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Old 03-05-2013, 09:07   #1
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Aft Helm Position (Pros and Cons)?

As I spend some time daydreaming about the ideal sailing cat for me and my family these days ... I come up against this question more and more.

The vast majority of cats I see do not have an aft helm position. That makes sense to me (and as I read several other people) since it gives you protection from sun and weather. In the case of a flybridge (Lagoon) you get the added benefit of great visibility at all four corners.

Yet, I see what look like some very serious ocean going cats (Catana and Nautitech) with the aft helms. The only conceivable advantage I can think of is a slightly better view of the sails. But that's a pretty minor benefit as far as I can see, especially if you're just cruising vs racing. I have no intention of doing the latter with a cruising cat. I would also guess you have a better view when docking, but only from aft on the side you're docking. If you have lines on port + starboard that advantage goes away.

So what's the scoop? Is it more of a design consideration to offer more space in the cockpit area? I would guess also makes it a bit easier mechanically to put the helm near the actual rudder mechanisms.

I'm honestly a bit amazed that Nautitech has gone this route (being a relatively new company). Prior to talking to some folks about the helm, I was excited about the Nautitechs due to their much lower price point out of the factory compared to other boats. Plus the word on the street seems to be that they're built quite well, good quality construction.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:11   #2
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Just a better way to get sun burned and rained on... Not to mention if you only have one set of throttles it can making docking a pain in the ass if you are docking a boat from the far side...
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:32   #3
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

Well, since I OWN a Catana... and have chartered/driven Fontaine-Pajot and Leopard...

I like the outboard helm better. I can see the whole boat, which with bulkhead steering I can't see one side at all, and other is partially blocked. I can see the sails. I'm not breaking an ankle jumping down from the high seat and narrow step every time I want to get away from the helm. If one side is wet, I move to the other.

Docking is no more a PITA than behind the cabin bulkhead.

If you actually like to sail, rather than automate, then you'll like the outboard helms. If you raced, you'll like the outboard helms.

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Old 03-05-2013, 09:50   #4
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

For racing aft helms might be great. For cruising, I just dont get it. Plenty of visibility and comfort from a helm raised and against the main bulkhead. Who wants to be out in the weather running from side to side?
Thats a great picture, now take one looking to starboard from that location!
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:50   #5
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by djtopper View Post
In the case of a flybridge (Lagoon) you get the added benefit of great visibility at all four corners.
You may want to get on a fly bridge Lagoon before you make this visibility statement.

On a fly bridge Lagoon you cannot see the sterns at all, because the hard Bimini blocks your view.

Aft helms are great for watching the sails and not much else. Very exposed to Wind, Weather and Waves. The suckyness factor is close to 99.999999%
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:02   #6
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

Another (albeit paranoid and somewhat uninformed) concern I would have is: you're trying to outrun some weather, generally sailing on a broad reach and a huge waves are occasionally washing over the back of your boat.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:05   #7
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This is all irrelevant as theauto pilot is steering. The only times you need to be there is during docking, anchoring and racing.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:09   #8
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

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This is all irrelevant as theauto pilot is steering. The only times you need to be there is during docking, anchoring and racing.
I have no shame in admitting I'm new to sailing. So my feelings on this may change. But currently I still enjoy sitting at the helm. I also enjoy having kids steer and whatnot.

I can see over time that becoming less of the case. EG., I don't fly manually and always use the autopilot.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:12   #9
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

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This is all irrelevant as theauto pilot is steering. The only times you need to be there is during docking, anchoring and racing.
You would be at the Aft helm in a storm in most cases just when you need the most protection from wind, weather and waves.

Racing strapped in OK.

Cruising, double handed would suck.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:25   #10
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

You are motoring through a field of lobster pots, there are ones coming up close on either side ... or..... You are in the PNW and motoring through a tide line of logs and flotson/jetsom, nearby on both sides................ with dual aft helms.... which one do you run to????
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:27   #11
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

We enjoy the forward helm station on our Voyage catamaran. My wife and I can sit together, sailing or at anchor, out of the sun, rain or wind. No problems with visibility when sailing or docking.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:40   #12
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You would be at the Aft helm in a storm in most cases just when you need the most protection from wind, weather and waves.

Racing strapped in OK.

Cruising, double handed would suck.
We don't enjoy hand steering in storms at all, so let the AP do that. You must be hinting at boats with AP's that fail during heavy weather... which, imho, should fix the auto-pilot instead of hand steer during storms.

Hand steering for fun will be much better with the aft stations and they are crucial for racing. They are much more expensive as most is double, which makes it less loved by the must-be-cheap crowd...
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:47   #13
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

Being the East Coast Nautitech dealers and having sailed both the Nautitech 44 and 54 I may be slightly biased, but here goes. I agree with Jedi that most of the time you're gonna be on autopilot. When the weather gets rough, if I chose to be at the helm, I move to the windward helm and miss the spray coming off the bows. If it's really crazy out and I'm at the helm, I'm gonna get wet, the same way I would get wet if I were behind a bulkhead mounted helm. Unless of course the helm was fully enclosed, which you can fully enclose outboard helms also. Since the rudders on outboard helms are more closely connected to the wheel, you can feel the water flow past the rudders and really feel the boat. As far as visibility goes, on the new Nautitechs you can see through the cockpit and salon to see the opposite bow. Other cats I'm not sure if this is possible. When we brought the 54 into the Miami boat show I watched as the captain docked the boat in a very tight space using both helms to his advantage for site lines. He just calmly walked across and used each helm as needed. If you research you'll see most of the high performance cats have outboard helms. Having said all that, some manufacturers are giving the consumer the choice of twin helms or bulkhead mounted helm. Nautitech is one of them. If it's possible, go sailing on a twin helm boat and then decide. As with everything there are pros and cons and only you can decide what works best for you.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:58   #14
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

My Lagoon 42 forward/bulkhead helm was completely dry in all conditions. The boat had a soft bimini/dodger with 16"-18" high forward windows. You could see all 4 corners of the boat and be completely dry in 35 knots to weather or a torrential Florida downpour.

To each his own, but to me it's like having a Center Cockpit mono and putting the wheel on the back....
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Old 03-05-2013, 11:28   #15
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Re: Aft helm position (pros and cons)?

Quote:
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Most of the high performance cats have outboard helms.
This is a key statement!!!!

High performance cats = Aft helm positions. Need to see sails 99.9% of the time and always trimming sails.

Cruising cats = Protected behind bulkhead helm positions. Use Auto pilot 99.9% trim sails at leisure or maybe not at all
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