why don't sailboats have wheelhouses/cabins?

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by thaikarl, Aug 30, 2009.

  1. thaikarl
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    thaikarl New Member

    i'm new to sailing. i've been crew on my friends 50' ketch that has a wheelhouse built over the cockpit. it sure is nice to get out of the wind and rain and sun! we can open the doors and get in and out to the deck quite easily, and the sides of the wheelhouse open up to handle sheets for jibs and access to job winches. but, i notice that most keel sailboats have canvas dodgers. some of them are quite elaborate. but they look rather "tacked-on" and the plastic windows are hardly as clear as glass.

    why don't sailboats have built-in wheelhouses or cabins? i'm sure they would be a liability in a typhoon, but not many of them are EVER going to be in that kind of weather.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/thaikarl/MikesBoat?feat=directlink
     

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  2. TeddyDiver
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    TeddyDiver Gollywobbler

    There are quite a few actually. Cruising catamarans have, most mono's considered as "motorsailors" have kind of a wheelhouse. Puristic or traditional view of a sailboat doesn't look them good becouse they are considered more as a handicap than an asset.
     
  3. sloopjb
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    sloopjb Junior Member

    I thought it was "to get to the other tide"
     
  4. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Anything sticking up through the deck is a hindrance to sailing performance. Some things you just have to live with, others not so much. If the parameters of the design suggest relaxing at a berth, dock or hook as the major priority, then the boat can have a huge set of deck structures. On the other hand, if the boat is expected to move well by wind propulsion alone, you need to optimize it's abilities with as clean a boat as possible, so deck structures are minimized.
     
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  5. Hägar

    Hägar Previous Member

    Here in the North many have a wheelhouse. But of course with the restrictions PAR mentioned.
     
  6. Brent Swain
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    Brent Swain Member


    I've often seen far more windage in a crew sitting in an open cockpit than one would get with a small wheelhouse. Their centre of gravity may also be lower in a low wheelhouse. The extra stowage for heavy gear under the wheelhouse floor more than compensates for the weight of the wheelhouse. The buoyancy in the wheelhouse drasticaly improves the boats ultimate stability.
    Almost all of my boats have a small wheelhouse.
    Why aren't they more common. It is, I believe, the left over cultural residue of that 300 year old form of mental illness called "puritanism" , defined as the terrible , nagging fear that someone , somewhere , just might be having a good time.
    As I point out in my book, leaving the helmsman as exposed to the elements as an open cockpit only steering position does, is simply bad seamanship.
    Would you buy a pickup truck which can only be steered from the open box?
    One can drive a car for long hours and be only marginaly tired, but a couple of hours in an open cockpit in bad weather can leave one exhuasted, a dangerous situation when it come to decision making. There is no reason that sailing a boat should be any less comfortable that driving a car , or a pickup truck; from the proper steering position.
    Outside only steering positions are a throwback to the days when people went to sea against their will. Even latter day clipper ships provided some protection for the helmsman..
    Many people have been severely injured or washed out to sea from an open cockpit. I've never heard of anyone being washed out of a wheelhouse.
    Injuries of someone in a wheelhouse are extremely rare.
    Dodgers? Comparing a dodger to a wheelhouse is like comparing a hotel room to a lean to. Dodgers are the low end of the learning curve. Their owners ,as they get older and wiser, slowly graduate to a solid dodger, then to a wheelhouse, wishing they had jumped to the logical conclusion in step one.
    My wheelhouses are of welded steel construction, so strength is a non issue.
    I believe it is possible to build wheelhouses out of any modern material which are strong enough to make structural failure extremely unlikely, far less likely than loss of life or injury due to lack of a wheelhouse. Just skip the picture windows, which you wouldn't have anyway, without the wheelhouse.
    I love cruising year round in BC, with the wheelhouse making time of year irrelevant. I love to stick my head out in a driving snow storm , wearing only a T shirt , to wave at the lucky guy in the half million dollar "Trendy" boat , who is freezing his *** off in an open cockpit.
    If I convert him to the wisdom of a wheelhouse , I will save him a lot of misery, and possibly save his life.
    Boats of my design ,which have been built without the wheelhouse I design in them are called " The Hypothermia Version"
    Brent
     
  7. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    Even dodgers can make sailing here on the Chesapeake unbearably hot.

    A wheel house- forget it.
     
  8. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Brent, I don't know what kind of crew activities you have in open cockpits that rival the windage of a wheelhouse, but maybe next time you can tell the to sit down. So how exactly is the lump in the bilge going to offset the extra windage of a wheelhouse? Extra stability, please. If you're in conditions where you're grateful because the wheelhouse offers some extra stability, then you'll likely not have a wheelhouse when the time comes. I know, I've been there and watched them shear their mounting bolts and shift sideways with boards seas.

    Simply put, people who need wheelhouses on their sailing yachts, don't want sailing yachts. The vast majority of folks that want sailing yachts, actually want to get to windward.

    Wheelhouses are typical of inclement weather cruisers. Those that putter around in northern latitudes and have cabin heaters billowing clouds of smoke. Unless you have the ability to crank up A/C while underway or on the hook, a wheelhouse in temperate climates is a cooker, that drives all but Satan himself out into the cockpit.

    It's true as you get older the less you enjoy a healthy slosh to windward, preferring to lounge in a wheelhouse with a cup of coffee and the latest copy of SAIL magazine. I'm fairly convinced this isn't cruising. I can look at pretty post cards of distant shores, sip coffee in the comfort of my family room and get the same effect with a lot less effort.

    In the end, some need wheelhouses, but in smaller sizes have to sacrifice quite a bit to have one. In mid size yachts it's a bit of a contrivance, though if cleverly designed can be handy, though still eating substantially into the performance envelope. In larger yachts you might as well have one. They are nice if the boat can wear one without seriously detracting from performance, which is why we try to convince the wind to propel us in the first place, other wise we'd have a poweryacht.
     
  9. TeddyDiver
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    TeddyDiver Gollywobbler

    It's easy to condem wheelhouses in Florida, but anyone sailing more than avarage preciate it's advantages in the north.. Sometimes it's a necessity if you want to sail at all..
     
  10. TollyWally
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    TollyWally Senior Member

    Nothing better than a snug wheelhouse, a well burning stove, and a hot mug of your favorite choice in northern climes..
     
  11. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I don't think it's location as much as vessel size. The factors are simply windage and comfort. Small and mid size yachts pay a windage penalty and also usually can't afford the climate control necessary, inside the wheelhouse.

    I grew up on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake, where the summers got hot and sticky and the winters wet, cold with occasional snow. Sure, for a few months out of the year it was nice enough to head out, enclosed in a boat mounted sweat box, but summers would drive you out into the fresh air and winters would require a pot belly.

    As you get older, it's not the ability you lack, but the willingness to tolerate less comfortable environments. This is where climate control comes in and you need a fairly big boat to carry this off, without excessive windage or strain on system capacities.
     
  12. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    I might be worth noting that in these parts cockpit enclosures are common for vessels used off season. These are fully convertible canvas structures comprised of joined dodgers and biminis with removable side curtains. If well designed and constructed, they are wind and rainproof. Stripped of the sides and having the dodger folded down there remains the only thing really essential for survival around here- a bimini and FULL flow of air through the cockpit.
    They seem a reasonable solutions for sailing in the couple of months in these parts that require their protection. I am with Par on this one- if the vessel is large enough have both... I sailed a beautiful Alden motor sailor for a time which had a enclosed midships house in addition to a aft helm. Perfect- the best of both worlds. It suited the 63' hull fine.

    Different horses for different courses eh Brent? We don't all live in the pacific northwest..
     
  13. Brent Swain
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    Brent Swain Member

    There is less windage in my wheelhouse than there is in three people sitting in the cockpit. Their centre of gravity is lower, and closer to amidships when they are in the wheelhouse.
    With all my haches open , in hot weather , it is cooler in the wheelhouse than it is in the cockpit , or on deck, and the UV is near zero. The chances of my welded , small wheelhouse ever being ripped off is far closer to zero that that of any trunk cabin on a plastic boat.
    Without the space under my wheelhouse floor, heavier gear would be stowed much higher, offsetting any weight savings lack of a wheelhouse would offer. Then there is the bad seamanship of leaving the helmsman exposed to weather , hypothermia and the threat of being hit by waves and injured or washed overboard.
    In areas where pirates could be a threat, I can sit in my wheelhouse and see if anyone is on deck, and take out his testicles with my speargun, thru a port or vent , without having to stick my head out first.
    Brent
     
  14. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    Do you have a picture of the house you are describing by chance Brent?

    Thanks much
     

  15. Brent Swain
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    Brent Swain Member


    I guess we could also do it your way, stand on a bouncing dock in driving rain and a full gale, looking at pretty pictures, while tearing up $100 bills. Same effect. Sounds like fun!
    I prefer to do my macho in the ring. Cruising is about pleasure, and there is little pleasure for us non misery seekers from sitting in an open cockpit in bad weather , or being forced to stay ashore , waiting for those few days a year when one can be comfortable in an open cockpit.
    Your misery seeking masochism has turned far to many people off cruising , especially women, yet misery seekers still can't understand why so many women have been turned off cruising for life. Duhh!!!
    My wheelhouses are 10 to 14 inches above the top of the trunk cabin, offering little windage. I'll post pictures when the opportunity arises.
    I always get a laugh out of people who avoid wheelhouses over windage issues, then put a dodger up that is never taken down, and put lee cloths all around the cockpit. With a good, compact wheelhouse, these become redundant , with a huge reduction in windage
    Brent
     
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