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Old 03-05-2019, 09:50 AM   #1
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Upper or Lower Helm Station Use

To all TF members who have dual helm stations on 36' - 40' trawlers:

Can you help me understand which helm station you use most, and for what purposes/under what conditions? For instance, when you are docking your boat or entering a lock, are you typically at the upper helm station on the FB or at the lower helm station in the salon?

I'm trying to determine how important it is to have a side deck access door on the port side of the salon, so that I could quickly and easily get to the port side deck (and, for instance mid-ship cleat on the port side) from the lower helm station in the salon.

The underlying assumption is that I will frequently be solo on the boat, and will have to tend docking lines quickly (on either side of the boat) from whichever helm station I am at.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and response.
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Old 03-05-2019, 09:58 AM   #2
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if i was running solo i would want a backup cam am probably do it from below .
i use the fly-bridge when its nice out and the lower when its cold or rainy . i have doors on both sides . and i back in almost all of the time.
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Old 03-05-2019, 10:04 AM   #3
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Hi, I run mainly in warm Mexico, so I use the upper helm almost exclusively. My boat does not have easy access opening side doors, so access to the outer decks when driving inside is not good. Side doors are something that I would want in a future boat. I dock and pilot from up top. The view is amazing up there.

Good luck, Bill
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Old 03-05-2019, 10:05 AM   #4
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I have an upper and lower helm and I pilot the boat exclusive from the bridge. I am also enclosed bridge. The reason is being able to see in front of the bow. I travel the PNW and there is a lot of crap in the water, crab traps, logs etc. I can not see over the bow when sitting at the lower helm.
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Old 03-05-2019, 10:14 AM   #5
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Timb,

The MT 38 DC and MT 38 Sedan are high on my short list BECAUSE they both have side deck access doors on both sides of the salon. Thanks for your response.

s/ Larry Buchman
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Old 03-05-2019, 10:36 AM   #6
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Our boating is in temperate weather. Frequently solo. So..

Always use the lower helm around the dock. I can then just step outside to handle the lines (or run the boat from the side deck by reaching in the door). View is also better around the dock from the lower helm -- not blocked by having to look over/thru the upper deck.

At all other times use the upper helm. Better seats, general view, etc.
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Old 03-05-2019, 11:56 AM   #7
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I'd say 50/50 on my Mainship 34 MK1. When solo I tend to spend more time down below. When entertaining everyone ends up on the flybridge.

Actually have good visibility docking from either helm.
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Old 03-05-2019, 12:02 PM   #8
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I pilot our 44 solo on most trips (Great Lakes). Spouse moves the car to meet me at the next marina. It's not about the voyage for her.

For me all docking is from the flybridge station, even though the cabin helm has an adjacent door. I stop the boat and rig the lines just prior to approaching the slip. The midship line is fastened to the mid-cleat and then tossed up onto the flybridge where I loosely tie it to a support pole of the bimini frame. The bow line is strung out along the bow walkway and can be grabbed with a boat hook. Same for the stern line, which has a short loop on the rail with the rest neatly coiled on the deck. Easy to grab by a dockhand if I'm close enough to the dock...otherwise a boat hook. When I'm almost into the slip I step over to the side of the flybridge, untie the mid line and throw the coil to the dock person...often just my spouse. She knows the follow up choreography. Of course once the midship spring line is attached to a dock cleat, the boat is fairly easy to maneuver into position for the rest. I ALWAYS call the dock folks on the phone and go over what will happen and in what order. If a solo dock hand goes for the bow line first, he/she will hear about it.

If there's no one on the dock my plan is to drop the anchor, or hover about until I can flag someone down on the docks. Never been a problem in 12 years cruising the Lakes, though. The main reason I don't use the lower helm is that I can't see much astern with an aft cabin configuration.


As far as solo cruising in general, I'm at the lower helm in the early Spring because of the cold. If it's dark or nasty fog I'm in the cabin because there's no radar display on the fly bridge. If it's foggy and I'm entering a harbor...I'm always on the flybridge.
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Old 03-05-2019, 12:15 PM   #9
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We had both but recently elected to remove our flybridge. Our situation is specific to our boat, how we boat, our preferences and the typical config of our manufacturer (no FB).

(I go through our reasoning and have started documenting the process here if you're interested: Project #flybridgedelete)

I think the answer comes down to the way your specific boat is setup, how you use it, personal preference, etc. For us, we drive all the time from the lower helm, have doors on both sides and had poor visibility from up top.
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Old 03-05-2019, 12:35 PM   #10
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Ditto ASD. We cruise the same waters and visibility is very important. Now that we have heat and a defroster the flybridge is comfortable, even in the winter.
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Old 03-05-2019, 12:48 PM   #11
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Nice days out. Bad days in. Don't have a bridge enclosure only a bimini top. Have both port and starboard doors. Backing into a tight spot I perfer to be on top for better sight lines. Also debris in water easier to see on the flybridge. All and all inside seems better for long passages.
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Old 03-05-2019, 01:19 PM   #12
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We have dual helms and I think I've only run the boat from the lower helm 2-3 times in the 9 years we've owned her. The upper helm is fully enclosed with removeable window panels. We keep 'em in when it's cold outside but remove all but the front ones when it gets hot.


The visibility is so much better from up above, however, when we're docking or going through a lock I can't see my Admiral when she's on the side walkway or the stern if I'm standing at the helm.
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Old 03-05-2019, 01:26 PM   #13
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For me all docking is from FB, and when fishing I'm on the FB always when trolling. When running and its cold I'm at the lower helm - sunny and nice on FB.
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Old 03-05-2019, 01:43 PM   #14
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Much of cruising is solo. Nearly all cruise time is spent below:

That's where my best instrumentation is located.
Chair is better
Coffee pot closer
One melanoma was enough.

All docking is from the bridge because of visibility. I have no door or rail-gate on portside, but bridge steps come down close to gate and midship cleat to starboard.
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Old 03-05-2019, 02:40 PM   #15
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I'm with Prof, and we ply the same waters. I mostly drive from the lower helm. I have good visibility forward of the bow and it's much warmer and drier. Less roll felt in beam seas. Although in nice, bluebird weather, the flybridge is hard to beat.
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Old 03-05-2019, 04:09 PM   #16
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Lower helm for me. All nav gear, stereo, heat and aircon, food and drink, out of the weather, windshield wipers, all right there. Visibility is good. My upper helm just has a wheel and engine controls, and is in the weather.

I've run several big sport fish in the winter and freezing my butt off and no wipers and I decided flybridge is not my thing. Nice in good weather. Bad weather and you are in it.
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Old 03-05-2019, 05:56 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski in NC View Post
Lower helm for me. All nav gear, stereo, heat and aircon, food and drink, out of the weather, windshield wipers, all right there. Visibility is good. My upper helm just has a wheel and engine controls, and is in the weather.

I've run several big sport fish in the winter and freezing my butt off and no wipers and I decided flybridge is not my thing. Nice in good weather. Bad weather and you are in it.
I agree with Ski! I would probably do the "Bob Cofer" treatment on any boat that I did buy with a flybridge. Of course I would wait a year first before taking the sawzall to it..
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Old 03-05-2019, 06:22 PM   #18
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We have FB and lower stations with port and starboard doors. 95% run from FB with only a bimini. Until this season the radar was only at the lower helm. So the other 5% was during rain, fog, or cold. Now we are putting on a new FB enclosure and upgraded the radar to work at both helms.
Locking, I am on the FB with my wife on the bow. She gets the first line on starboard bow, and as I back the stern comes in (LH prop). Then I hop down and grab a stern line. So far I have never needed to dock or lock from the lower. There is so much we can't see from the lower.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:07 PM   #19
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I don't have a flybridge, but with regard to docking, my stern docking station is an absolute winner. The station is located on the starboard side, allows me a clear line of sight down the starboard side, and unsurpassed vision on the stern. I normally back in or side tie. The station allows me to deploy a spring line without leaving the station and has easy access to the dock through the transom door and off the swim platform.

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The station consists of a single lever engine and transmission control, a jog lever which controls the rudder through the autopilot, and the bow thruster control. While not common on boats, it wouldn't be difficult to add to most as the only cables are for engine and transmission controls. The jog lever and bow thruster controls are each a multi conductor single wire.

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Old 03-05-2019, 07:25 PM   #20
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I would much rather have a cockpit docking station like Teds than a FB. Down close to the action, especially backing in. Ted has done thousands of miles solo,it just works.
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