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Old 28-05-2020, 07:37   #1
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Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

I would like to hear from you sailors who have had some experience on a cat with a forward cockpit like those found on Gunboat or Chis White models. To me it seems like a good idea until a wave turns your cockpit into a swimming pool. How fast do they drain would be one concern in a rough sea state.
So which cockpit setup do you prefer and why and if anyone has experience with a forward cockpit could you please list some pros and cons.
I'm currently looking at a deVilliers aluminium cat with forward cockpits. Anyone sail one?
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Old 28-05-2020, 08:11   #2
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

+++ in a tradewind scenario, you are protected by the bridgedeck and your forward visibility is awesome,


- you visibility aft is bad, no good if docking stern to the dock,


We went thru Panama locks side by side with such a design. I think it makes plenty of sense on the typical coconut run route, good sense in the Caribbean and no sense in the North Sea.


You will have noticed modern cats have steering station on top of the boat - great visibility in any direction, however, also greatest exposure to movement and wind.



Cheers,
b.
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Old 28-05-2020, 08:32   #3
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
+++ in a tradewind scenario, you are protected by the bridgedeck and your forward visibility is awesome,


- you visibility aft is bad, no good if docking stern to the dock,


We went thru Panama locks side by side with such a design. I think it makes plenty of sense on the typical coconut run route, good sense in the Caribbean and no sense in the North Sea.


You will have noticed modern cats have steering station on top of the boat - great visibility in any direction, however, also greatest exposure to movement and wind.



Cheers,
b.
I cant stand the idea of having a double decker so thats a no go for me. I like the cockpit design of the Seawind 1260 with dual helms. The only raised helm that I like comes from the Balance boats where you can also lower the helm to be more protected. But yeah, these three story condos with rooftop cockpits is out of the question. I do like the idea of a forward helm though, but I also want to sail to more northern latitudes. The Razor Cat has the entire forward helm inside the salon. Great protection, no potential swimming pool, but your always inside.
I think one forward for sailing and one aft for docking would be a good solution. It really depends on the flooring and how fast the forward cockpit can drain. I've never been on one so I dont know.
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Old 28-05-2020, 09:02   #4
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

I designed our cat with a forward "workpit" along the lines of the Gunboats. In fact, I shamelessly stole the design from them. Basically a small cockpit forward of the cabin with an inside steering station. No outside steering like a CW. After 10 years and over 30k ocean miles, including a crossing of the North Pacific and a spin down to Tierra del Fuego, I can attest that they are brilliant. It is the feature that I like best about our boat. We have come across a very few similar designs in our travels and all their crews shared the same enthusiasm.

Keeping in mind that every design feature on a boat is a compromise, here is a list of pros and cons:


Pros:

Sail handling is done from the place in the boat with the least amount of motion. The cockpit is about as close to the center of pitching, rocking and yawing as you can get. It is set well below the level of the deck which decreases motion even more. It's surprising how much difference 3' in altitude can make in the motion one feels.


You cannot fall overboard from a forward cockpit, no matter how determined your efforts. When standing in the cockpit you feel as though you are wearing the boat like a pair of trousers


All sail handling is done from the same spot. You don't have to cross a deck to trim the spinnaker.


In the tropics, the front door and hatch provide excellent ventilation.


Easy communication between the helm and the foredeck. This is particularly useful when dealing with the anchor.


It is the best seat in the house on night watches in the tropics. We would often spend the entire shift on a stool in the cockpit, feeling the breeze and watching the stars.


The aft cockpit becomes more of a “lanai” since no sail handling is done from there. Hammocks can be strung, workbench set up etc., while the boat is being sailed from up forward. Also, since there is no helm position back there the aft cockpit is very large and open.


It allows for pilothouse helm position which provides excellent shelter and visibility. This has really shown it's worth in higher latitudes, in particular the nasty weather in Patagonia, but is a nice feature in the tropics as well. Visibility for docking is excellent and I can easily see all four corners from the helm


Cons:


Visibility from the helm is hampered by the mast and it's appendages. When confronted with a lot of obstacles in the water one must sway back and forth like a lizard to eliminate blind spots.


Sheeting angles for the headsail are limited.


In rough conditions, on a close reach, it is possible to take spray into the saloon through the open door.
This has never happened to us, but on a handful of occasions we have had to be careful to time the opening of the front door. Our cockpit stays surprisingly dry due to several reasons. First, we have high volume hulls which resist diving. A forward cockpit would probably not be a good idea on a boat with wave piercing hulls. Second, we have a lip running around the entire boat halfway up the hull. This diverts a surprising amount of spray. Third, we rarely push the boat hard to windward. It's just not comfortable and, given sea room, we would rather heave-to and wait it out rather than bash. Over the years we have rarely taken more than a gallon or 2 of water in the cockpit from waves, but we have 4 large drains and a 30 cm high sill on the door. If the cockpit were to fill, it would empty in seconds.

When returning wet from the cockpit you do drip on the floor. We lay a towel in front of the cockpit door to help with this.


You must give up the idea of a big saloon table. This was not difficult for us as we find that 99% of the time it is just the two of us and we can seat 4 at the galley counter. If we have a big group we spread out into the “aft patio”


A vertical door at the front of the cabin provides a weak spot in case of a direct wave strike. It is conceivable that while lying to a sea anchor in survival conditions this could be problematic. We carry a couple of spare rudders that could be lashed across the front of the cockpit in this case, but, to be honest, I just don't see that ever happening. Unless limited by sea room, we would use our series drogue in those conditions.
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Old 28-05-2020, 10:16   #5
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

I like ours for the fantastic weather protection, sun, wind and ice.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/nkffjnUS79WNhUbU9

That was this past March, at -10C.

I think Mike covered all the major points.

Cheers.
Paul.
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Old 28-05-2020, 11:11   #6
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

deVilliers. Is this the one with ketch rig?
I couldn't get to grips with the idea of a forward cockpit with a mizzen mast in the aft cockpit. It seems to be the worst of all worlds for sail handling. A ketch would be ideally suited to a centre cockpit mainmast at the forward end and mizzen at the aft end of the cockpit.
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Old 28-05-2020, 12:10   #7
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

Wow, Mikereed, thanks for that. That was some good info. I have seen a Chris White cat or two that had steering both inside the saloon and out on the forward cockpit. To me it seemed a bit too much to have two so close together like that but you mentioning the visibility maybe it is a good thing to have.
Could you please post a few pics of your boat? I would love to see it. Even a photo where you have the rudders lashed to the door too.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Tupaia View Post
deVilliers. Is this the one with ketch rig?
I couldn't get to grips with the idea of a forward cockpit with a mizzen mast in the aft cockpit. It seems to be the worst of all worlds for sail handling. A ketch would be ideally suited to a centre cockpit mainmast at the forward end and mizzen at the aft end of the cockpit.
Yes, and I agree. But they do offer it as a sloop as well. The only thing that gets me is the full glass front door. I would want something more substantial than that. Easy fix though.
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Old 28-05-2020, 16:10   #8
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

interestingly, although they are hard to find, there are two boats for sale locally in Australia at the moment which have forward cockpits.
https://yachthub.com/list/yachts-for...tamaran/246604

https://yachthub.com/list/yachts-for...tamaran/234934
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Old 28-05-2020, 16:24   #9
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

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Originally Posted by Jackofall View Post
Wow, Mikereed, thanks for that. That was some good info. I have seen a Chris White cat or two that had steering both inside the saloon and out on the forward cockpit. To me it seemed a bit too much to have two so close together like that but you mentioning the visibility maybe it is a good thing to have.
Could you please post a few pics of your boat? I would love to see it. Even a photo where you have the rudders lashed to the door too.
If you have the patience for it there are a lot of photos in the gallery section of our blog. Try the galleries that focus on the construction at the bottom of the gallery list.
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Old 29-05-2020, 11:28   #10
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

We have a Lagoon 450F with the forward cockpit and we absolutely love it. We are up there all them while underway in good conditions. It is a fantastic social area.
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Old 29-05-2020, 14:52   #11
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackofall View Post
I would like to hear from you sailors who have had some experience on a cat with a forward cockpit like those found on Gunboat or Chis White models. To me it seems like a good idea until a wave turns your cockpit into a swimming pool. How fast do they drain would be one concern in a rough sea state.
So which cockpit setup do you prefer and why and if anyone has experience with a forward cockpit could you please list some pros and cons.
I'm currently looking at a deVilliers aluminium cat with forward cockpits. Anyone sail one?
Not sure if its the same boat, I crewed on a deVilliers 62 called Elcie. Loved that layout. Mike captures most of it.
(1) Biggest pro: Watch standing. More time doing that than raising/triming sails. Great vis forward, not looking over or around the house.
(1a) the normal cat helm drives me nuts. When on watch, I don't want to be glued to the helm. I'm back and forth to the galley. Sitting in alternative places and want forward view from a nice place to put my feet up and read. So I want the best view from the entire salon and fwd cockpit. In addition to this design, also the Seawind 1160/1260, Chris White, Maine Cats!
(2) I'm no expert on ketch vs sloop, but when on larger cats, the mains become enormous and heavy. Remember, a cat doesn't heal to dump big loads, so the mains have to be much heavier material than a mono. So dividing your sail area into main and mizzen allows the main to be much smaller and more manageable. The ketch advocates talk about the variety of sail configs to balance the rig in a variety of conditions.

Cons
(1) need to make sure you have huge drains in the rare occasion you get wave action into the front cockpit.

I really didn't mind the mizzen in the aft cockpit, not sure what others who complain about it are worried about. Didn't get in the way, was easy to access. Didn't reduce utility of aft cockpit.
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Old 29-05-2020, 15:35   #12
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

I have been on a couple cats now that have the forward cockpit, and share concerns regarding how long they will take to drain. I love them while lazy charter cruising, but find the drains appear too small for my comfort for any extended offshore cruising. Delightful place to relax underway. When asked, both personally, and seen in reviews and videos, the manufacturer always say the drains are “adequate” but I have never seen any numbers or tests to back that up!

In regards to helm location, I absolutely prefer the semi-raised position, looking over the coach roof. Overall, I honestly believe it is the best position for 360° Visibility helming and watch-keeping. Those that have you looking through the cabin are not acceptable in my experiences. Any lights in the cabin reflect off the windows. You pretty much have to have it DARK in there for any sort of safe watch keeping at night. it is especially horrible during wet squalls at night!! i would otherwise like the Seawind Cats if it weren’t for this. I also don’t like the “flybridge” charter sailboats either. Completely disconnected from lower cockpit and cabin, to say nothing of the boom that is 7’ ABOVE the cabin top!

I recently looked at the Balance Cats - and there is a lot to like. Their “Versa-helm” is an interesting compromise. Just a tad out of my budget! Those other boats with the helm all the way aft and outboard are just bad on so many levels. Who thought this was a good idea?! You are forced to look THROUGH the cabin for a huge portion of your forward horizon. You are unprotected and exposed to wet and cold wind in inclement weather, and it is hard to stay shade protected when it is sunny. You are not close to the action in the cabin. Just hanging out way back there all alone. No thanks!
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Old 29-05-2020, 17:02   #13
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

Two questions I'm curious about regarding forward working cockpits:


1) Backing into a slip visibility?


2) Mainsail visibility and trim; mainsheet, traveller and outhaul. Is this just something you get used to looking from a different angle and not being able to see all of the sail? What about traveller control lines? How are these being led forward?


Ok, so that last one was a 'bonus deal' question
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Old 29-05-2020, 19:28   #14
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

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Originally Posted by tp12 View Post
Two questions I'm curious about regarding forward working cockpits:


1) Backing into a slip visibility? I would think it might not be so good. But since you mostly are maneuvering with just throttles, a second set positioned somewhere aft would solve that issue. Not uncommon to have a second set of maneuvering throttles in a cockpit


2) Mainsail visibility and trim; mainsheet, traveller and outhaul. Is this just something you get used to looking from a different angle and not being able to see all of the sail? What about traveller control lines? How are these being led forward?


Ok, so that last one was a 'bonus deal' question
Can’t speak to the other question(s).
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Old 31-05-2020, 08:46   #15
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Re: Forward Cockpit: Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by tp12 View Post
Two questions I'm curious about regarding forward working cockpits:


1) Backing into a slip visibility?
Steering on my boat is done from inside with excellent visibility astern. No problem seeing the sterns. I believe most forward cockpits boats are set up like this. I either just look over my shoulder while backing or I have the option of standing in the cockpit and reaching through the window to operate the engine controls while facing aft.

2) Mainsail visibility and trim; mainsheet, traveler and outhaul. Is this just something you get used to looking from a different angle and not being able to see all of the sail? What about traveller control lines? How are these being led forward?
Excellent points. Traveller control lines are problematic, so I set up our cat with double mainsheets, eliminating the traveler. I trim the main from the cockpit so visibility is not an issue. We also have 2 large hatches in the cabin top that provide a good view of the main while sailing. That said, visibility of the sails is not optimal from a pilot house steering position.

Ok, so that last one was a 'bonus deal' question
Once again, compromises, compromises....
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