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Old 28-02-2008, 16:49   #1
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Exposed Helm

Looking to hear from some of you out there sailing cats with exposed helms (ie: Catana, Privilige etc.) In shopping for my first cat, I've decided that a bulkhead helm station is a must.

In nice weather and general cruising it obviously doesn't make too much difference, but I can't imagine being exposed with an outside helm station in bad weather. Sure, you can use a/p, but take a worse case scenario and you have to hand steer... that can be a fatiguing and possibly dangerous place to be over time (IMO).

To a great extent, it appears to come down to personal preference, but perhaps I'm missing some advantages that make the exposure an acceptable trade off?
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Old 28-02-2008, 17:20   #2
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I have sailed up and down the east coast and it may be due to no time line or maybe just great planning but I have never been caught out in bad weather the question I would ask is, is it worth the cost and the room it may take up. Remember 98 % is living sitting or in some peoples cases never using and 2 % is sailing. There are enclosures and small heaters that can over come cold issues. Plus why would you want to buy a sail boat and than steer it from inside instead of sail it.
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Old 28-02-2008, 17:33   #3
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I'm kind of in the middle. I don't mind being outside, since that is why I want a boat, but as long as I have a decently covered helm. Some helms have a hard bimini and that alone should be fine as long as you dress for the right occasion. Some helms have a hard cover as well as a zippable enclosure with clear plastic which can be removed or rolled up during nice weather.

Some cats that I really like for the overall look and design have a dual FULLY exposed helms which is a big turn off for me.. Which is unfortunate. That's why I am still shopping for the best possible option for my needs and wants.

Good luck shopping!!
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Old 28-02-2008, 17:36   #4
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When sailing you'd be surprised how much you use your other senses such as hearing and the feel of the wind on your neck and ears.

When doing Transpac a few years ago Ok more than 20 I came up on deck during a squall. I had my foulie jacket and hood on. I sat down to steer and couldn't control the boat worth a darn. I took the hood off and all of a sudden it was no problem.
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Old 28-02-2008, 17:56   #5
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Advantage: Great sport to watch Catanas, Nautitechs, big Lagoons and Priveleges (note: All French) come in harbor in tropical rain squall with Cpt Ron at helm and Admiral Ronette on bow, both with googles or snorkel masks and with walkie talkies (voices drowned out by accompanying 25 knot wind) attemting to pick up mooring ball.
Honestly, I don't think you will hear of disadvantages from the owners of these boats.
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Old 28-02-2008, 18:35   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George View Post
Advantage: Great sport to watch Catanas, Nautitechs, big Lagoons and Priveleges (note: All French) come in harbor in tropical rain squall with Cpt Ron at helm and Admiral Ronette on bow, both with googles or snorkel masks and with walkie talkies (voices drowned out by accompanying 25 knot wind) attemting to pick up mooring ball.
Honestly, I don't think you will hear of disadvantages from the owners of these boats.
So instead you have Ronette on the bow still in the rain and Ron inside where he can't hear her or make himself heard.
Can you explain how the enclosed helm is an advantage in that circumstance (other than if you are the warm and dry Ron !!)

With the quality and light weight of wet weather and thermal gear these days I just cannot see what the disadvantage of an open helm is (even in the worst of weather).
AP is all very well but in really bad weather you are going to have to be at the ready in any event to hand steer.

my 2 cents
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Old 28-02-2008, 18:39   #7
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Originally Posted by cbcat View Post
In shopping for my first cat, I've decided that a bulkhead helm station is a must.
cbcat - If you've already decided "a bulkhead helm station is a must" - why are you asking?

I drive a Catana 471 and the outside helms were one of the biggest appeals in deciding to purchase this model. Funny how our tastes and desires can vary so much, huh?

I get asked questions about the "exposed" helms often and I know I've written these same words on this forum several times before.

I'll assume that besides the perceived negative of "exposure" that you might acknowledge the obvious positives of:

1. unobstructed visibility forward and astern - except to the opposite bow
2. easier docking, because of better visibility and ability to help handle lines
3. unobstructed visibility upwind and exposure to the wind on any point of sail either port or stbd when you WANT the wind input via sight on the water and feel on your face - more like monohulls where you can always steer from the upwind side if you want.
4. redundancy in steering linkage (at least on Catanas with mechanical steering)
5. better feel of the helm because the steering linkage is direct, short, and solid to the rudders - no cable slop or tortuous paths between the wheels and rudders.

As for negatives, sun exposure is a real issue. That's what auto pilots are for and from a practical standpoint during passage making - what these boats are designed for - you'll be on AP most of the time anyway. I have a stool I set on the cockpit bench right behind the saloon sliding door that allows me to sit in the shade under the bimini and see 360, steering with the remote AP if needed. This also works well in rain.

As for "exposure" to seas, that's what the leeward helm is for. On a passage up the Chesapeake last November for winter haul out, our last day was about 50 nm from just south of Annapolis to Georgetown, including 36 nm exposed in predicted 25 - 35 kt NW wind and 45 F temps. Actual turned out to be 35 steady with gusts to 45 at about 60 degrees apparent. The two of us huddled on the leeward helm seat, warm and dry, harnessed in watching for freighters and crab pots, acknowledging way points on the AP as spray went over our heads. We were shielded from wind and spray by the coach roof, bimini, and main sail. Sitting at the windward helm would have been absolutely miserable - as would sitting at a bulkhead mounted helm on the port side ala Lagoon.

Had I not already been sold on the twin outboard helm set up, that day would have done it.

Hope this helps.

Dave
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Old 28-02-2008, 19:50   #8
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As owner of a Catana 48, I'd second Dave's comments. In general it is important to look at the layout of any helm station, bulkhead or outboard, to see if it is comfortable and secure and has good visibility (of horizon and sails). Some outboard helm stations are very secure, and some are pretty precarious.

Sun exposure is a real issue to be careful of with an outboard helm and a boat in general.

And as Dave says, don't forget the leeward helm. It can be surprisingly sheltered in most conditions.

It's also hard to beat for docking. The person at the helm on our boat can easily pass a line and reach the stern cleat while still using the helm. Makes for much easier single or short handed docking.

Mark.
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Old 29-02-2008, 00:43   #9
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Quote:
Looking to hear from some of you out there sailing cats with exposed helms (ie: Catana, Privilige etc.) In shopping for my first cat, I've decided that a bulkhead helm station is a must.
The recent Privilege range (395, 435/445, 465/495, 585) all have the helm at the bulkhead.

The earlier 39, 42, 45, 48 did have exposed helms.

The two very latest 615, 715 have that abomination, the flybridge, but I guess you have crew to sit up there so the owner doesn't have to get wet/fry

Here's the cockpit on my 435...
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Old 29-02-2008, 05:15   #10
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Since we're talking about the helm area, my wife is 5' and a little concerened about seeing out over a cat's 4 points. Mike I did notice on your photo that the helm had a raised deck area at the wheel. Are there other boats that have this and what's your opinion of short people sailing?

Steve
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Old 29-02-2008, 05:24   #11
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Steve, I am facing the same problem. My wife is the same height. My used cat has a helm chair that raises *waaay* up. I'd suggest getting something like that, along with maybe a 2nd foot rest for that chair. It might be a pain for her to climb up and down from, but I don't think there are a lot of other alternatives except what we see above.
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Old 29-02-2008, 05:28   #12
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Ergonomics at the helm for the girls could be a major issue. Cindy has to sit on a pillow to drive most cars, I wonder how many volts an electric chair lift will add to the system?? )

Steve
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Old 29-02-2008, 05:53   #13
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My Admiral is under 5' and her frustrations of trying to see over the cabin roof of charter cats were finally resolved the first time she laid eyes on outboard helms.

Dave
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Old 29-02-2008, 05:56   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyprdrv View Post
....what's your opinion of short people sailing?
Short people have lower centers of gravity and thus, make better sailors.

The only disadvantage of being a short sailor is that you may be the last one to know it's raining.

Dave
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Old 29-02-2008, 06:02   #15
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