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Old 05-14-2019, 09:27 PM   #1
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To have or not to have a pilothouse?

In shopping for our boat we have put a pilot house at the top of our priority list but we have never had one or used one so my question is, what do you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of a pilot house vs. a helm station off the salon. We are looking at 45' boats and we also like having a flybridge for outside piloting. Is is nice to have that separate "room" in the boat? do you find it moves a lot with wave action? Any opinions would be great.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:53 PM   #2
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I think the pilot house is a lonely place...

We have 3 stations- flybridge, salon, and starboard stern. I drive from the flybridge 95% of the time. A PH with a day bunk and double doors would be nice...
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Old 05-14-2019, 11:16 PM   #3
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Just one personís opinion
We are currently transitioning from a helm off the salon (Cutwater 30 cb) to a larger boat with a separate pilot house - Symbol 45 pilothouse. Both the Symbol and the Cutwater also have Fly Bridges. We did not make extensive use of the Fly Bridge while cruising the Cutwater for two years here in the Pacific NW and probably wonít use the one on the Symbol much more. Our first cruise on the new to us Symbol was from Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale where we loaded it on a transport ship that just passed thru the Panama Canal on the way to Victoria BC where weíll reclaim it. The almost 2 week trip down the Intracoastal waterway started out in cold windy weather then transitioned to hot humid conditions that wusses like us arenít comfortable in. So we spent most of our time inside enjoying the air conditioning (a new experience for us). The pilothouse gave us just what we wanted - more room and a chance to have separate spaces when we wanted them. There are many other pros and cons to the two experiences that everyone probably would experience differently, but so far it seems like a good move to us. This summer weíll get even more important feedback when we introduce our two big standard poodles to all that room.
Take your time, try out both styles of boats and go the way that feels best.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:12 AM   #4
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IMO if you are planning any night cruising then you should have a separate PH that is light-box tight. Remember, your boat is a boat-first and a condo-second.

Also, there is the complete coolness factor to a PH. Your command post. It's like a guy with a workshop in his garage or a man cave in his basement.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:17 AM   #5
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This is our first powerboat. We have always had sailboats in the past. We wanted a PH design vs a helm in the salon. I really like the visibility from the PH. It is a very comfortable place, not only when underway, but it provides a nice spot to get away and read etc... when at anchor or at the dock. However, we are in the Salish Sea in Washington State. Like BobnDoc we find that we rarely use the flybridge. The PH is just such a great place to be. Out of the wind and chill (our water temps are always cold) and when it is hot and sunny we are out of the sun. In other parts of the country folks seem to use the flybridge almost exclusively so a PH may be redundant.

If you are looking at new boats, check out the North Pacific 45 Pilothouse. IMO it is the nicest layout for a 45í PH design Iíve seen.
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:04 AM   #6
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Personally we prefer a separate pilot house, because clearly separate zone between light (kitchen, saloon ) and navigation zone and normally better visibility aft, but if you don't navigate at night and keep a good visibility aft it could be interesting choice to get a feeling of bigger volume.
Also wheelhouse or pilot place need to have one door on each side don't need to cross the salon with wet salty suits (it happen rarely we are not masochists :-))
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:00 AM   #7
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I do like a nice pilot house, good ones just have that feel. Makes you want to settle down and enjoy the trip.

That said, I also have a negative associated opinion. On boats say roughly less than about 55 feet, the trade offs in having a pilot house, well they ask too much of the boat. You wind up with a cramped salon/galley combo. I just donít generally like the overall result. On boats over that size, generally not a problem.

Just my opinion.
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Old 05-15-2019, 04:35 AM   #8
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I also think it has a lot to do with weather where you boat. If it is often extremely hot or wet I would choose a pilot house over salon helm or flybridge helm but in moderately dry climates with pleasant temperatures I much prefer a flybridge helm. Locking thru is another consideration as easy access to side decks makes life a lot easier if you intend to do many locks. I also love the North Pacific 43 or 45 if I were to do a pilothouse.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:36 AM   #9
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To my mind the PH should be bright airy and roomy as the crew will collect there in daytime , esp if the weather sucks.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:48 AM   #10
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We have 2 stations. The upper helm and the pilot house. The separation of the salon and PH allow for 2 separate places for social interaction. The salon also offers media opportunities w/o disturbing the watch. The PH also offers room below for engine/mechanicals while allowing a lower design profile of the boat overall which to me is more aesthetically pleasing in a small boat while creating lower windage in docking situations. I agree with ghost that the PH does ask a lot of a small boat hence we do not have a 2nd cabin but on night passages the PH shines. At the upper station we have only a bimini with no side curtains so all watchkeeping is done from the PH. No one is allowed outside without another crew in visual contact. PH can be sealed from light interference and since you are standing on the engine room it is easier to monitor subtle changes in sounds.

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Old 05-15-2019, 06:03 AM   #11
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I like the elevation of the pilothouse. Better visibility forward and to to sides than a saloon without the excessive motion of the flybridge. Having all your displays at one helm is great. Heat, air conditioning, or great airflow for climate control is wonderful. Complete protection from inclement weather is a must. A few steps down to the galley and a few more to the head when single handing is convenient. It can be as quiet as you like with a greater distance from the engine and closing the side doors.

Having all those features and a comfortable bench seat for friends makes it extremely social.

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Old 05-15-2019, 06:43 AM   #12
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Around here, crab pot visibility is an issue. We can see those from our flybridge, but would not be able to see 'em from a lower helm (if we had one) if it was not in a raised pilot house.

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Old 05-15-2019, 06:59 AM   #13
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For me, there are only two advantages to a pilot house: if you travel a lot a night and if you want to get out of the weather. We have helm stations on the flybridge and inside the salon. I drive 98% of the time from the flybridge. I much prefer being in the open air, plus visibility is better. When itís cold, we just close an isinglass enclosure and weíre fine with temperatures in the low 40s. The only time I drive from below is when it gets really hot.

We donít travel much at night, other than occasional trips offshore for a few days at a time. On those trips, I prefer driving from the flybridge, so not having a pilot house is no disadvantage.

I would prefer to have that space for living area.

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Old 05-15-2019, 07:59 AM   #14
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Also I'd say that if you plan ocean cruising then that needs to be done from the PH. I remember climbing up to the flybridge when I was 30 miles offshore and it felt really insecure.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:59 AM   #15
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I favor a PH for many of the reasons mentioned. In our boat I also find it convenient that I can access the engine hatch in the PH sole and not disrupt activity in the saloon. The forward berth and head are still accessible as well. I don't have a fly bridge and don't really miss it. Perhaps if I were cruising in the Bahamas I might due to the better angle to visibly navigate shalliws and ariund coral
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:37 AM   #16
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Once again, opinions all over the map with some being credible from lots of experience, others not so much



First and foremost, have yet to be in a pilothouse of anything from 26 feet to 399 feet that you can see anything at night through windows. You either go outside or stick your head outside or look through an open window for true night vision. That includes most aircraft too.


Are there a few vessels out there that you can see from the pilothouses clearly at night? Maybe, but out of hundreds I have driven, I haven't been aboard one.



Other than that, there are good and bad pilothouses for all different uses of a boat.


Many people never cruise at night while others overnight regularly. Some boats ARE more condo like than long range cruiser....what fits your boating style?


Opinions are great to verify what you might like, but to point you in the right direction is like using a compass with no magnetic properties....
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:47 AM   #17
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We have a smaller boat (34.5 FT overall) with a pilot house, and we cannot see ever having another boat without one. While it does take up some space from the saloon, it is also a separate room we use all the time - for piloting, of course, but also to enjoy the view while having coffee at anchor. It has really extended our boating season, as well. When it is too cold, wet or hot to enjoy being outside, we love being one of the only boats out for a ride while enjoying our heated or cooled driving station. When we have a group on board with us, it also separates the driver from all the hubub (very helpful when driving at night). When it rains, we just close the windows and doors, no need to deal with canvas. And being out of the sun is probably good for our skin long term. We have excellent visibility, and with the side doors I can pull up to a dock very easily when just the two of us or even alone. I can step right from the steering station to the dock. Flybridges are nice on perfect days, but given the choice we'd take a pilothouse over a flybridge anytime. As an example, we have the smallest boat of all of our boating friends. While we often jump on one of the larger boats if the group wants to go for a cruise or to a restaurant, in the shoulder season everyone wants to take the tug even though it is smaller. One other benefit is that it breaks up the space between our forward berth and the saloon, which is nice when we have guests staying the night. We don't have a separate guest cabin, so they stay on the pull out in the saloon with nice separation.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:18 AM   #18
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I've had both. My previous Nordic Tug had the pilothouse and I loved it. I had excellent visibility at night. There was proper room for all of my electronics and then some. It was a very nice place to be for long stretches of time. However, the pilothouse is a considerable percentage of overall space and it's got a pretty dedicated use.

My current boat has a helm station in the salon. I've never used it. I drive 100% of the time from the fly bridge. I find the visibility from the salon pretty bad. Plus there's not a lot of room for electronics. If I would try to install the full suite of electronics I'd want, it would reduce visibility for people in the salon and take up space that can be used for other things.

In short, pluses and minuses for both options.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:27 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
Once again, opinions all over the map with some being credible from lots of experience, others not so much



First and foremost, have yet to be in a pilothouse of anything from 26 feet to 399 feet that you can see anything at night through windows. You either go outside or stick your head outside or look through an open window for true night vision. That includes most aircraft too.


Are there a few vessels out there that you can see from the pilothouses clearly at night? Maybe, but out of hundreds I have driven, I haven't been aboard one.



Other than that, there are good and bad pilothouses for all different uses of a boat.


Many people never cruise at night while others overnight regularly. Some boats ARE more condo like than long range cruiser....what fits your boating style?


Opinions are great to verify what you might like, but to point you in the right direction is like using a compass with no magnetic properties....
I have never had any problem seeing everything - let alone anything at night, but then my window is raked back. I don't suffer from instrument glare bouncing around either. Maybe that's why boats that spend serious amounts of time underway at night ie. trawlers and naval craft have raked windows.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:33 AM   #20
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As usual, depends on the boat.



I drive 99 percent of the time from the salon.


More advxntages then disadvantages....On my boat...to me.....


Hard to make a sweeingconclusion across a huge selection of boats, captains and cruising styles.


Pick a particular boat and..... current owners and experienced boaters can give specifics that may or may not apply.
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