Helm/pilot house location

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by silentneko, Sep 5, 2021.

  1. silentneko
    Joined: Jan 2014
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    silentneko Junior Member

    I'm just musing over a future build and looking over funky designs. Long story short, I plan on building, or converting an older hull into a small house boat. Nothing big or fancy, maybe 22-24ft. Just big enough for us to do some traveling and camping.
    Anyway I was wondering about the pros and cons of helm locations. I like the idea of a forward helm like pictured below. My thoughts are its better for visibility, but will be bouncier in snotty water. That said the bunk will be in the stern so sleeping will be more comfortable maybe?
    Screenshot_20210905-152535_Samsung Internet.jpg

    xt3-steury-houseboat.jpg.pagespeed.ic.1quNaLgOHi.jpg

    I keep seeing other designs, mostly from overseas, that are more like canal boats. The helm is more towards the rear, this puts the bunks up front. Is there any benefit to this outside of a little more comfortable piloting in rougher waters?

    Screenshot_20210905-151907_Samsung Internet.jpg
     
  2. bajansailor
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    The hull forms of the two boats shown are like chalk and cheese in comparison.
    The top one is definitely for sheltered waters; the bottom one has some 'vee' forward and should be able to cope with slightly rougher water.
    The bottom one looks like quite an old design - from the 70's perhaps (or even the 60's?).

    Whereabouts do you plan to use your houseboat?
    Will it just be on the lakes in the USA? I know that some are big, and the waves can get quite big when the weather is rough.
    Or coastal cruising, or just pottering along the rivers?

    "My thoughts are its better for visibility, but will be bouncier in snotty water. That said the bunk will be in the stern so sleeping will be more comfortable maybe?"

    If you are planning on cruising in a lot of 'snotty water', then a more seaworthy hull shape than the one in the first photo would be better.
    Re sleeping being more comfortable in the stern, are you planning on long passages, and sleeping while underway?
    Or are you just considering the effect of being at anchor in choppy conditions?

    Edit - I just had a scan through your previous thread, sort of on this subject as well.
    Trailerable houseboat designs https://www.boatdesign.net/threads/trailerable-houseboat-designs.65474/page-5

    The forward pilothouse on the 'push boat' shown in your final post on page 5 looks rather neat - is this what you are thinking of?
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2021
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  3. silentneko
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    silentneko Junior Member

    This time around I'm not really looking at the hull shape, as I'm still deciding on what to do. This is more about the helm as it relates to the cabin.

    While I'm sure my wife will nap from time to time while underway, we will only really sleep while at anchor. Realistically I will try to plan our trips with safe harbor always available for that. As much as one can.

    Yes, I am interested in a helm/pilot house like below. With a different hull of course.

    Resized_Screenshot_20210319-100611_Samsung_Internet.jpeg.jpg
     
  4. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    I really think you ought to consider a rear helm on the back of the boat. Every houseboat I have ever been on and I have been on many has a port station forward in the living space. My typical use is driving the boat about 8 hours of a 9 day trip and spending about 5 hours awake time in the cabin. And the helm robs a lot of space, but is important for landings on shore. Controls need to be closer during landing and launching ops, but very hard to do solo. If I could get the best of all worlds, helm station on flybridge with remote control...and steering bump. Rear helm is also okay.
     
  5. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    I fish boats that are comically proportional in an effort to optimize deck space. My last bay boat you could just about look over the bow it was pushed so far forward.

    Bit of a wild ride going nose into it, but it wasn't bad. Big wiper motors and a shock mitigation seatpost cover a multitude of sins....
     
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  6. silentneko
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    silentneko Junior Member

    I don't think I'll be crossing oceans with this rig. It will be mostly used near shore, inshore, in rivers, and mostly the intracoastal. That said while those areas are protected most days, areas like Tampa Bay can get chop up to a good 2 ft sometime with just a bit of wind. Not comfy, but I haven't swamped my FS17 yet. If I go with a helm forward approach there will likely be 4-5ft of deck in front of it. I'll try to rough sketch some ideas if I get time later.
     
  7. KeithO
    Joined: Jul 2019
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    KeithO Senior Member

    Silentneko, you should add your location to your profile. Local knowledge is everything. In Alaska and in big northern rivers one may want to keep a very good forward lookout for sandbars and floating logs and other things that could ruin your day. If you had a stern helm, then there may have to be a permanent lookout posted and yelling back and forth. One notices that most landing craft have a high bridge to get a good overview, given the fact that the landing ramp is in the bow.

    I think the main reason for the rear steering position is because it is more protected from waves washing on board and tends to have less pitching than the bow. If you remove sails and go with a motor boat, the freeboard and flotation at the bow can be increased so that a front steering location becomes feasible. The fact that older boats had tiller steering is another factor, before the days of cable steering and hydraulic. Similar smaller boats with an outboard with just a hand tiller.
     
  8. silentneko
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    silentneko Junior Member

    I wrote a whole thing with pics and all, but it all got erased when I tried to post it. I'll try again in the morning maybe.
     
  9. silentneko
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    silentneko Junior Member

    Ok, lets try this again, lol.
    I am in Florida, and typically boat on the west coast from Crystal river to the Everglades, but mostly around Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor areas. That said, this little house boat will go all over the place. Anywhere there are fairly protected water, or a short hop between safe harbor on good days. Basically no place I wouldn't take my 17ft skiff now. Sleeping will occur is shallower, protected areas. Tucked behind an island or into a river. While I will build it in the shanty boat style, this will be a fully functional houseboat, just smaller in stature. She will be powered by a modern outboard, I might repurpose the 2021 tohatsu 60hp I have now since it will still be a very viable motor years from now.

    So I did some doodling and made a few line drawings. Don't be to critical as these are very far from a viable designs. I was just trying to get an idea of dimensions and form. That said, I live in Florida, the idea is I will be piloting this boat from an air conditioned helm during the summers. So an exposed bridge, or tiller isn't an option. The 3 basic concepts I came up with are as follows. All boats are a compromise.

    Concept 1. Very basic styling, similar to the 18ft boat we took out, but with a flat roofline (for now) and a bit more room on the front deck. The helm would be convertable, and the seat will likely fold down into part of a couch. This allows me to be on the same level as the rest of the cabin, which is better for socializing with the family or friends who might be cruising with us for the day. Not as aesthetically pleasing overall, but this simple design has less windage then the other 2, so that's a plus.

    houseboat1.jpg
    Concept 2. A raised front pilot house for better visibility, but really it's just for styling. Forward visibility is better, but rear would take a hit as I'd be looking out over the roof through a smaller window. The pilot house and passenger seating become dedicated instead of multipurpose. This makes them more comfortable, but less useful as it will take away a large chunk of interior space.
    houseboat2.jpg
    Concept 3. The rear helm improves rear viability, but I'd have to look out over the cabin and might make it harder to see obstacles that are low lying ahead of us. This pilot house would take up less room overall as part of the area under it can still be cabin space maybe. However it moves the open deck space to the rear. With the outboard and generator, although fairly quiet 4-strokes, it might get bothersome. My wife prefers the front deck. The rear helm would be more comfortable on rougher days, but since we won't be planing, I don't think it will be a big deal honestly.
    houseboat3.jpg
     
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  10. TANSL
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    TANSL Senior Member

  11. silentneko
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    silentneko Junior Member

    No other comments? Guess my comments were on point, lol.

    I sat down to develop the idea more and suddenly realize I might have a height issue. I'm planning on a work shop at our retirement home in a few years. The door might only be 10ft tall, so I will have to factor that in. That all but eliminates anything but option 1. Even then I might need to stretch the door to 12ft. I'll have to play around some more.
     
  12. TANSL
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    TANSL Senior Member

    Don't let the door condition / ruin the boat of your dreams. You can build an independent module of the wheelhouse that, once everything is outside, on a nice sunny day you can place it on the hull and join it. Think of alternative solutions that allow you to make the boat that you want / need.
     
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  13. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    Agree with tansl here. You ought to consider a removable or modular section. I have a windshield for the top that makes the boat too high to trailer even on wide load for bridge clearances on Skoota. A 3' trailer and a 9' boat height are 12', a four foot modular section cannot go down the road. So, you'd need something like a bimini helm..
     
  14. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    I can't tell you how much fun I've had fishin on the aft deck of houseboats. But they work nice with a cover for the weather so long as there is casting room. The outside of the hb is also used for grillin, cooler storage...
     

  15. silentneko
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    silentneko Junior Member

    Part of the point of this pocket camp cruiser design is I'll be able to store it in the shop when not being used. Cutting way down on maintenance and keeping the critters and mold at bay. Florida is brutal in those respects. So installing the pilot house outside doesn't help with that. That said, I looked it up and the price difference on a 12ft door isn't much more, so I'll likely go that route.

    We don't fish much off the rear of boats here. You fish off the bow in shallow waters, I could even install a trolling motor if I'm feeling froggy. We don't plan on coolers, as there will be a fridge on board. The boat will be an outboard, so the trailer set up, which will be similar to my current trailer just bigger, should not be more then 2ft or so.
     
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