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Old 17-10-2016, 23:47   #1
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Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

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 different helm positions on production cats. Here are our findings for others mulling over similar things:

Stern to mooring
Arrival
Pros
Helm has perfect visibility from either helm and can manage a stern line as well as helm.

Cons
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.

Departure
Pros
Helm can manage a stern line and communicate with people on quay

Cons
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
Arrival
Pros
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

Cons
none

Departure
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 passage
Pros
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

Cons
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.

Our Verdict
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.
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Old 18-10-2016, 01:20   #2
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Interesting. I didn't see one mention of the fact it is a SAIL boat and not a BUS.
(it does look like a bus though, a very high sided one at that)

The windward helm station gives one a great view of the sail luffs and a feel for the conditions.

Wet weather gear can make the untenable windward wheel a little more comfortable or you could use an autopilot, or simply pay someone to sail it for you while you stay below.

Every boat is a compromise.
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Old 18-10-2016, 01:57   #3
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

I had planned on doing a separate post on the sailing characteristics including lowering/raising sails, trimming etc from the aft helms as my helm post is already long enough.

re: pay someone to sail while below, I think this is humour so will ignore it.

re: every boat is a compromise. Of course, I am just sharing findings, not declaring myself or this post as the ultimate statement of truth.

I guess you own one, if so, you are lucky, they are a fabulous boat, we loved every minute on board, both sailing and living.
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Old 18-10-2016, 02:27   #4
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

i dont know. germans should produce glues, cars for chinese but cats not so sure...

Med is not ocean.
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Old 18-10-2016, 02:35   #5
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

It is made in France in La Rochelle. Since being purchased by Bavaria the only change to production is using the wood for the interior.
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Old 18-10-2016, 03:02   #6
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

I almost embarrassed myself by misreading "Open 40" as "Nautitech 40" and writing a long missive about the modifications I have made to improve both safety and visibility at the helm. Although the new design is fundamentally similar (twin aft helms, exposed) the details are so different that my mods would not be relevant and anyway nobody would want to be cutting, grinding and welding pushpit sections on an expensive new yacht.

What I find surprising in the OP is the conclusion that passage-making is scary and docking is (largely) manageable. I find that the limited view of the opposite bow is tricky when approaching a pontoon on that side. A competent crew with clear hand signals is essential. Whereas, when sailing I find the leeward helm best, not for protection but for trimming. This means that the blind-spot is the slightly elevated windward hull, rather than the genoa.

Perhaps my observation is that this is exactly the same 'dilemma' faced when helming a monohull with an overlapping genoa. You either lose visibility when sitting to leeward due to the height of the windward rail or, if you prefer helming from the windward side, you need to be careful to check what's behind the genoa. Particularly nowadays with twin helmed cruising monohulls being common-place or even standard, the problem described by the OP seems to be almost universal.
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Old 18-10-2016, 03:59   #7
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Great write up based on first hand experience. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.
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Old 18-10-2016, 04:12   #8
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Dunham View Post
I guess you own one, if so, you are lucky, they are a fabulous boat, we loved every minute on board, both sailing and living.
Slug doesn't own squat.
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Old 18-10-2016, 08:37   #9
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Peter, thank you for your writeup on the 40. May i ask you what you liked or disliked about the rest of the boat? Did it sail "tight" with little creaking for example? Lastly, if I am not mistaken, the helms position is the same as the Catana, or am i missing something? many thanks
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Old 18-10-2016, 09:23   #10
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Thanks for sharing - I have to wonder about the design philosophy of the helm position. Some cats put the helm up above and give you good visibility in exchange for weather exposure/conventional soft fit enclosure.

Others extend the traveler hardtop to the edges and give you partial cover and okay visibility.

Open 40 seems to do neither.
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Old 18-10-2016, 09:25   #11
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Dunham View Post
The helm position is unsafe on passage; for that reason alone I would never buy a boat with this helm position
Everyone has different priorities, many many Catanas have made safe passages w/ this same helm position, so would imagine people found a way to be safe.

Just want to point out that "on passage", 99.9% of the time you'll be on autopilot. When you do your safety check at intervals you'll need to move around the boat to get a clear view regardless of the helm position. Raised helms on the house have an even more obstructed view by the headsail.

You need a clear view from both interior and cockpit locations where you'll actually be spending most of your time so you can just lift your head up and look around. The most important thing for safety is the person on watch is rested and alert - sitting glued to the helm day after day, wherever located, is not helpful in that regard.
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Old 18-10-2016, 10:23   #12
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark424 View Post
Everyone has different priorities, many many Catanas have made safe passages w/ this same helm position, so would imagine people found a way to be safe.

Just want to point out that "on passage", 99.9% of the time you'll be on autopilot. When you do your safety check at intervals you'll need to move around the boat to get a clear view regardless of the helm position. Raised helms on the house have an even more obstructed view by the headsail.

You need a clear view from both interior and cockpit locations where you'll actually be spending most of your time so you can just lift your head up and look around. The most important thing for safety is the person on watch is rested and alert - sitting glued to the helm day after day, wherever located, is not helpful in that regard.
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Old 18-10-2016, 10:44   #13
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

Peter, I think that you have been sailing the boat in the same way that you would a flush deck monohull? . On a Nautitech, I always roll up the cockpit screens and open the double sliding doors before entering or leaving close quarters, I like my sightlines to be as clear as possible.
For anchoring I actually prefer to deal with the whole thing from the helm station; using the digital control option it is easy to balance the reading of the depth sounder to the amount of chain let out until she is dug in. For retrieving the anchor I raise 5 metres, pause for a minute or two whilst the boat moves over the top of the chain, then pull another 5 metres and so on.

On this type of boat the helm stations are used for two principle purposes, entering and leaving close quarters with the visibility opened up as above and for the thrill of sailing a fast boat when in open waters and conditions are comfortable. Most of the rest of the time, just like most cruising boats the autopilot does the drudge whilst the watch-keeper picks a comfortable spot with good visibility and a pilot control at hand, this spot will often be in the saloon but can also be on the foredeck, in the cockpit or even up on the roof.
As a previous poster said, monohulls have restricted visibility caused by genoas and heeling, bulkhead or fly steered cats have a huge blind spot when the foresail is in use.

People adapt to the visibility constraints that exist and this will be the case with whichever type of sailboat you choose.
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Old 18-10-2016, 11:18   #14
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

An interesting fact about helm positions on the hulls: when Christoph Barreau designed the Catana 45 one off, where was one built for him self. This Catana 45 one off had the helm in center of the cockpit aft of the bulkhead to the salon a little elevatad so one could easy look to the bows from the helm.
Our sailing club chartered once this catana in the early 2000 if I remember right. On my Visiona I had the same arrangement and was very happy with.
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Old 18-10-2016, 19:34   #15
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Re: Nautitech Open40 Helm Position

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Originally Posted by onavegador View Post
. On my Visiona I had the same arrangement and was very happy with.
would love to see a photo of this arrangement
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