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Old 08-20-2017, 09:19 PM   #1
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Helm Chairs - redux

I know there was an old string about helm chairs and perhaps I should have just picked up there, but my question is a little different.

How much time do you really spend "driving" and actually sitting in your lower helm chair?

Im "sampling" chairs on boats under 45 feet, esp. with pilot houses. I'm mostly thinking about Stidd, Pompanette, or similar brands, mounted to the PH sole. (So, not a "bench" such as on a GB Europa)

But so far, in pilot houses...
- they don't even seem particularly well-suited to a comfortable steering position. Hunching forward to reach the wheel, my feet don't really seem to be in the right place, etc.
- it's often hard to squeeze past them even when they're empty. And I'm not a fatty...yet. Often they're back is tight up against the guest bench seat or watch bunk)
- a lot of them seem way over-thick...esp. the back. Why?
- it would seem that short runs don't really require a chair, and longer routes tend to be on AP (with a physical watch present of course). In anchoring and docking situations they frankly seem...in the way.

They do look pretty salty...but that only goes so far. I can see them working on larger yachts with "deeper" pilot house areas. So, give me an honest assessment - how much do you really sit in your lower chair?
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Old 08-20-2017, 09:24 PM   #2
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Sole helmsman position is in pilothouse. Spend most of the time on a cushioned bench seat adjacent to the starboard door. There is a similar bench to port but is recessed. When starboard bench seat is unneeded, it folds up, increasing access to starboard.
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Old 08-20-2017, 10:28 PM   #3
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I imagine that with boats we use what we have. I'm on my first power boat so before I was always behind the wheel of a sailboat in the cockpit. If really bad weather I was tucked up under the dodger in my raingear holding the AP remote in my hand.

My boat has a single helm chair in the center driving position. We have a bench seat behind that is pretty comfortable. I spend literally hours sitting in that helm seat. I'm not holding the wheel but am on autopilot most of the time but have everything in reach. My helm chair is very comfortable.

If my boat was bigger, it would have a slightly bigger PH. If the PH was slightly bigger I would like room for two helm chairs side-by-side. In rough weather, the helm chair is the most secure and comfortable place to be.
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Old 08-20-2017, 10:39 PM   #4
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No flying bridges on either of my boats so I am an inside helm guy. When the boat is underway I am always at the helm both as driver and lookout even if the pilot is on. I drive standing up in close quarters but almost always sitting outside of the breakwaters. Klee Wyck has a decent helm chair and a matched chair next to it in lower picture.
I threw out the helm chair that came with Libra and am putting the chair picture on the left in the station pictured on the right so that I can reach the jog steering and the single engine control lever while sitting back in the chair comfortably. The seat flips up giving me room to steer standing. With Libras manual helm only about 3 1/2 turns lock to lock with a huge rudder it is a bit of a slog underway so I am finding that I almost never use the wheel itself but the jog steering lever or pilot which run off the hydraulic pump on the Mercedes main engine or a 24 volt pump on the engine room bulkhead at the flip of a switch. Normally use engine pump.
A helm chair that is attached is a must for me.
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Old 08-20-2017, 11:26 PM   #5
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I sit in the helm seat any time we are under way.
It is very comfortable, and provides a great view of the instruments and displays.

In the pilothouse there is also a nice L shaped bench seat, with table.

http://mvlisasway.com/images/4788/helm2.JPG

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Old 08-20-2017, 11:27 PM   #6
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We spend almost all of our time underway on the flybridge. We added two top of the line pompanette chairs and it was the best money we ever invested in the boat. We went to Ft. Lauderdale and worked with the dealer there. Great people.
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Old 08-21-2017, 12:07 AM   #7
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A good helm chair definitely gives a feeling of security...esp in a rolling seaway. I too did a lot of long distance sailing so I never had a "chair". They don't really work when you're at a constant 15 degrees of heel.
Also I haven't adjusted the ones I'm looking at on various boats.
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Old 08-21-2017, 09:13 PM   #8
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Like Drake, we spend most of out time underway seated on the flybridge.

If your budget can stretch, STIDD are the best helm seats IMHO (we have 2 Pompanette chairs on the FB). I am pretty sure STIDDs are also the most expensive!

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Old 08-21-2017, 09:24 PM   #9
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If your budget can stretch, STIDD are the best helm seats IMHO (we have 2 Pompanette chairs on the FB). I am pretty sure STIDDs are also the most expensive!H.
We considered Stidd, but they don't have any place to try them out. There was no way we were going to spend that kind of money without sitting in one first. Pompanette has a showroom in Ft. Lauderdale where you can see their line. Mike Murray is great to work with and he gave us a good deal. Now that we have used them for over 1,000 miles, we couldn't be happier with them.
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Old 08-21-2017, 09:37 PM   #10
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My experience with Pompanette has been in fighting chairs...more wood than padding. Stidd IS pricey...but clearly great quality.
The Admiral has strong opinions about seating - I'm less sensitive. So a tryout is important...
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Old 08-21-2017, 09:51 PM   #11
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I just could not see replacing my Stidd with anything other than a Stidd.

I have two on the FB and one in the PH. The PH is about to be re upholstered.
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Old 08-21-2017, 09:55 PM   #12
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My Pilothouse helm chair is freestanding, but has a cable with hook and turnbuckle to enable it to be fixed in place. When I first bought the boat it was nearly always fixed in position. Since fitting Naiad stabilisers it has almost never been fixed in position. It doesn't rock or move now.

I am in that chair most of the time. Yes, to reach throttle or gears I need to lean forward. But I usually adjust heading via the Furuno NavPilot, which is mounted overhead and is easy to reach from the chair. When docking, or leaving the dock, I usually move the chair back to allow plenty of standing room with easy access. Final docking actions are from there, as it is then easy to go out a pilothouse door to tend lines. I mostly single hand.

But initial docking actions, and leaving the dock, are always from the flybridge where I have good all round vision, particularly standing. I spend a reasonable amount of time in the flybridge chair, which is fixed although it has fore/aft movement. Wind chill often keeps me downstairs though.

I have learnt that when its rough it is important to stand. The freestanding helm chair still seems comfortable, but the pitching motion (i never have roll these days) is having an impact even though there is seldom any jarring. Sitting for extended periods in rough conditions aggravates disc issues in my lower spine. I don't ever want to deal with sciatic nerve inflammation again, it was absolute hell for a few months!

No plans to replace the chairs, but if I did I would be looking for the shock-absorbing type that good farm tractors have. I'll have to tell my local John Deere dealer that they are missing out on a sales opportunity!
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Old 08-21-2017, 11:36 PM   #13
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Used chair, most enjoyed boat upgrade.
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Old 08-24-2017, 12:24 AM   #14
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I have a nice chair on a mobile base. I really like being able to move it around where I want it. When the weather gets really crazy I tip it over on the pilot house floor so it won't crash over. Someday I will figure out a turnbuckle system like the previous poster mentioned to temporarily hold it down in bad weather. That sounds ideal to me. I really like being able to move it around, and would not want it to be fixed in place. The pilot house also has two more matching chairs along the port side for passengers to sit in. These two are fixed in place.

A good foot rest is also an important feature. It needs to stick out pretty far to be comfortable for hours on end.
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Old 08-24-2017, 06:03 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CDreamer View Post
I know there was an old string about helm chairs and perhaps I should have just picked up there, but my question is a little different.

How much time do you really spend "driving" and actually sitting in your lower helm chair?

Im "sampling" chairs on boats under 45 feet, esp. with pilot houses. I'm mostly thinking about Stidd, Pompanette, or similar brands, mounted to the PH sole. (So, not a "bench" such as on a GB Europa)

But so far, in pilot houses...
- they don't even seem particularly well-suited to a comfortable steering position. Hunching forward to reach the wheel, my feet don't really seem to be in the right place, etc.
- it's often hard to squeeze past them even when they're empty. And I'm not a fatty...yet. Often they're back is tight up against the guest bench seat or watch bunk)
- a lot of them seem way over-thick...esp. the back. Why?
- it would seem that short runs don't really require a chair, and longer routes tend to be on AP (with a physical watch present of course). In anchoring and docking situations they frankly seem...in the way.

They do look pretty salty...but that only goes so far. I can see them working on larger yachts with "deeper" pilot house areas. So, give me an honest assessment - how much do you really sit in your lower chair?
Most of the "driving" from helm chair will be on autopilot,no need to hunch over. a fore and aft sliding mechanism should be able to keep chair aft enough to be out of the way when maneuvering.
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Old 08-24-2017, 09:26 AM   #16
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We don't have a fixed lower helm chair- the one that was there does double duty as my office chair.

Most (to the upper 90th percentile) piloting is done from the flybridge. There were 2 ladderback Pompanette chairs there when we purchased our boat- we found 2 excellent Stidd look alike chairs with the "Meridian" logo on them on Craigslist for the princely sum of $75 each.

Fully adjustable, comfy, and cheap- perfect!
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Old 08-24-2017, 03:59 PM   #17
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Dreamer: I think just about everything that you have said has a lot of importance when trying to make a decision about fixed helm chair installation. We began with a goal to upgrade the helm and electronics first, but realized that a good helm design would likely fall into place after we solidified the position of the pilot. The position of the chair, the height of the chair, the chair movement forward and aft, location and height of the footrest, and the footrest useability in the entire range of travel. Then there is the consequential compromises that comes during installation. What doesn't fit anymore? Is it possible to mount the pedestal where it needs to go. Does the pedestal need a backing plate or is the deck strength and coring sufficient? Finally, when all is said and done, is the new installation all that you hoped it would be? Has it added (instead of subtracted) comfort, convenience, and whatever else you set out to achieve?

Our choice was a Stidd 500 low back model, but at somewhere around $5000 or more depending on which accessories you ordered, we were determined to find a new boat take-out from a high-buck yacht. We kept checking in and around Miami and Fort Lauderdale and found the color chair we wanted but spent the next couple of years finding the pedestal, foot rest, and a dozen other missing parts. Yes, it took a long time, but we did obtain the chair that we wanted for about $1300 for a complete unit in new condition. Preplanning and careful forethought in mounting produced the product we wanted. Now the helm dashboard itself is being remodeled so that all controls, gauges, and screens are positioned according to the pilot's reach and sightline. Good luck with your project!
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Old 08-25-2017, 07:50 PM   #18
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Personally I wouldn't put anything In but a Stidd. When you spend hours on a chair it needs to be ergonomically designed especially if you are spending 6-8 hours on it. Tried other brands, but none stood up to the comfort. No I am not a Stidd salesman, just a boater who bought 4 news ones for my last 2 boats. Yes they are expensive, but the saying is "you only get what you pay for". They also have great customer support and they stand behind their product no matter how old.
Just one persons point of view.
Happy sitting.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:17 PM   #19
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Our choice was a Stidd 500 low back model, but at somewhere around $5000 or more depending on which accessories you ordered, we were determined to find a new boat take-out from a high-buck yacht. !
That really is a low back model!
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Old 08-25-2017, 11:11 PM   #20
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Today I spent over 12 hours in my helm chair. I didn't even know what make the chair was until I got up and went to look. It is a Springfield.

After 12 hours in the chair, after over two weeks of cruising almost every day, I still love the chair. I doubt it is the most expensive. Probably isn't the "best" quality, as it is the standard chair put in a mid-range production boat. However, it is really comfortable.

Would I be more comfortable in a top-tier brand chair? I don't know, maybe? I am comfortable now. I certainly wouldn't drop a few boat bucks to see.
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