Monday, September 29, 2014

Galley Life

There may not be as many posts this month because galley is all about routine. Same hours every day, same jobs at each hour. Overall, my job here is peaceful, quiet and calm and is really quite relaxing. Overall it feels not so much like I am working but more that I am helping out in the kitchen in my spare time. The one thing it definitely is not is the Piney Point galley; fewer assholes, easier hours, easier work, and no flat out bullshit. Everything I do has a purpose, and once that purpose is accomplished I don't have to do it any more.

It helps that the chief steward, Steve, is a fantastic person. I can attest that his cooking is fantastic and the more experienced sailors have more than once called him the best cook on the lakes. Aside from that, he is very personable, the sort of person who thrives around other people, and sitting in the galley between the officer and crew messes he enjoys talking to most everyone on the ship. He is very serious about sanitation, which is a good thing, but knows very clearly when something does and does not need to be cleaned. From my perspective as the apprentice, I particularly appreciate that he makes a point of telling me things and pointing out little details that he has picked up on over his almost three decades sailing both in the galley and in the industry as a whole.

Before I arrived, the SA (Steward's Assistant) performed all the sanitation while the steward performed all the cooking. Now that I am here he does about half the sanitation and I do the other half. The SA is a fourth phaser out of Piney Point hoping to make chief cook as quick as he can because he sees it as easy money. I certainly won't dispute that since the pay is as good as any other position on the ship, and if you like to cook and don't mind cleaning then it isn't a bad life at all. Not the life for me, but definitely respectable for a person whose interests move them in that direction.

I wake up in the morning about ten minutes before I have to start, and my commute is less than a minute, so remember that next time you are stuck in traffic on the way to work. Once there, I look through the snacks, condiments, milk, juices, and other nick-nacks to make sure that nothing has run out or expired. Then I wipe down all the surfaces with disposable wipes, because the steward believes strongly that using the same cloth to clean multiple surfaces just spreads contamination, but using a new disposable wipe for each surface keeps everything clean. Then sweep and mop the floors and start moving through the dishes that have piled up from overnight meals and the morning cooking. I usually finish up the dishes about fifteen minutes into breakfast, then get to eat. After that, more dishes have piled up, then I sweep, mop, and clean off the tables and counters. I usually have about thirty to fourty five minutes until the shift ends at this point, so I make a little progress on whatever ongoing project the steward has me doing (right now it is emptying out every cabinet and wiping it down then putting everything back in), and then he lets me go early.

That first break is an hour and a half, and this is when I get my studying in and take a nap. Even though I have been getting to bed on time, for some reason the galley work just seems way more tiring than working excessive hours on deck, probably because I am actually working for all eight hours instead of standing around, so nap time has become a staple of the day. After the morning nap, I am up for lunch.

Each meal is the same routine as breakfast: stocks, surfaces, floors, dishes, eat, dishes, surfaces, floors, projects. The steward will sometimes blast classic rock and roll (Aerosmith, Steve Miller Band, Clapton, and Boston are particular favorites), and other times I will put my headphones in to make the dishes go faster. But people are always in and out chatting about the progress of the ship, or the football pool, or other people who have been or might come to the ship, or about life on shore around the lakes.

After lunch is a two and a half hour break. The breaks are pretty long, but that is because we have to stretch out eight hours of working into twelve hours of being needed. I am told that it is different on deep sea, where you have three man galleys instead of two (I don't count, apparently), but on the lakes the steward cooks every meal and the SA cleans everything that needs cleaning. In any case, this is my TV break, where I make progress on the collection of shows and movies I brought with me.

Funny thing is, I expected to start gaining weight, because there is food all around me. But the truth is that I am moving for all eight hours of the day, and usually go to bed more tired than when I was just standing around as a deckhand for twelve hours at a time.

There is a lot of money to be made in the steward department and a lot of freedom and power to run your own little department. On the other hand, I really don't like cooking, and I am not a fan of being an SA for life, so the galley life is definitely not for me. A month of this won't be bad, but six months at a time? A whole career of food and cleanup? Not happening.


  1. Your best description of daily routine aboard ship you've written to date. Have you met the Chief Engineer yet - are allowed to interact with each other prior to being assigned to the engine room? JB

    1. Allowed? This isn't a military ship, I can go up and talk to anyone I see who isn't working or is eating in the galley as long as I am interesting and follow the basic rules of social engagement. I, of course, am not good at either of those, so I don't really talk to anyone. See the latest post, though.

      He was the guy who ran the football pool, so I gave him money every week.

    2. As for routine, that is because deck didn't really have a routine. My roommate, who is basically stuck as a deckhand for the next few months, is out there right now, having been called out to work from noon until four, then again from seven until probably well after 2AM. Yesterday he worked 8-4, and the day before he slept the whole day except for an hour of sanitary duty. Galley just inherently has a routine because of fixed meal times, whereas a deckhand's job is just to do whatever he is told, whenever he gets told to do it.