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Old 17-03-2014, 20:49   #16
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Re: helm location

Love my helm. 360 degree view. Out of the weather. Arms reach from all halyards. One step from both main winches. Safe, offshore cockpit. Good for a 5 or 6 footer. Also enjoy a great inside helm station for cold weather ICW cruising.
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Old 17-03-2014, 23:42   #17
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Re: helm location

Tiny sailors will always need some provision made as in stool/folding shelf unfortunately.

They have other advantageous however.
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Old 18-03-2014, 08:16   #18
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Re: helm location

IMO opinion there are 3 key issues to be considered when assessing the helm position on a cat:

1. Visibility: This includes not only the ability to see as close to 360 degrees around the boat as possible for the purpose safe navigation/observations of sea state, but also a view of the sails in order to assess sail trim. An elevated helm can be helpful with respect to both of these with one proviso: even with a high-cut clew/foot on the genoa, the view to leeward is often obstructed by the headsail.

Twin aft helms provide the best possible view of the trim of both the headsail and the main and, by moving from one side to the other, permit a relatively unobstructed view both to leeward and windward, particularly on boats with a high-cut genoa. They are also the best for docking, where one can helm from the side approaching the dock and then, exspecially when sailing short-handed, have easier and quicker access to the dock once along side.

Bulkead mounted helms with a window above the helm seat provide as good a view of sail trim as a raised helm and, if the genoa has a high-cut foot and clew, virtually 360 degree visibility without moving from the seat. They also provide easier/quicker access to the dock than a raised helm, once alongside.

In summary, the best helm position for performance sailing/docking is no doubt twin aft helms. The best/easiest for navigation is the bulkhead-mounted helm with a high-cut headsail. The worst for navigation/docking is generally the raised helm.

Protection from the elements: The worst here is typically twin aft helms, where the helmsperson is situated far aft where they can be subject to rain, winds and sun without protection. What is more, they also place the helmsperson at direct risk in the unlikely event of breaking seas from the aft quarter. Fans of these helms point out, however, that when offshore, one is typically sailing under autopilot. If you are nearshore and want to get racey, however, they have the aforementioned advantage in terms of observing sail trim. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of protection from the elements, these helms clearly suffer when the going gets rough.


Raised helms typically provide a folding enclosure with canvass and plastic windows, although depending on the design, access to the helm can be difficult and unprotected in heavy/wet conditions.

Bulkhead mounted helms have the easiest/safest/best protected access from the companionway: this can be particularly important if one needs to communicate with crew who are below, or make occasional runs to the nav station in order to use a single sideband radio, or check the weather fax, etc. Bulkhead mounted helms also suffer less from movement than raised helms - this can also be important in heavy seas.

Finally, some bulkhead mounted helms have the ultimate in weather protection if they are equipped with a solid dodger with a solid windshield - some with windshield wipers. Consider the Antares 44, the Solaris Sunstream 40, and various early Catalacs and Prouts, to name a few.

Communication with crew/acess to crew quarters: Here the raised helm is at a distinct disadvantage. While this is not especially important in good conditions, as already mentioned it can be critical if the helmsperson is required to go below to arouse offwatch/sleeping crew in a criticial situation.

In the end, a purchaser needs to consider their own priorites. For a shorter helmsperson, give some consideration to an adjustable, single pedestal helm seat with an adjustable foot rest. These were the norm a few years ago and, while the current dual fixed bench seats are rather convivial in nice conditions, they do not allow for height adjustment. What is more, they can allow excess movement/sliding if the boat is rocking from side to side in heavy conditions. IMO the helmseat should brace the helmsperson, rather than requiring the helmsperson to brace him/herself when the going gets rough.

Brad
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Old 18-03-2014, 09:10   #19
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Re: helm location

Great summary Brad...I think most everyone agrees that all helm positions are compromises of some sort and one needs to experience as many as possible and then decide which position works for them the best IF....helm position is a top prority or a potential deal breaker for choosing a particular flavour of Cat.
For many people, the helm postion is secondary to other features desired...
I love the aft helms of my boat for reasons you have pointed out (and others) and would not want any other type but they do compromise on exposure to the elements.

Scarlet... you would have no problems with visibility,comfort,access with most dual aft helms setups..(not all...) but you will have to rationalize exposure to the elements for certain times... but!... not as often as most people on this forum seem to think.

Bob
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Old 18-03-2014, 10:23   #20
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Re: helm location

REsCat, I agree totally. Certainly if one is interested in performance (and your boat, atlhough relatively heavy, is nevertheless oriented that way), then twin aft helms have significant advantages. Personally, I am not a fan of elevated helms, but even then I suspect that it would not be a 'deal-breaker' for me if all else met my needs and desires.

I didn't refer to forward cockpits/helms as I have no personal experience with the same. Certainly, they would give excellent forward visibility and the height of the helmsperson should be irrelevant. While I worry that they could be an inconvenience when docking short-handed, this would only be so if one is unable to readily exit directly from the cockpit to the side decks near the boarding gate. If so, they are probably virtually as good in that regard as twin aft helms (and certainly better than raised helms).

The only other potential negatives that I can see are protection from the elements (although Chris White's Atlantics have an inside steering station which should work unless sails need trimming/adjusting). Finally, I also wonder whether the forward cockpit would ship a lot of water in heavy conditions (all while acknowledging that the forward cockpits do typically seem to be rather small and, as they have no accomodation below, they should be able to drain very quickly).

Overall they are an interesting design innovation and I would love to try one out in varying conditions. In the interim, it would be great to hear from someone who has one!

Brad
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Old 18-03-2014, 10:45   #21
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Re: helm location

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Originally Posted by Factor View Post
All Seawinds are Twin helm stations (Bulkhead), Catanas are in the main, if not all, twin helms (transom),
I think it was the nautitech that we saw in Miami that had the helm WAY back on the transome... it did give better visibility.. but again, you would have a ton of wind.. and frankly... think it would be fairly easy to fall off back there...
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Old 18-03-2014, 10:48   #22
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Re: helm location

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Originally Posted by Kashmir cat View Post
Love my helm. 360 degree view. Out of the weather. Arms reach from all halyards. One step from both main winches. Safe, offshore cockpit. Good for a 5 or 6 footer. Also enjoy a great inside helm station for cold weather ICW cruising.
we do like the Prout.. what model year is yours?
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Old 18-03-2014, 11:19   #23
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Re: helm location

@Scarlet....you really should try to get out and sail in some varied conditions and tacks on a aft helms boat (before you make your final decision) to really know the effects and perceived negatives of wind or the elements...you might find you really like them and... it is NOT easy to fall off some aft helms boats , mine as an example.

@Brad...I too would love to sail CW's Atlantic Cats in varied conditions... they intrigue me and I know they are great performing boats.
...and Brad... my boat at 12.5 tons...cruise loaded... is not that "Heavy" for the physical size of the boat (sorry for the T drift...)

Bob
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Old 18-03-2014, 11:37   #24
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Re: helm location

One thing I liked about the bulkhead helm on my cat was it could be raining a very hard downpour and I was warm and dry... almost like sitting in your house and watching a rain storm. Unlike a mono that usually gets some water blown in etc in a downpour, the cat you are far enough from the sides to stay well protected.
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Old 18-03-2014, 12:15   #25
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Re: helm location

REsCat, you are of course correct - I failed to notice that you have a 471 that was built when Catana were keeping weight down and keeping performance up. A great boat! And Cheechako, I quite agree about the bulkhead helms - especially with solid windows they are virtually akin to a pilothouse in a monohull. It can turn a potentially wet and miserable passage into one that is much less taxing and tiresome.

Brad
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Old 18-03-2014, 14:25   #26
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Re: helm location

My favorite helm configs: Maine Cat great room w/ Helm, or Chris White Atlantic with Pilothouse and forward cockpit.

The real problem with most cat designs is not only the helm placement, but the fact that you want to be able to see forward while you are doing other things. You really don't want to glued to the helm chair hour after hour, day after day. So you want a great view forward from the living spaces. If you sit the cockpit of most cats you have a real hard time seeing forward.

Maine Cat
Hard Windows

Or Soft


Or Chris White Atlantic
Forward Cockpit

Or Pilothouse
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Old 18-03-2014, 14:26   #27
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Re: helm location

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Originally Posted by REsCat View Post
@Scarlet....you really should try to get out and sail in some varied conditions and tacks on a aft helms boat (before you make your final decision) to really know the effects and perceived negatives of wind or the elements...you might find you really like them and... it is NOT easy to fall off some aft helms boats , mine as an example.
Having been on both of these boats, compared to the Nautitech helms, the Catana helms are virtually inside the boat! The Nautitech helms are actually located on the back step (you actually stand on the back step) with a small bicycle seat to sit on and absolutely nothing to keep one from falling right off the back. They are way more exposed than the Catana, which is located up on the deck, has a safe throne encompassing the helmsman and does not require one to climb back up onto the deck and step over the jib lines and down into the cockpit to get back into the cockpit.

So yes, there are huge differences in aft helms.

Mark
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Old 18-03-2014, 14:37   #28
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Re: helm location

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
I would avoid dual aft helms.... I see no pluses in those on a cruising boat, unless you like wet, cold and poor visibility to the opposite side....
No pluses? How about being able to see the sail trim on either tack?
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Old 18-03-2014, 17:22   #29
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Re: helm location

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Originally Posted by Southern Star View Post
I didn't refer to forward cockpits/helms as I have no personal experience with the same. Certainly, they would give excellent forward visibility and the height of the helmsperson should be irrelevant. While I worry that they could be an inconvenience when docking short-handed, this would only be so if one is unable to readily exit directly from the cockpit to the side decks near the boarding gate. If so, they are probably virtually as good in that regard as twin aft helms (and certainly better than raised helms).

The only other potential negatives that I can see are protection from the elements (although Chris White's Atlantics have an inside steering station which should work unless sails need trimming/adjusting). Finally, I also wonder whether the forward cockpit would ship a lot of water in heavy conditions (all while acknowledging that the forward cockpits do typically seem to be rather small and, as they have no accomodation below, they should be able to drain very quickly).

Overall they are an interesting design innovation and I would love to try one out in varying conditions. In the interim, it would be great to hear from someone who has one!

Brad
We have a forward "workpit" on out boat, patterned after the Gunboat rather than the Atlantics. We once had a small amount of water, maybe a bucketful, come into the cockpit, but it normally remains very dry. I attribute this to 2 things. The first is that we have relatively wide, high volume hulls with a lip running the length of the boat about halfway up the hull side. Thus, the hulls don't bury easily and most spray is deflected by the lip. A boat with fine bows and narrow hulls may take more spray in the cockpit. The second is that we rarely bash to windward in winds over 25 knots. We just don't enjoy the ride and prefer to forereach until conditions change. In warm conditions we usually sail with the front door open unless we are close reaching in winds over 18-20 knots or it is raining. When it's raining we put a towel on the floor in front of the door to soak up the stray drops when the door is opened and the drips from rain gear, otherwise it's pretty easy to time entry and exit to keep water out when the spray is flying. The only time I would be concerned about waves in the cockpit would be if we were lying to a sea anchor in breaking waves. If this ever happens I have a plan to fix our spare rudders across the cockpit opening, but I really doubt this will ever be necessary.

Another tradeoff we have encountered is that we don't have as clear a view of the mainsail from inside the cabin. We can see it easily enough through 2 hatches in the cabin top, but the view is not as good as it would be from a bulkhead or stern mounted helm. To be honest, we usually just trim from the cockpit, where the visibility is excellent, then go inside and forget about it.

The advantages of a forward cockpit/pilot house cat include safety, ease of sail-handling, visibility and excellent shelter from sun and wind. The forward cockpit has come to be the feature of our cat that we appreciate the most.
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Old 18-03-2014, 18:41   #30
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Re: helm location

Mike, I would say that bashing to windward in winds over 25 knots with building sea states (for any length of time) sucks on ANY boat... mono,multi,or power that people own or talk about on this forum.

I like the look of Maine Cats and know they are quality built and great sailors but I can't get my head around the "inside" sailing experience... I would miss the wind, waves, looking at sails for trim etc... am I wrong?.... but it sure looks comfy in there for nasty weather

Bob
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