Over the last few weeks, Grabau International has taken you through a variety of subjects which encompass choosing the right yacht for blue water adventures. This guide is not written to dictate what to choose, or to supply a comprehensive encyclopedia of every option and variable, but simply a basic explanation of the main options and some guidance on what to look out for. Finding a yacht will always be a battle of your head over your heart, so the purpose of this guide is to give your head some questions to ask in the hope that an amicable compromise can be made with your heart. Part 7 of this guide looks at the question of deck layouts.
So far we have covered how the yacht may be built and what she may look like under the water and below decks, but the very first thing that people judge a yacht by is the deck layout. Few fall in love at first sight with a keel and rudder shape, some will swoon at a topsides line, but everyone will draw an opinion on what sits above the toerail.
Aside from aesthetic, deck layout is arguably one of the most important attributes to a yacht as it directly influences how it will feel the physically sail the yacht as well as impacting comfort at sea and security. One of the biggest decisions is whether to go down the aft or centre cockpit route, but there are also raised saloons and pilot houses, which can be found with both cockpit configurations.
Aft or Centre Cockpit?
Which is better? In truth, both configurations are fantastic.
Centre cockpit layouts allow for palatial master cabins, unrestricted by the pinched beam of a bow section and nicely separated from the rest of the accommodation by the walkthrough (which often hosts the galley). With the cockpit generally higher up, centre cockpit configurations can suffer from more noticeable side-to-side rolling motion. However being closer to the central pivot point of the keel, fore-and-aft pitching is reduced over a yacht with an aft cockpit.
Aft cockpit yachts allow for larger and lower cockpits and as such, lower booms which allow for a lower centre of effort to the sail plan. They also tend to have slightly better protected cockpits and suffer less windage than their centre cockpit counterparts.
Aft cockpit configuration on an Italia Yachts 13.98
Ultimately, there is no generic ‘best solution’, so the right option is the one which works best for you.
There may soon come a time when any yacht without some form of deck saloon is referred to as a ‘classic’ or a ‘racer’, Deck saloons offer a multitude of advantages with very few disadvantages. Raising the saloon floor allows many of the heavy systems and tanks to be placed centrally beneath the sole, whilst also offering fantastic outward vision from below decks. The raised saloon profile also offers increased protection for the cockpit and in the hands of a skilled naval architect, a great aesthetic to boot. The downsides are having an interior on different levels which can present a hazard at sea, keeping those windows watertight (although modern designs are infinitely better in this respect), and preventing the interior from heating up in the Caribbean sun (which can be mitigated using modern glazing materials and blinds).
Deck Saloon configuration on a Saturn 72 / Dixon 72
In effect, a deck saloon turned up a notch. The pilot house yacht allows crew to keep a safe and effective watch without having to be on deck. This means raising the saloon sole or parts of it (such as the navigation station and/or saloon settee. Many pilot house yachts will have some form of interior helm position, whether it be a second wheel with engine control or simply an autopilot control.
Pilot House Configuration on a Fantasi 44
One wheel or two?
Twin wheels are definitely the height of fashion right now and for good reason. Born originally out of necessity as hull forms got broader towards the stern.
Installing a single wheel on an aft cockpit yacht may necessitate a larger diameter wheel which could potentially eat into the cabin space beneath. However large diameter wheels usually offer fantastic helm response, hence their fitment to performance cruisers and racing yachts. A single large wheel can also serve to separate the helm and bathing platform areas from the rest of the cockpit, which can be a good thing in certain situations.
With twin wheels, smaller diameter wheels can be fitted outboard to allow great forward vision and a direct walk through from the cockpit to the bathing platform. There is of course a downside and this is to do with the feel of the steering. Adding a second wheel usually means some form of linkage arrangement between the two steering systems. Some manufacturers such as Italia Yachts overcome this by connecting both wheels independently to the rudder stock.
Whether twin wheels is an essential component on a 31ft yacht is rather debatable, but on larger yachts there is a definite logic provided the design is well thought out and good steering feel is engineered into the design.
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