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Old 03-21-2019, 11:58 AM   #1
City: Port Canaveral
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,954
PILOTHOUSE: On deck vs. Raised vs. Full Standing

This discussion is in regards to three possible locations for a pilothouse for a large trawler:
  1. On the main deck, same level as salon/galley, no aft visibility;
  2. Raised (or semi-raised), usually about 3-4 feet, so a short flight of stairs up, with visibility aft;
  3. Fully independent, on top of the main deck, requiring a full flight of stairs.
My wife argues against the "FULL" pilothouse, which I point out has great 360' visibility, plus the coolness factor, but she argues that it is too separated from the main happenings, especially from the galley where she would be spending time. Plus there's the loss of space for the full stairs.

Flush on the main deck would be best for the above argument, and perhaps the semi-raised version is a good compromise.

My big boat had a full PH on the main deck, with the salon/galley being depressed. I loved the aft visibility I have to admit. It was a half flight of stairs up and perhaps was a bit separated at times from the social crowd.

I was wondering perhaps those who have full PH's think about the negatives as well as positives.

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Old 03-21-2019, 12:27 PM   #2
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City: Seattle
Vessel Name: Spinner
Vessel Model: 2003 Nordic Tug 42
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 360
My 42 Nordic Tug has a traditional pilothouse up three steps from the Galley and saloon. I have some visibility aft, but it’s not great, due to the small aft windows in the pilothouse. Still, it’s a bit better than I had on the Ranger Tugs, which had the helm in the main living area, and up about 10 inches.

I like the pilothouse better though, and enjoy having guests hang out there while underway.


42 Nordic Tug Spinner
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Old 03-21-2019, 12:57 PM   #3
City: Carefree, Arizona
Vessel Name: sunchaser V
Vessel Model: DeFever 48
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 9,129

The best ways to see aft on any vessel when entering of leaving a dock is to
-- Have the crew on a headset standing aft
-- Have an aft or beam steering station
-- Have good side doors
-- Perform these maneuvers from a flybridge
-- Utilize strategically placed cameras

Vessel layout transcends Pilothouse vs ?? Other scenarios. Many things have to click.
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Old 03-21-2019, 01:41 PM   #4
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City: Tri Cities, WA
Vessel Name: Beachcomber
Vessel Model: Sea Ray 550 Sedan Bridge
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 4,258
My boat has a full fly bridge above the salon. Visibility is excellent from up there and that's where people spend their time when on the boat. The galley is on the same level as the salon so if we're anchored or a meal is being prepared (which usually happens when we're anchored) people congregate in the salon.

My visibility to the stern is zero. That's not a problem when backing into our slip because I know if I'm aligned properly on the port side where visibility is good, then the other side is going to be OK. All I have to do is align the boat with the slip as I make my approach.

Having had a few different design boats I like having the fly bridge up where everyone can see.
Mike and Tina
Beachcomber 1995 Sea Ray 550 Sedan Bridge
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Old 03-21-2019, 01:59 PM   #5
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City: Coupeville Wa.
Vessel Name: Pelorus
Vessel Model: Californian 42 LRC
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Originally Posted by makobuilders View Post
....., but she argues that it is too separated from the main happenings, especially from the galley where she would be spending time. Plus there's the loss of space for the full stairs.....
....I was wondering perhaps those who have full PH's think about the negatives as well as positives.
You can love a full pilot house, compromise on a raised pilot house and learn to live with no visibility astern. But the underlined above is in my mind the main point to consider. To keep everyone happy it's hard to beat upper and lower helms. The lower in the main saloon / galley area.

It's a trite old saying but worth keeping in mind "Happy wife. Happy life."
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Old 03-21-2019, 02:36 PM   #6
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City: Puget Sound
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 672
I was always under the impression that a pilothouse was a few steps up from the salon and a few steps down from the fly bridge. Otherwise it's either an upper or lower helm or both. For docking it's hard to beat a cockpit controls, especially when stern in.
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Old 03-21-2019, 02:39 PM   #7
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City: Jacksonville
Vessel Model: American Tug 41
Join Date: Sep 2018
Posts: 191
Spent some time on a friend's boat that had what you'd qualify as a "full" pilot house; very steep set of many stairs to get there from living areas. Part of the answer here might be related to your age and agility. Personally as i get older (even in my dirt home) i'd like to eliminate or reduce the number of stairs i have to deal with.
There are some in your "raised PH" category that i much prefer, like Nordic or American tugs, where the PH is high with great visibility, yet at least on an AT I was on recently, you could also see very well aft by looking down the short staircase through the cockpit door and windows, as well as two aft windows in the PH itself.
But overall i'm with you on having a PH. If you haven't done so, take the wife to a few boat shows where you can climb around on some different boats to see what you both prefer......
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Old 03-21-2019, 03:11 PM   #8
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City: JAX, FL
Vessel Name: Hobo
Vessel Model: Krogen 42-120
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 9,533
We like the full pilot house for the reduced engine noise when cruising. Being forward and separated from the engine, it reduces the ambient engine noise significantly.

Another plus is when we’re doing passages, the rest of the boat can stay dark so the off watch person isn’t disturbed by the on watch activities.

A down side was when I first cruised on Hobo. The pilot house Is pretty far forward in the hull. In big seas it took me a while to get use to the motion after coming from a cutter rigged sailboat.

Here’s our stairs from the saloon to the pilot house. A grab rail on the right and 4 stairs. If the stairs become an issue, well....
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Old 03-21-2019, 03:15 PM   #9
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City: Nanaimo
Vessel Name: Pilitak
Vessel Model: Nordic Tug 37
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 1,510
Personally, when we were boat hunting, having a pilothouse "separate" from the main salon/galley was something on our "really want" list. We are very happy with the layout of our Nordic Tug (as Spinner stated), and not just for the pilothouse.
We did not want a flybridge on our boat (but would not have been a dealbreaker if most all else was good).

In my humble opinion, these are examples of "to each his/her own", and only you and your wife can decide what works best for your situation and desires. There is no "right answer" to this that others can give you.
My advice, is to get on board as many different boats (layouts) as you can. Poke around, look around carefully, and discuss the pros and cons of these layouts (and other features) with your wife as you are on board.
If you have other features that you are still not sure about, then check those out as well, then make lists such as "must have", "nice to have", "don't want", etc. For example: flybridge or no, single or twin engine, planing, semi-displacement, or full, etc., etc. Think about all of this from the perspective of how you envision actually using the boat including docking, anchoring, type of cruising, how long, and of course future resale.
Try to find your last boat first (or next if you already own one), as it will end up being less expensive in the long run that way (thanks to Comodave for that one).
Good luck on your decisions,
Nanaimo, BC
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Old 03-21-2019, 03:41 PM   #10
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City: Seattle, WA USA
Vessel Name: FORTITUDE
Vessel Model: Kadey Krogen 54-8
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 804
We have a raised pilothouse now and really like it as the design tends to make a vessel with a moderate LOA "feel" larger, mostly through separation of public, working and private spaces. That said, we love flushdecks for the incredible space a "double decker" design offers along with an aft master. Finally the fist time I climbed a flight of stairs into the "full pilothouse" on a Nordhavn 62 I wept a bit.

OK, a wept a lot.

As we consider any future boats which may involve extended cruising or even full time liveaboard status - the flush deck is what speaks to both of us the most. Feels like an apartment with a roof deck (flybridge), walk in engine room and good separation between owner and guest cabins.
Instagram: @mvfortitude
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Old 03-21-2019, 04:29 PM   #11
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City: Brisbane
Vessel Name: Insequent
Vessel Model: Ocean Alexander 50 Mk I
Join Date: Mar 2012
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With a raised pilothouse you get good vision forward so that the flybridge can be kept open for use in good weather, and you don't have the hassle/ugliness of the clears (oxygen tent). I don't have much visibility aft, but two side doors fix that. If reversing into a berth using the flybridge works well for visibility also.

I think I have 5 steps up from the galley/salon to the RPH, and a couple more than that up to the flybridge. Having some stairs on board provides a bit of exercise, and area/function separation has its pluses.

Aquabelle is a flushdeck version of my hull, and the aft master is really good. They gain an extra cabin with my midship master becoming a queen VIP on the flushdeck. The flow of helm to galley/salon is also nice. Another plus is the flat upper deck, which gives expansive al fresco entertaining options. On my RPH, the upper (boat deck) is broken up by two steps down from the flybridge helm.

But on balance I prefer my RPH to the flushdeck design. With a flushdeck you have stairs down to the aft cabin that are very intrusive into the salon, taking a lot of space as they are a full flight. And in a flushdeck there is a disconnect between the salon and cockpit. The RPH has 'europa-style' french doors between the salon and cockpit, which in warmer climates is ideal.

I agree with some other posters: you have to consider the total GA of the boat, flow to/from areas, as well as your local climate conditions, cruising areas and accommodation needs. Half flights of stairs linking areas can work very well aesthetically, and give very good compromise for utility. I would never be without my RPH!
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Old 03-21-2019, 04:34 PM   #12
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City: San Diego
Vessel Model: Helmsman 4304
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Posts: 1,495
This was our first PH boat, so I can’t comment on the different types. From an aesthetic standpoint I always though the low rise PH boats looked cooler.
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Old 03-21-2019, 04:42 PM   #13
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Vessel Name: 'Snow Mouse.'
Vessel Model: BROOM FLYBRIDGE 42.
Join Date: Apr 2014
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Much of course depends on your cruising area and we enjoy a mix of canal and sea.
We have an upper and lower deck helm position, we use the upper deck in good weather when cruising the canals and the lower helm when cruising at sea.
Bridge height is a factor for canal cruising so an upper deck is the maximum for us and it also gives the full 360 for lock entering/leaving/mooring and of course social evenings when moored.
We find the lower helm far more comfortable at sea as we can each take a trick at the helm while the other rests/cooks etc. The lower centre of gravity is also a factor with a less and smaller arc of roll.
But everyone has their own favourites and we appreciate that but as has been said many times Happy wife=Happy life and my wife loves our boats layout
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Old 03-21-2019, 07:10 PM   #14
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City: North Carolina for now
Vessel Name: Small Incentive
Vessel Model: Boston Whaler 130 Sport
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One of the big things I liked about our old Hatteras flush deck 56MY was 360 degree visibility from the lower helm, and no steps to negotiate anywhere on the main deck, side to side and stem to stern. And Ann loved having the galley down. Even the new modern design Hatteras 60MY has much the same ergonomics if you get the lower helm, given a "see through" galley up, but still flush deck. Personally I look at a lot of these boat designs and see one trip and fall after another for those of us less sprightly and physically adept.

"There's the Right Way, the Wrong Way, and what some guy says he's gotten away with"
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Old 03-21-2019, 08:05 PM   #15
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City: Auckland
Vessel Name: Pioneer
Vessel Model: Westcoaster 53 converted to pleasure
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 305
We absolutely love our raised pilothouse. It really defines the boat and is our primary living space. It's three steps up from the saloon. We have quite good visibility aft - especially if the dinghy is not on the boat-deck. We can seat up to 6 comfortably in the wheelhouse so we eat our meals up there when underway and often at anchor where we get a great 360 deg. view.

The downsides are:
1) More motion in a seaway due to being well forward and quite high - full headroom
for me at 6'6".

2) Bow tends to blow off in a breeze at anchor - more windage forward. A riding sail would correct this but I haven't got round to rigging one in 15 years! I have, on occasion, rigged an anchor snubber to one side to hold the bow over.

If we ever get another boat it would need to have a pilothouse, but I haven't seen one as practical as ours on any production boat
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Old 03-21-2019, 09:36 PM   #16
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City: Fort Myers, FL... Summers in Crisfield, MD
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Vessel Model: Cherubini Independence 45
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When looking at boats, you can have preferred features, but whether they work depends on how the rest of the boat is laid out.

I really like my pilothouse with the 270 degree visibility it gives me, the elevated position without having to hang on, heat / air conditioning or open doors, 5 step staircase to the saloon, and a host of other features. The compromises are poor visibility astern and no side decks for docking. As with almost anything, there is no perfect, just acceptable compromises.

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Very safe stairs from the saloon to the pilothouse.

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While stern visibility is poor from the pilothouse, nothing beats a stern docking station for stern in or side tie, especially when traveling solo. Only thing missing is a starboard side deck.

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I'm tired of fast moves, I've got a slow groove, on my mind.....
I want to spend some time, Not come and go in a heated rush.....
"Slow Hand" by The Pointer Sisters
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Old 03-22-2019, 12:06 AM   #17
City: Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island
Vessel Name: Capricorn
Vessel Model: Mariner 30 - Sedan Cruiser 1969
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 1,664
I like everything on the same deck, visually it opens up the view and the interior seems larger, much like the latest fad to open kitchens. I have this in my 29 foot express cruiser and many comment on how the boat appears larger than it is in relation to interior space. To use Nordic Tug as an example, you lose space by having a separate helm area, you loose contact with your guests while cruising.

I do have visibility to the rear but I have found I just don't do the head checks I should be doing, guests at the helm don't do proper head checks, and when I ask guests to give me updates on what's coming up behind me, they forget to do it.

So I am installing this Garmin radar so that anything from behind shows "in the red" and I know the approaching vessel should get my attention. Its easy for guests to be oriented, I say: "Anything approaching from the stern that is red, watch it and if you have any concerns let me now right away."

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Old 03-22-2019, 05:19 AM   #18
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City: Miami
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If you plan to travel much at night the helmsman is going to want to be away from the activity and the light. If you frequently travel in heavy weather the off watch group is going to want to be low and amidships maybe the helmsman as well. At anchor or dockside big open livable spaces without steering wheels and nav gear are more homey and usually preferred. It seems to be a problem Grand Banks is also trying to figure out by offering all of the above as options on their new 60. Obviously there is no perfect answer or boat for that matter. Stairs can be a problem for some, best dealt with via exercise. Stay fit or have knee surgery seems to be the only two options if you go that route.
Via iOS.
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Old 03-22-2019, 05:58 AM   #19
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First question, How old are your knees?
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Old 03-22-2019, 06:39 AM   #20
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City: Sharon, Ma
Vessel Name: Slow Lane
Vessel Model: 2005 Silverton 35 Motoryacht
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Originally Posted by FF View Post
First question, How old are your knees?
What's the normal lifespan of knees? With routine maintenance won't knees last a long time? LMAO! Lubricate the internal moving parts and when they fail replace with aftermarket!


2005 Silverton 35 Motoryacht
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