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Old 02-04-2009, 13:14   #1
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Helm Instrument Pods

Over the past several years I've begun seeing more and more of these at helms of yachts. In fact some sail boat seem to have complete instrumentation consoles integrated with the helm.

This format does not lend itself to smaller yachts and certainly ones with tillers. I've seen them mostly in sailboats from about 32 - 45. Many of these yachts are well equipped cruisers and I am pretty sure most of them have below decks autopilots.

Sailboats being pretty slow take quite a while to get somewhere and so it makes sense to have an autopilot steer especially once you can do a settle course for miles having trimmed the sails with the occasional tweaking. Now you must keep watch regardless of whether you run on the pilot or drive the boat. I use my pilot 99% of the time and fine the helm mostly boring and only do it for docking and mooring and when conditions demand I take it.

Therefore I am not behind the helm and it makes no sense for me to have all the instruments there. Sure I can go back there and have a look. But even if I were sitting back there I would probably be too low to work with pod mounted instruments.

It is handy to have a plotter or a radar so they can be viewed in the cockpit. I just wonder if these pods are the best place for them IF you don't stay behind the helm most of the time (autopilot).

Aside from the fact that I don't think they are too attractive, they make no sense for my "technique". I usually am found sitting on the bridge deck protected by the dodger. I mounted the autopilot control head to be accessible from there and I have an instrument dash above the companionway as well. From there I can see the plotter at the nav station kinda but use a small hand held plotter which lives under the dodger.

Do most people spend a lot of time at the helm and so that's why these pods are so popular? Are those who have them using slave plotters or is this the only one on board? For those who have them, what was the reason you put one aboard and did it meet your expectations and change the way you sail? Do other sailors agree with me that these things are not necessarily a great idea? Have any of you tried this and hated it, or loved it and were surprised?

What say you?
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Old 02-04-2009, 13:53   #2
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Forward in the cockpit

After over 30,000 miles through the water I spent as little time as possible behind the helm. My present cruising boat came with helm instruments and the first thing that I did was to remove them and mount them forward in the cockpit along with radar and autopilot. The autopilot control can be moved to anyware in the cockpit so that it can be changed wherever I happen to sit.

What most people don't realize is that instruments affect the binnacle compass accuracy whether they are turned on or not. Why have a $600 compass that cannot be reasonably accurate all around the card? What happens when the Gps goes down and you have to set a course?

When hunkered down in dark or bad weather I want to be close to the dodger windows peering out and back to the radar and depthsounder. Cannot do that well behind the helm.
"I don't think there'll be a return journey Mr. Frodo". Samwise Gamgee
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Old 02-04-2009, 14:26   #3
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Remotes and repeater screens, if they ever drop to a reasonable price, will be the go. Then they can go anywhere you like.

What irritates is when on someone elses boat and behind the wheel the instrument pod blocks all view of the other people in the cockpit!
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