We have recently just returned from a 2 week charter
in the Ionian
on a nautitech open 40, partly for fun but also to research
positions on production cats. Here are our findings for others mulling over similar things:
Stern to mooring
has perfect visibility from either helm and can manage a stern line as well as helm.
Communication with the person on anchor
is very bad as there is no line of sight/sound. We use a pair of bluetooth headsets (I cannot recommend these strongly enough, the model we use is the sena sph10) so for us this is not an issue but without these, lots of shouting and misunderstanding. If the person on anchor
moves to the side so that communication is possible they then cannot see the chain or windlass
Helm can manage a stern line and communicate with people on quay
If you have the sun in front of the boat
, you can just about see through the cockpit
windows and/or canvas
side covers okay, not great, but workable. However, if you have the sun behind you, all you see is reflection from the windows and you are effectively blind unless you step up onto the side deck
and look over the top of the cockpit
. It is possible to do this and steer with your foot but this is probably not “best practice”. In a busy harbour or anchorage this makes departure a pretty scary experience as you end up alternating rapidly between the helm and a few steps up to the deck
to get a view of what is ahead.
Same communication issue as on arrival
Side to mooring
Side to mooring
- perfect, dead easy to line up with the quay, judge speed, confirm correct fender
height and communicate with crew and people on the quay
If you choose the helm nearest the shore, you are trying to look through 2 - 3 windows plus any clear plastic to get any visibility, nasty
If you choose the helm furthest from shore, you get a view of what is ahead but no view of what is happening with lines, fenders and distance from quay.
On a windy passage
, helming from the leeward side provides pretty good protection from waves and wind
(the windward side is untenable)
Direct cable connection with the steering
mechanism provides excellent helm feedback
Depending on the weather
and sun position, sometimes it is possible to see through the windows. However, you are actually looking through 3 pieces of glass, the windscreen, the opened door and the glass between the inside and outside cockpit.
Sometimes, if it is bright sun at the wrong angle, you just can’t see.
You are also looking “through” people moving around, working in the galley
or just standing around chatting.
Even when you can see, you have to actively look, move around and recheck; it is really really easy to miss something that you would instantly notice with an uninterrupted view of the horizon, let alone spot fishing
nets, debris and other harder to spot hazards.
The helm position is unsafe on passage
; for that reason alone I would never buy a boat
with this helm position, even if I could live with having palpitations when leaving a berth or in a busy anchorage as I run from side to side (colliding with people on the way) to ensure I have seen everything and have control.