Single handed 38 pilothouse

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CaptKevin

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I am seriously considering a Helmsman 38 pilothouse and as I tend to single hand my boats most of the time would like to hear from others who have one and single hand it. Any problems or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also looking for one in the 208-2020 age in the PNW.
 
I am seriously considering a Helmsman 38 pilothouse and as I tend to single hand my boats most of the time would like to hear from others who have one and single hand it. Any problems or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also looking for one in the 208-2020 age in the PNW.

I cannot speak for the helmsman but there are lots of single handed sailors with a lot of sea time in similar sized boats in the pacific.

I brought my Bayliner 4788 from Alaska to La Paz Mexico, as did my friend Doug in his 30 Willard.
 
I am seriously considering a Helmsman 38 pilothouse and as I tend to single hand my boats most of the time would like to hear from others who have one and single hand it. Any problems or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also looking for one in the 208-2020 age in the PNW.

I think the truthful answer is, it depends.

Seriously though, comfort single-handing a boat depends on many things. Mostly the operator's experience, what kinds of boats you've been comfortable single-handing in the past.

It also depends on how you will use the boat. Keeping a boat on a mooring and rarely docking is different from frequently threading your way down tight fairways into narrow slip spaces.

The boat certainly makes a difference with some styles and sizes being easier to single-hand than others, but this might be secondary to experience and use.

The answer is different for everyone. Some people are comfortable single-handing a 60 footer on a global circumnavigation or in any busy harbor. Others won't go out alone in a 15 ft runabout.

Though I usually go out with the Admiral I effectively single-hand most of the time. For me and my usage, I've found that having easy, safe access to all points of the boat with protected, full walk-around decks has become an absolute must-have.

For my usage and waters, I've often found myself in tight docking situations, not much room to maneuver between hard damaging things (rocks and pilings) and expensive things (other people's boats) with adverse winds and currents tossing me around. Being able to quickly, easily, and safely get to any part of the boat to fend off, hang a fender, tend a line, in any weather or sea state, is critically important to me. I'm well past the age where I can safely (or sanely) do the 'clinging' dance moves precariously balancing on a narrow unprotected shelf of a deck the width of my shoe. Those younger and more limber have different priorities.

While I prefer the look and visibility of a raised pilothouse (and have owned a couple), I recently bought a Helmsman 38 Sedan for its full side decks, protected by bulwarks and not just railings, which for me and my use makes a huge difference in being able to comfortably single-hand.

Your mileage may vary.
 

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A big factor in my mind is how easily and quickly you can get from the helm to the places you need to for docking. If you can step out the pilothouse side doors and then get to the dock easily from there, you're in fairly good shape, I think.
 
FWIW, our Nordic Tug 37 (similar boat) is easily single handed. I've traveled the Inside Passage solo for many months and many thousands of miles. With the help of bow and stern thrusters, docking is a snap, even in very tight spaces. I've also done a fair amount of fishing single handed, though it's easier with 2-3 aboard.
 
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Agree with the thrust of the above comments.

I think the question needs to be reversed, and ask yourself "how easy do you need it to be?" Based on your experience and agility.

There are things you can do to make a H38 easier, but is it easy enough?

You say you want a used H38. Good luck on that hunt. They are in short supply and high demand. But if that's the route you decide upon, contact Scott Helker at Helmsman, since he tends to broker the few sales that come along. He seems to have list of patient interested buyers, so get in line.
 
I haven’t had a problem single handing my 38e. The boat handles well, and with PH doors, and the thrusters, it is easy. I would suggest two things to help. I would have a “backup camera”. I have one on the flybridge aft rail, looking down at the swim platform and what is behind it. I also have one on the arch that provides a view behind the boat.

Something I haven’t sprung for, but intend to, is a remote for the thrusters, which should help when fighting current and winds when docking. I have docked without thrusters before, and the big rudder on the helmsman helps with that, too.

I haven’t done a lot of single handing, but when I have, I have been comfortable.
 
I single handed our Mariner 37 from Alpena, MI, down to Sandusky, OH. Uneventful and fine weather, although it was uncomfortably dark for my arrival in Sandusky.

Plenty do it including a friend single handed the Loop a few years ago, but the specter of liability looms. Guessing someone here will bring it up sooner or later. Something about Colregs requiring adequate manning of one's vessel at all times and how impractical that is with only one aboard.
 
I single handed our Mariner 37 from Alpena, MI, down to Sandusky, OH. Uneventful and fine weather, although it was uncomfortably dark for my arrival in Sandusky.

Plenty do it including a friend single handed the Loop a few years ago, but the specter of liability looms. Guessing someone here will bring it up sooner or later. Something about Colregs requiring adequate manning of one's vessel at all times and how impractical that is with only one aboard.

Liability wise, etc. single handing safely and keeping adequate watch is possible if you can avoid long passages. For coastal day hops, it's not much of an issue.
 
I have traveled 1000’s of miles and never ask or want any help. They generally don’t do what you want anyway
 
I am seriously considering a Helmsman 38 pilothouse and as I tend to single hand my boats most of the time would like to hear from others who have one and single hand it. Any problems or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also looking for one in the 208-2020 age in the PNW.

The 38E with its starboard PH helm, door, and remote thruster control, it's easy to dock single hand with a starboard side tie. As you draw up to the cleat on the dock parallel to the 38E's mid hawse cleat, loop a line around the dock cleat and then tie off on the horns on the hawse cleat. After that, the stern is tied, and lastly, the bow. That's my experience many, many times single hand on my 38E.
 
I single handed our Mariner 37 from Alpena, MI, down to Sandusky, OH. Uneventful and fine weather, although it was uncomfortably dark for my arrival in Sandusky.

Plenty do it including a friend single handed the Loop a few years ago, but the specter of liability looms. Guessing someone here will bring it up sooner or later. Something about Colregs requiring adequate manning of one's vessel at all times and how impractical that is with only one aboard.

Unless you are going overnight there is zero issue with single handing a boat.

No more than driving your car with only one person.

The same issues apply, which are mainly fatigue and inattention.
 
Pretty much the same comments, but with specifics. I had several Ranger Tugs before the 38e. I found them not only a breeze to single hand, but nimble and fun. But I specifically chose the Helmsman for a heavier weather (although not truly a heavy weather) boat I could comfortably single hand docking and manage for nights on the hook. It has lived up to all my expectations and contrary to some, I find zero issues with the lack of side decks. If I don’t trip over the dogs on my way to the stern cockpit I can make it as fast to tie off the stern as anyone else. There is the hassle of not being able to walk a line forward from the cockpit (on my Ranger Tugs I would back down in a mooring, run a line through it and walk it forward), but you develop work arounds. The trade off for an immense cabin is worth the hassle.

And while happily married for 43 years, she likes the destination while I like the journey (said before in earlier posts), so I got a great boat for soloing. Talk to Scott Helker. He helped me find a very lightly used Helmsman. But be prepared to wait.
 
Thanks for the suggestions

Thanks for all the replies, all good information. Have been in contact with Scott and looked at the 2024 models they have now. Part of the reason for wanting the pilothouse is actually the stairs instead of a ladder to the fly bridge as well as the bigger cabin space for living in. So hopefully can find one this year.
 
I own a Marine Trader 38 Europa. Appears to be a sister ship in basic design and layout. I've run her thousands of western river miles and about a hundred locks all while single handing. I add crew for Gulf crossings. Super easy to lock,, dock or anchor. Twin Lehmans? No thrusters. Child's play. Great design.
 
I am seriously considering a Helmsman 38 pilothouse and as I tend to single hand my boats most of the time would like to hear from others who have one and single hand it. Any problems or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also looking for one in the 208-2020 age in the PNW.

IMHO to single hand you need a lower station and side door access I can easily handle my Mainship 34 trawler. When docking I cleat my dock lines and bring them to the center by the door. I always dock helm side to s we hen I am alone. I can also completely 360 around the deck with ease. This is my one dislike of the helmsman.
 
IMHO to single hand you need a lower station and side door access I can easily handle my Mainship 34 trawler. When docking I cleat my dock lines and bring them to the center by the door. I always dock helm side to s we hen I am alone. I can also completely 360 around the deck with ease. This is my one dislike of the helmsman.

Helmsman does have the sedan version of several of their models that have walkaround decks. Personally, I'd hate to give up the interior space, but the option is there if you liked the boat otherwise.
 
I would put a set of steering and controls in cockpit.. Very common on Downeast type boats. Easily added. See Teds boat (OC Diver) setup... He single hands his boat most of the time..
 
I single handed a 46 ft sailboat for many years with no problems. Now have a 38 ft trawler that I single hand. Seriously, this small of a boat you do not need bow or stern thrusters, you just need to take a few days and learn to dock your boat in varying currents and winds. Just be aware of wind and current and remember three rules, 1. Slowly 2. Slowly 3. Slowly. Think ahead of the boat and enjoy the tranquility of single handed sailing.

M
 
I single handed a 46 ft sailboat for many years with no problems. Now have a 38 ft trawler that I single hand. Seriously, this small of a boat you do not need bow or stern thrusters, you just need to take a few days and learn to dock your boat in varying currents and winds. Just be aware of wind and current and remember three rules, 1. Slowly 2. Slowly 3. Slowly. Think ahead of the boat and enjoy the tranquility of single handed sailing.

M

Have you ever owned a boat with a thruster? My guess is that owners of boats with thrusters like the convenience even if they can get by without it. I've always throught a thruster was a great investment because it empowers many owners to use their boat more, but I've become even more of a proponent since installing a thruster on Weebles after 25 years of ownership.

Why did I, a past delivery skipper with experience driving hundreds of different boats, install a thruster? My home slip in Florida is awkward and I wanted the extra control. But the benefits have been frequent in my 2000 nms of cruising in Mexico with all sorts of crazy landings in dilapidated marinas and commercial fuel docks.

Question to the Forum: for those with thrusters, have you ever considered removing it? If it broke, would you replace it? If you bought another boat, would a thruster be important to you?

I don't need a thruster.. It's a personal decision of course. For me, I sure like having one.

Peter
 
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I've known of a couple people who had a bow thruster and neglected to fix it when it broke (as they felt it didn't provide enough benefit to be worth fixing). But if the thruster is big enough, then it should be useful. And depending on the boat, a bow thruster can sometimes directly compensate for a weak point in the boat's handling characteristics.

I don't have a bow thruster on my boat, but adding one would certainly take it from being a good handling boat in close quarters to a great one. Pretty much every weakness it has in close quarters is related to it being hard to move the bow sideways or how the bow behaves with wind forward of the beam. That said, the situations where I'd really benefit from a thruster enough to justify the install cost are limited (and there's the loss of storage space to fit it, plus loss of some buoyancy forward), so it's pretty far down to the list of upgrades to consider.
 
Another change I made during my refit was to have a hull-gate installed on the port side to match the 'factory' one on the starboard side. Again, this is due to how my home slip is configured in Florida.

For some reason, 4 of 5 marinas we've stayed at since leaving Ensenada (plus our slip on Ensenada) have had us port side to the finger so the new hull gate has been immensely useful.

When Weebles was in San Francisco, our home slip for 20+years was perfectly oriented to Weebles' starboard-side docking preference. That has not been the case since we left San Francisco. In San Francisco I had little use for a bow thruster. But since then it's been very handy.

Where I'm going with this is the OP asked about single handing a single engine boat. Cost aside, whatever it takes to make the boat (A) maneuverable - thruster goes a long way; and (B) ambidextrous - for me, a port side hull gate.

Peter
 

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Question to the Forum: for those with thrusters, have you ever considered removing it? If it broke, would you replace it? If you bought another boat, would a thruster be important to you?
Peter

My thrusters needed work after fairly frequent use over 6,800 engine hours. This past August I willingly spent a few thousand to put them back in like-new condition. I would not choose another single-engine inboard-powered boat without at least a bow thruster.
 
We love our 2007 Mariner Seville 37 pilot House. (Same everything as the Helmsman 38) We bought ours from Scott Helker in 2015 with under 400 hours on the engine. We've done a lot of upgrades. I am 80 yrs old, so I don't single hand, but I believe it would be very easy to do so. We chose this boat because the quality is far above everything else we looked at. Every detail. And the design makes it ideal for a cruising couple. We've had many people who wanted to buy ours, but we're not quite ready to sell. Maybe in in a year or 2. Definitely work with Scott Helker. He owns Helmsman, knowlegable, helpful, honest and easy to work with. Definitely the "go to guy" for trawlers in the PNW.
 
Have you ever owned a boat with a thruster? My guess is that owners of boats with thrusters like the convenience even if they can get by without it. I've always throught a thruster was a great investment because it empowers many owners to use their boat more, but I've become even more of a proponent since installing a thruster on Weebles after 25 years of ownership.

Why did I, a past delivery skipper with experience driving hundreds of different boats, install a thruster? My home slip in Florida is awkward and I wanted the extra control. But the benefits have been frequent in my 2000 nms of cruising in Mexico with all sorts of crazy landings in dilapidated marinas and commercial fuel docks.

Question to the Forum: for those with thrusters, have you ever considered removing it? If it broke, would you replace it? If you bought another boat, would a thruster be important to you?

I don't need a thruster.. It's a personal decision of course. For me, I sure like having one.

Peter

Yes, I have had thrusters on many vessels. I built an 80’ Frers cutter with a retractable bow thruster which I rarely used. I found it handy backing into slips but it took a lot of room and gear and I would not have missed it much.

I was project manager/Captain on a 157 ft ketch which had bow and stern thrusters, I never used the stern thruster as it was not needed. I was project manager/Captain on a 151’ Trawler Yacht which I put over 50,000 miles on. I put bow thrusters on her which I used often as the boat had a bit of windage, but she was twin screw so she was easy to handle.

I have had thrusters on various ships, my first experience with one was on a 600 ft RO/RO, the bow thruster was handy as it saved us having to use tugs.

I have had a few small boats with thrusters (both electric and hydraulic) but they really were not needed and required a lot of maintenance. In fact the small boat I have now, a Monk 38, had a thruster which had an electrolysis problem with the underwater gear. I removed it at the last haul out to repair it but have not put reinstalled it as yet and I do not miss it.

Don’t get me wrong, a bow thruster is handy, but not really needed on small boats. People tend to rely them rather than develop boat handling skills. Thrusters take a bit of learning to use them efficiently, I find many people with thrusters over use them as there is a delay between thrusting and athwartships movement so they over thrust, then thrust back to much so thrust again.

M
 
I only have a few feet clearance when I back out of the boathouse. I can't imagine doing so without thrusters, especially in wind.
 
Don’t get me wrong, a bow thruster is handy, but not really needed on small boats. People tend to rely them rather than develop boat handling skills. Thrusters take a bit of learning to use them efficiently, I find many people with thrusters over use them as there is a delay between thrusting and athwartships movement so they over thrust, then thrust back to much so thrust again.

M

Right on, captmikem. I use thrusters only when I need a little maneuvering help when docking, and that's usually when its windy or a lot of current at the dock. Learn to manage without them, and use them sparingly, when really needed.
 

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