and other such items. This was one of the most useful modifications I made to this boat, but it was also one of the most time-consuming.

The Ericson 25 that I purchased in 2009 had never been used for anything more than day-sailing and perhaps an occasional overnighter. Accordingly, there had been no need for the first two owners to modify the galley in any significant way.
On the port side there was a pressurized alcohol stove. Beneath it were three drawers and one cabinet. I address the modifications I made to this cabinet in my article, "Galley, Stove Cabinet."
On the starboard side, there was sink and an icebox.
The former owner had added a few things here and there, some of which were useful, some not. Among the useful there was a paper towel rack, and a small box for utensils. As for the useless, there was a minuscule spice rack and a soap dish. How's a wet bar of soap supposed to stay put in a flat dish on a sailboat this is heeling over?
The icebox, that was integral to the boat, was spacious. Knowing that the insulation for iceboxes on most production sailboats is minimal, I would later turn this space into a pantry of sorts for the storage of dry goods.
The lid for the icebox was a slab of wood that had been made to look like a cutting board. This was not original to the boat. The former owner had sloppily cut this out of a larger cutting board and installed a stainless steel pull ring in an effort to give it a nautical look. It wasn't big enough to serve as a useful cutting board, and it wasn't thick enough or sealed enough to serve as a proper lid for the ice box. I should note that the coaxial cable that I am here pulling out of the way was poorly located. Sure, this was the most direct route to the VHF radio, which was mounted above this area, but why not route the cable so that it doesn't hang across the galley sink?
Beneath this area there was a beautiful, solid mahogany door, which appeared as if it would open up to an ample storage space. Unfortunately, it did not. Instead it opened up to a space that was almost entirely unusable. It did provide excellent access to the valve, which you see pictured below. This valve regulated the drain for the galley sink. The hose, as you can tell, was also easy to access. It did, however, serve as a barricade of sorts, since it prevented access to the ample space behind it.
After I had purchased the boat and gotten her back home, I decided that I wanted to open up that difficult-to-access space. The only way that I knew how to do this was to take drastic measures by cutting a new hole on the side of the original cabinet. Believe me, this was not a project that I approached without much forethought. Anytime you take a saw to fiberglass, there's no going back.
I decided that the best way to make the new hole look like it had always been there was to construct a panel that would both define the space and trim the edges of the hole. This panel would in someway mimic the mahogany plywood panel that was on the inboard side of the cabinet. I considered using mahogany plywood for this new panel, but I eventually abandoned this idea on account of the cost. There are some marine plywoods available here in Charleston, South Carolina, but not mahogany. It was just too expensive to ship a piece from Boulter Plyood in Massachusetts. Instead, I used A-B exterior grade plywood that I would later paint white. In order to coordinate the appearance of this panel with the rest of the boat, I would trim the panel with solid mahogany and I would construct a solid mahogany door that I would join to the panel with stainless steel hardware. I would also make a faux panel for the forward side of the cabinet on the other side of the boat. Yes, it would be a faux panel, but it would, like this one, serve a real purpose - that of supporting the counter extensions. For more on this, see my article, "Galley, Counter Extensions."
After I had drilled a pilot hole, I pulled out my Roto-Zip (pictured below), and got to work. This proved to be a worthless tool for this task, despite what some might say on some sailing forums. Only the most careless craftsman could think this is a good tool for the job, even with a fiberglass cutting bit. The Roto-Zip is primarily a tool for cutting holes in sheet rock, i.e., drywall material. It's a real timesaver, in that it prevents you from having to use a razor knife to cut out the holes for electrical boxes. Those holes don't have to be perfect, because they are eventually covered by decorative switch plates. For holes of this nature in fiberglass - especially fiberglass with gelcoat on it - the cut needs to be as perfect as possible.
At this point, I abandoned the Roto-Zip and picked up my Makita jig saw. Taking my time with it, I cut a neat line, using the panel, at least initially, as a jig.
Then I removed the panel and made the final cuts, making sure that the hole itself was larger than the hole in the panel. This way the panel would serve as a trim piece and thus hide the thin edge of the fiberglass.
I should note that as soon as I was finished with the cut, and as soon as I was able to gaze into this space, I knew that I had made the right decision. This was valuable storage space that was now fully accessible. I had worried somewhat that by cutting this hole I would weaken the cabinet. I can assure you that the cabinet is rock solid despite this hole. Many times during the refitting of this boat, when the companionway latter was often removed, I would climb into boat by putting my full weight on the corner of this cabinet. Never did the cabinet flex or move.

I should also note that I took great care to cut this hole as large as possible, without cutting it too large. For example, it terms of the lower part of the hole, I reinstalled the settee cushion in order to take account of its height. I did the same with the back-rest cushion.
All in all, this was a good start for a good project that would serve good purposes for a long time to come on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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