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Old 06-08-2020, 05:04 AM   #1
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How often do you need your lower helm?

I haven't bought a trawler yet, so I'm doing my research now. Some of the boats I'm looking at have a flybridge helm and a helm in the salon too.

My question is, how often do you use the helm in the salon? If your flybridge is your only helm, do you ever wish you had a second helm in the salon?

Thanks,
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Old 06-08-2020, 05:17 AM   #2
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Greetings,
Mr IH. Welcome aboard. IMO, a LOT depends on how and where you plan to boat. In warmer, sunny climates we've found, the FB is the place to be. Best visibility and more pleasant environment in the open air (with sun protection).
That being said, the inside helm is the place to be when it's wet and/or cold or very windy.
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Old 06-08-2020, 05:26 AM   #3
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My boat has a pilothouse which is elevated above the saloon level for better visibility, but lower than a flybridge. With both side doors open, it gives you the openness of the flybridge, but all the comfort of an inside helm. Some boats offer a pilothouse with a flybridge also.

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Old 06-08-2020, 05:27 AM   #4
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I almost exclusively use my lower helm.

Too many years running boats on the outside I guess....plus that's where the most instrumentation, odds and ends are. Good access to head, galley, etc too.

My boat has decent visibility from the lower helm, many do not so that drives many up to the bridge.

If operation in clear water and uncertain areas, I too would be up there more (probably),
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Old 06-08-2020, 06:14 AM   #5
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I've read several threads on this very topic. Answers vary widely and seem to come down to what style the poster already owns, where they boat, and what their intended usage is. Toss in the typical confirmation bias on Internet Forums, and you have a wide spread of opinions. Which makes sense - sort of like asking what kind of car is best - there are many variables: commute, family, work, etc.

Flybridges: People like the openess and the social interaction. Visibility is superb. Complaints are stairs/ladder access, often fewer instruments, and visibility from fog/spray if it is enclosed. Also depends on how the flybridge is enclosed - hardtop with soft siding, full enclosure (or forward facing windows), or no enclosure whatsover. I personally like a hard-top without side enclosure, maybe temporary curtains when needed for shade or modest rain protection. It's a good place to be at-anchor.

Lower helms: people like being near the living spaces of the boat (head, galley) and closer to the engine room. Complaints are visibility - especially rearward - is not always great which varies widely by boat.

Pilothouse: people like the dedicated control space that almost always has decent visibility forward (aftward runs the gamut). Twin PH doors provide decent ventilation. Complaints are choppiness of layout, cramped seating in smaller versions of the PH configuration, and lack of true outdoor space.

Before this post, I responded to a TF post from someone looking for buddy boats from Bahamas to Panama Canal, and up to California. While I do not know of any formal groups - especially for a Powerboat, my suggestion was to work east through the Bahamas, down the Turks & Caicos to Jamaica, then do the 550 nm hop to Panama Canal - chances are he'd find buddy boats at the major ports such as Port Antonio Jamaica, maybe cruise Bocas del Toro near Panama for a while. To me, the perfect boat for that trip would include a flybridge for visibility in shallow waters such as Bahamas and Bocas, but have a good lower helm space for the long runs in open water.

Bottom line - in my opinion, the better question is under what circumstances do people prefer a flybridge or lower helm. From there, you will need to figure out what your intended usage will be and plan accordingly. I've spent a lot of hours in San Francisco Bay, Southern California, some in PNW, and now Florida. I can tell you that boats with flybridges almost always have people on the flybridge, at least during the day-runs most are making - I suspect many/most also have lower helms. In PNW where temps are cooler and a bit more damp, flybridges are fewer and usage is less.

My personal boat - a Willard 36 sedan - does not have great lower helm visibility due to the high bow and low deck house. It's fine for offshore but not good for running crowded channels. A sistership used to be docked a few slips away and he would always dock from lower helm. Not me - I'm not comfortable docking from below. I have done it, but vastly prefer the upper helm. Most PH boats are fine for docking from below. GB-style trunk cabin boats are usually pretty good too as they have a side door access.

Really runs the gamut. You have to decide how you plan to use the boat. Day trips and protected water runs in the ICW/AICW, Loop, or Sacramento Delta will lean heavily towards a FB. Offshore or long runs, not so much.

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Old 06-08-2020, 06:23 AM   #6
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I may be stating the obvious, but if you are leaning toward having a fly-bridge, don't forget to think about:



1) Bridge clearances in the areas where you intend to cruise, especially if you intend to travel on rivers and canals at some point. While stated max headroom for these waterways may make it easy to conclude that a fly-bridge is no problem, it might pay to get to know more about the quantity of lift bridges, their "closed" heights and their approximate opening schedules. We don't have a fly-bridge (and I miss not having one), but there have been so many times we've been able to cruise right on under a bridge, while sailboats and powerboats with fly-bridges have been left behind to wait for the next opening. This situation often leads to getting the first choice of a berth at a marina ;-)



2) Risk of having expensive instrumentation exposed to the elements and increased possibility of theft


3) Cost of installing and/or maintaining dual instrumentation, including possible network configuration (I'm thinking of MFD's, auto-pilots and the like). If not networked, you might find it necessary to buy multiple digital charts...which are also very tempting to thieves.


4) Likely need to calibrate some instruments so they show the same data at both helm locations.


5) Not sure what size range you're looking at, but if it's on the smaller side, you will greatly increase the possibility of being able to put your boat on a truck to have it shipped to a far away cruising area if you don't have a fly-bridge. Of course, fly-bridges can often be removed for shipping...but I imagine this would be very costly and tough on the boat and instrumentation.
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Old 06-08-2020, 06:47 AM   #7
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I'd recommend searching this site a bit; there have been numerous threads on this very subject. One at least pretty recent. Some members may be getting weary of answering this, and you would miss their answers.
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Old 06-08-2020, 06:55 AM   #8
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Have a read.

https://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/...ise-50591.html
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Old 06-08-2020, 08:16 AM   #9
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We made ample use of both helms. When we bought our 3587, we were told we’d never use the inside helm. In practice, we used the flybridge for docking and when navigating through marinas and new locations - any time visibility was important. The rest of the time, we drove from inside, where it was heated and comfortable. It was nice to have both options.

Note that we’re in the Pacific Northwest, where rain and wind are a daily reality for over half the year. Our flybridge had a bimini, but was not enclosed.
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Old 06-08-2020, 08:51 AM   #10
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What other helm station is there?
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Old 06-08-2020, 08:56 AM   #11
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i like having both . i drive from the bottom in rough seas and when it's cold or rainy . i brought my boat home in late December the year we bought it . i could not imagine doing it from the fly-bridge. but like others said the fly bridge is the place to be on nice calm days
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Old 06-08-2020, 09:00 AM   #12
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No choice on my boat, as I only have 1 helm. It's up top, but not a flybridge. It's the old style set-back helm on top of the aft cabin looking over the top of the salon. Visibility is good, but not as good as a flybridge. But it's also not up as high, so more comfortable in bad weather. I've got real windshields with good wipers, so you're not out in the elements like a flybridge (but can get plenty of ventilation if desired). No HVAC like an enclosed helm though, so it's not ideal in cold weather. I tend to think of it as a set-back raised outdoor pilothouse.
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Old 06-08-2020, 09:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IH82BL8 View Post
I haven't bought a trawler yet, so I'm doing my research now. Some of the boats I'm looking at have a flybridge helm and a helm in the salon too.

My question is, how often do you use the helm in the salon? If your flybridge is your only helm, do you ever wish you had a second helm in the salon?

Thanks,
My last boat had only one helm -- at the FB, which made for a more roomy salon (the boat was a 55' sportfisher). The downside was that, since I used the boat for extended offshore fishing, the helm got to be a cold and lonely place when traveling at night. But, without an alternative, it didn't seem so bad.

My current boat is "semi-custom", so I had a lot of latitude in planning its design, etc. Since my primary use continues to be extended offshore fishing, there was no question but that I needed a fully-equipped FB helm, but I did consider omitting a PH helm, which would save money (primarily on electronics, but even saving the cost of a pair of Stidds in the PH is substantial) and give a little more interior room. This boat is a little larger than the last, so I didn't really need the extra room, but the prospect of driving from the warm of the PH never really occurred to me either.

In the end, I opted for both a PH helm and FB helm. To my surprise, the PH helm gets MUCH more use than the FB helm. Even offshore trolling on a nice day, we usually drive the boat from the PH. So, with the benefit of hindsight, if I had to choose between PH and FB helms, I think I would go with PH. (To be fair, the enhanced visibility afforded by the height of a FB is a major benefit to offshore fishing, but for that purpose we have a guy up in the tower.)
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Old 06-08-2020, 09:24 AM   #14
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I use the lower to both dock and leave the dock. We have a door flush with the side deck which is located right at the midship cleat. It allows me to handle the bow and forward spring line and my wife to handle the stern and aft spring and communicate distances from the stern (which I can't see from either helm). If I docked from the flybridge, she'd have to do all of the line handling herself. Plus my line of site is much worse around the dock from the upper.

We also use the lower when it's cold or raining. Otherwise as soon as we're safely away from the dock, I move to the upper where it's easier to see while underway.
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Old 06-08-2020, 09:29 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RT Firefly View Post
Greetings,
Mr IH. Welcome aboard. IMO, a LOT depends on how and where you plan to boat. In warmer, sunny climates we've found, the FB is the place to be. Best visibility and more pleasant environment in the open air (with sun protection).
That being said, the inside helm is the place to be when it's wet and/or cold or very windy.
I agree! But in the case of my boat, the dinghy is carried on the bow and a lower helm has lousy visibility. A dinette in the lower helm position is much more enjoyed and used.
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:40 AM   #16
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I've used my lower helm twice in 10 years. Both times because I wanted to see what it was like to drive from down there.

Hot? Cold? Snowing? We're up top and loving it. We do the Christmas lighted boat parade every year and we always have 10-12 people on the fly bridge just because it's so open and the view is much better. We do have a full eisenglass enclosure up there so it's not horribly cold.
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:44 AM   #17
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Never. We deliberately bought a boat with an upper helm only. We have a hardtop on the flybridge and a full enclosure.
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:46 AM   #18
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Flybridge for us. I can't tell you how many pieces of debris or 'dead heads' that I've narrowly missed by being up higher. We've also seen a lot of marine life that we may not have seen below.

However, my wife and I aren't enjoying the ladder. We have an enclosed flybridge. Warm in the summer but nice on cool days.

Trade offs....
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:51 AM   #19
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It also depends on the boat
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:55 AM   #20
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It also depends on the boat
Absolutely. Some lower helms have great visibility, good layout, etc. Others are only there as a "emergency bad weather helm". And some flybridges are a nice place to be, others are basically a chair with engine controls that's really meant more for fishing than cruising.
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