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Old 11-30-2017, 09:39 PM   #21
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Vessel Name: Kokanee
Vessel Model: Cuddles 30 Pilot House Motor Sailer
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A lower helm is great when it is too rough, cold, hot, wet, windy, or sunny up above. You may get a bit lonely when everyone deserts you and goes down where its more comfortable.

A side door would be nice if you often operate singlehanded. You can get by without it, but its a little more challenging.
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Old 11-30-2017, 09:43 PM   #22
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Inside Helm: Needed or Not? & Entry Door Beside Inside Helm:. Needed or Not?

Know the difference between lower helm and pilot house. Some lower helm configs are good for only driving in emergencies, during single hand docking, or while you are getting caught in a quick shower. Lots of the 80ís Taiwanese vintage boats are like that. It is just a steering station with gauges. Moreover, some can have pretty limited visibility. A pilot house is a full on pilot station. Keep in mind that all lower helms make for a LOT of extra wires to follow and twice the stuff to break and more electronics to buy. But generally speaking, lower helms and pilothouses can be handy.

Doors are hit or miss. Some have them, other do not. Our pilothouse doesnít and I wish it did. Our old boat had a door, but a crappy little station below. Now we have a full pilothouse and no door, so I will always dock, and almost always drive, from above. That is just how we roll. It isnít but a few steps down to get to the aft cockpit anyway, so while Bess is handling lines on the bow, I can toss a stern line easily enough.

So of you think it is important, stick to your guns, but make sure you stand there for a few minutes when you are doing a walkthru to get a feel for what the reality of driving from there will be like.
2000 Navigator 4200 Classic
(NOT a trawler)
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Old 11-30-2017, 09:44 PM   #23
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Lots of good answers here, lots of good reasons...

Weather is big, and whether you have to single hand your boat is also big. If so the helm door is almost necessary, so what if it leaks a little:-) Your ability to go forward to anchor or step out on the dock are greatly enhanced. For me, the lower windage of a boat with no fly bridge is a plus, as is a lower center of gravity.

For me also, I wanted to be able to stand up and walk out onto the back deck from the helm, so aft cabin vessels were out! Decide what is important to you, and do your best to hold out to get it! Buyers remorse isn't a condition a boat owner wants to suffer from...
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Old 11-30-2017, 10:01 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by SoWhat View Post
Agree. Flybridge is not a fun place to be during rough weather.
I consider a door mandatory. Easy to step out to set or retrieve anchor, quicker trip out to handle lines, nice breeze when you head for lower helm to get out of the sun, better visibility out stbd side, but they are more maintenance.
My last boat had a flybridge helm (eisenglas enclosed) but no lower helm (the cockpit controls don't count since there was virtually no visibility forward). Weather never bothered me (the eisenglass kept me dry and I dressed accordingly), but at night the two guys on watch were typicially the only guys up there.

In spec'ing my current boat, I seriously considered omitting the lower helm (the boat has a Portuguese bridge with wing stations, after all), but in the end went with a pilothouse helm and flybridge helm, but no eisenglas on the flybridge. I intended to be at the lower helm whenever weather was a factor. As it turns out, 90% of the driving is done from the lower helm. And more than half of the other 10% is done from the tower -- if the weather is nice, there is no better place to be as the view and entire experience up there is truly magical. I wouldn't have it any other way for an offshore cruising boat that gets a lot of night time use.
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Old 11-30-2017, 10:10 PM   #25
City: Tri Cities, WA
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Our boat has two helms and I've only driven from the lower helm a handful of times in 7 + years we've owned it. Those few times (weather related) it was great to have and if you think you want it, don't buy a boat without it. You will end up selling it in a couple of years and buying one with dual helms.

If the boat you like doesn't have a side door, don't modify the boat to add one. We looked at one that had been modified and it was very obvious it had leaked for a long time.

I think a side door would be more important if you single handed your boat. Not so important if you have your wife/sig other along to help.
Mike and Tina
1981 Boston Whaler 13'
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Old 11-30-2017, 10:22 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Brisyboy View Post
The reality for us is the dog - too much trouble getting her up top so my wife and the dog stay down, with me in solitary splendour on the flybridge. Some might think of this as nirvana - I find its lonely.
And I thought it was just us on our Ablin 35 Flybridge Sportfish with no lower station. The dog hated the bridge so my wife and the dog stayed below.

In the tug they sit behind me in the pilot house seat where both of them know exactly where I am at all times.
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Old 11-30-2017, 11:24 PM   #27
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Lower, enclosed helm is a must as well as side door adjacent to helm for instant, direct deck access. (Have both port and starboard pilothouse doors.) This was one of my "must haves" for reasons already described.
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Old 11-30-2017, 11:57 PM   #28
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You could probably live with a flybridge-only helm in a warm climate. In the PNW, to me that would be a dealbreaker. Nice and warm at the lower helm in bad weather, with less roll. A side door is handy, but not possible on sportfish designs like mine, and I don't really miss it.
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Old 12-01-2017, 12:24 AM   #29
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I single hand my boat almost always and use the lower helm and side door next to it when getting on and off the dock. I prefer running from the fly bridge and when safe transit to or from the lower helm.
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Old 12-01-2017, 06:18 AM   #30
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To me - having inside helm is a must. If you single then docking from upper station can be difficult as you have to jump quick to deck and cast a line. Side door next to helm help with docking too. As former truck driver, I always back up using side mirrors, so I installed mirror on rail and can back up from lower station.
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Old 12-01-2017, 06:27 AM   #31
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Really depends....

On the size and layout of the boat.

The climate you mainly opetate in.

The type of cruising you do and crew size.

The door is handy, an opening window is half the battle. I have diven a lot of boats in the dark....few pilothouses have great visibility through the glass at night, so sticking your head out to get a better look is almost a safety issue in my book. It was a "must" in my search critera.
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Old 12-01-2017, 06:51 AM   #32
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The door is most worthwhile when it is located on the side the propeller direction causes the boat to be docked easily.

Boats are expensive , using it only in fair weather decreases the use for the vessel.

When a liveaboard in NY we would go for a New Years Day sail, , to start the year right. IF of course the ice was off the bay.

With central heat and an autopilot , inside was a delight.
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Old 12-01-2017, 07:32 AM   #33
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Lots of personal preference involved, Scott, as well as weather in your normal boating area.

We had a Mainship 34 MK III with lower helm, no door, bimini without enclosure on the flybridge. I liked having the inside helm, but seldom actually used it; not easy to see cab pots from inside without being in a raised pilothouse. Good for cold weather, though.

With crew the door wasn't a big deal for docking. For single-handing, a door would have been better, but not mandatory.

We now have only a flybridge helm, but with full enclosure during colder months. Pendulum effect in rough water, but usually mostly manageable.

Chesapeake Bay, USA
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Old 12-01-2017, 08:17 AM   #34
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Horses for courses. No one design fits all operations.

I really like my lower helm. But my boat is smallish and visibility is good all around. I run from lower helm 95% of the time. Got all the creature comforts (shelter, HVAC, windshield wipers, tunes, fridge), and convenient when I fish. Walk from helm to cockpit to mess with lines. No ladder needed.

I delivered a million plus $ Viking in the winter and ran into freezing conditions. We froze our a$$es off on that bridge, and mate and I had to take turns melting frost off the isenglas using our bare hands to see coming in a river channel entrance. I told myself that boat design was pure BS that day (night). Beautiful boat with sumptuous interior but you can barely run it in winter conditions. Even the cheapest Kia car has heat and wipers in the pilot house!!

If I did the build over, I would put a door next to the helm on the stbd side. But that door would be a bit of challenge to design so it did not leak nor eat up too much space. Or look like cr@p.

The lower helm is a big detail to me. The side door is a minor detail, could take it or leave it.
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Old 12-01-2017, 08:49 AM   #35
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These are the taste of things, both of which are ok.

If you do not have side doors, you'll get along, and you probably do not need them.

If you have side doors and you change the boat, then I believe you will consider this as one of the most important requirements for a boat.

You get used to everything...

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Old 12-01-2017, 09:37 AM   #36
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That's exactly what I've been thinking about.
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:43 AM   #37
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That's exactly my thinking. As a soon to be ex-sailor I always set my boats up so I could single-hand them. Knowing I could 'get it don't all by myself in a pinch always gave me great peace of mind.
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:44 AM   #38
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No single answer.

Single-hand a lot so the lower helm + door was something I wanted. Very nice to dock from the lower helm and simply reach out and drop the pre-rigged spring on the midship cleat.
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:46 AM   #39
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That makes lots of sense to me. It seems to me that being up on a fly bridge in big seas might get really exciting. Not to mention if it raining and cold.
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:52 AM   #40
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Being able to get from the helm to the anchor quickly is of major importance to me. Not to mention getting to the dock lines as fast as possible when tying up.
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