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Arch enemy?

Phil Herring

Dethroned Admin
Mar 25, 1997
4,585
Hunter 450 Bainbridge Island
Over the past couple of decades, we've seen the introduction and acceptance of the cockpit arch.

Not just a stainless platform for radar or solar, but an arch that integrates with the rigging plan and supports lighting, instruments, speakers, and any number of other accessories. Its most commonly seen on late-model Hunter and Beneteau models, but they have popped up elsewhere, too.

What's your take on a cockpit arch? Does it offer benefits you'd like to have (or do have), or is it just another passing fad?

arch.jpg
 
Feb 14, 2014
4,170
Hunter 430 Saba Waveland, MS
Great addition to the naval architecture.:plus:

Cruising amenities abound.
1) Place for bimini to attach.
2) Boom traveler out of way
3) Instruments are heads up, mounted on them.
4) Cockpit lighting and speaker mounts.

Jim...
 
Jan 18, 2013
29
Cape Dory 30 Solomons, MD
I just got back from sailing an Island Packet 370 for ten days. This boat had a really nice arch! It provided for the solar panels, davits, Bimini, and a place for the lifting arm for hoisting the outboard.
I liked it a lot. I can definitely see the value of an arch for the VHF, speakers, and making the bimini frame rigid
 
Jun 4, 2009
3,311
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
In my opinion, once an arch becomes integral to the rig and running rigging (main sheet) the designer's attention has moved from performance and sail control to the comfort and livability of the cockpit.
 

dLj

Mar 23, 2017
660
Hunter 30 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain
Long before they were popular we were putting them on cruising sailboats. I feel they fill a real need but you do have build them well. We would often make the tubular metal able to be lowered to work on them, but I'm not sure that is really necessary. And these were not the fiberglass ones that are being built into the boats you are talking about.

Having some sort of arch seems very useful to me.

dj
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,178
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
That arch. Oh my.
It's a solution to a sales and marketing problem dating back to the early 80's. In order to expand their potential customer base out of active sailors, boat builders had to increasingly move their designs toward the accommodations of power boats (think "Bayliner" to name only one) and still let the buyer have the illusion that they were living the romantic dream of being a "sailor".
First the helm was complicated by installing a more technical ($) wheel system to make steering more like an automobile, then the main sheet was removed from the cockpit to the cabin top and this added the cost of higher-part tackle and usually a winch.

Then a builder of "lifestyle" boats that shall not be named put an arch over the cockpit and put the traveler on top. This complicated the traveler adjustment as well as keeping the existing complication of housetop main sheeting. It raised the price, but buyers voted with their wallets anyway.

Customers, increasingly having little background in sailing smaller or more responsive sail boats, bought them and, often unaware of the drawbacks and just thinking that those drawbacks were 'normal' to all sailboats, partied happily at the dockside and sailed on nice days with wind speeds between 9 and 14 kts, in seas under 1.5 feet, which was the Performance Envelope most modern production boats are designed for.

Mind you, there are still a number of buyers who buy with full knowledge of the compromises they are getting and are content to live with those compromises. The others, and they may be the majority, seem puzzled by how some 'older' boats sail right by them on all points of sail; they do console themselves with the mantra from 90% of all brokers that those faster boats are restricted to "Crazy Racers" and are not suitable to real cruisers and all-around salty sailors like themselves.
(De Nile is more than just a river...)

Are there other viewpoints? Heck yes. I once brokered smaller used boats and some new ones, a rather long time ago. Met nice people. Some of them still sail actively. It's a big enough market that there is a boat for every person at every level.

The lack of sailing knowledge and comprehension of boat design (and build quality) among so many is kind of depressing, tho.
:(
 
Jul 24, 2005
1,746
Beneteau 323 Manistee, MI
I understand the functionality and potential marketability, but aesthetically I think they look hideous. At my height anything that is a possible head knocker is a non starter. Maybe they could be offered as a ”delete” option for new boat buyers who just don’t want them.
 
Jan 22, 2008
525
Hunter 340 Baytown TX
The lack of sailing knowledge and comprehension of boat design (and build quality) among so many is kind of depressing, tho.
:(
It's all about fun for me, my boat is fun to sail in the conditions I choose to sail it in. It's also fun to get on this forum and talk about our common pastime. If Hunter sailboats with arches and the people who sail them depressed me, I don't know if I would be on a forum with a lot of Hunter owners. I drive a crew cab pickup and haul a lot of people and stuff, I don't really take the advice of someone who says I lack knowledge of automobiles because I don't drive a Mustang or Camaro.
I have sailed on dozens of different boats old and new, in my lack of knowledge I have become used to the arch and prefer it. The traveler on my arch is longer than most performance boats and no more complicated. The extra grab handle and knowing the boom will not hit you adds a sense of safety and security for novice crew and kids I take out. I for one, prefer the arch and understand that some people do not for reasons other than "a lack of knowledge". Would I buy a boat with out an arch, sure, if it suits my purpose and budget at the time. The topic was the arch, so won't go into the other issues with design and build quality.
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,178
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
I understand the functionality and potential marketability, but aesthetically I think they look hideous. At my height anything that is a possible head knocker is a non starter. Maybe they could be offered as a ”delete” option for new boat buyers who just don’t want them.
Making it optional would add cost. Remember that the profitability goes up with every bit of standardization. The local yards have had some challenging days getting the separately-packaged ss arch to fit the boat it was shipped with. (Whatever the builder uses for a guide for fabrication has some "give". ) They can usually get it strong-armed into place without obvious gel coat repairs, tho.
 
Jan 22, 2008
525
Hunter 340 Baytown TX
In my opinion, once an arch becomes integral to the rig and running rigging (main sheet) the designer's attention has moved from performance and sail control to the comfort and livability of the cockpit.
As opposed to being designed for discomfort and unlivability? I don't consider myself a seafaring expert that doesn't like a boat that can't cross an ocean in a hurricane. If it makes the owner happy, that's a good boat. I sail a lot and in protected water, so I want a boat with a comfortable and livable cockpit, that's where I'm spending my time. The mainsheet in the arch works for me, never difficult to trim and no one gets a foot or body caught in the sheet when the boom jibes across the boat. I don't believe the running rigging is compromised by moving it to an arch.
 
Last edited:
Jun 4, 2009
3,311
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
As opposed to being designed for discomfort and unlivability?
As opposed to a deeper, safer cockpit and actually seeing the main sheet and traveler without having to leave the shelter of the cockpit. It falls into the same category as the dual wheels in shallow open sterned cockpits that are becoming so popular these days.
But I'd not buy any boat I wouldn't be comfortable sailing through a gale or across an ocean, should I choose to, unlike most who buy boats these days.
 
  • Like
Likes: Sailor Sue
Oct 1, 2007
1,394
Hunter 44DS Pt. Judith
That arch. Oh my.
It's a solution to a sales and marketing problem dating back to the early 80's. In order to expand their potential customer base out of active sailors, boat builders had to increasingly move their designs toward the accommodations of power boats (think "Bayliner" to name only one) and still let the buyer have the illusion that they were living the romantic dream of being a "sailor".
First the helm was complicated by installing a more technical ($) wheel system to make steering more like an automobile, then the main sheet was removed from the cockpit to the cabin top and this added the cost of higher-part tackle and usually a winch.

Then a builder of "lifestyle" boats that shall not be named put an arch over the cockpit and put the traveler on top. This complicated the traveler adjustment as well as keeping the existing complication of housetop main sheeting. It raised the price, but buyers voted with their wallets anyway.

Customers, increasingly having little background in sailing smaller or more responsive sail boats, bought them and, often unaware of the drawbacks and just thinking that those drawbacks were 'normal' to all sailboats, partied happily at the dockside and sailed on nice days with wind speeds between 9 and 14 kts, in seas under 1.5 feet, which was the Performance Envelope most modern production boats are designed for.

Mind you, there are still a number of buyers who buy with full knowledge of the compromises they are getting and are content to live with those compromises. The others, and they may be the majority, seem puzzled by how some 'older' boats sail right by them on all points of sail; they do console themselves with the mantra from 90% of all brokers that those faster boats are restricted to "Crazy Racers" and are not suitable to real cruisers and all-around salty sailors like themselves.
(De Nile is more than just a river...)

Are there other viewpoints? Heck yes. I once brokered smaller used boats and some new ones, a rather long time ago. Met nice people. Some of them still sail actively. It's a big enough market that there is a boat for every person at every level.

The lack of sailing knowledge and comprehension of boat design (and build quality) among so many is kind of depressing, tho.
:(
Are these comments for real, or is this a troll?
 
Oct 26, 2008
4,171
Starwind 27 Barnegat, NJ
Designed correctly, I can't think of any reason why an arch doesn't add significantly to performance, safety and comfort. I think that the naysayers just have a bone to pick for no solid reason. Why would a traveler and mainsail controls on an arch necessarily compromise performance? That said, I think the larger the boat, the better an arch serves the sailor. It parallels my opinion of center cockpit. While I think a center cockpit starts to improve a boat starting at 40', I wouldn't consider a CC at less than 40'. Similarly, I think an arch only adds to the boat at the size where the boom would already be significantly overhead. I don't know where that would be, I haven't really studied it. For instance, my dock neighbors boat has an arch on his Hunter 310. OMG what a comfortable cockpit! The features make the boat very easy to sail. The compromise is performance and my neighbor is the first to agree with that. However, he tells me that he sails his current boat far more often than he sailed his performance-oriented smaller boat. Why? because of the ease and comfort. I might not want an arch on a 32' boat. It probably would be accompanied by higher freeboard and windage due to the height that is necessary to clear the boom. As the boats increase in size, I think I would like an arch a great deal … perhaps starting at about 34'.

I agree, it's a great addition to naval architecture, but with more limitations as boats decrease in length.
 
  • Like
Likes: Will Gilmore
Jan 22, 2008
525
Hunter 340 Baytown TX
As the boats increase in size, I think I would like an arch a great deal … perhaps starting at about 34'.
I agree, it's a great addition to naval architecture, but with more limitations as boats decrease in length.
Well said Scott.
 
Nov 18, 2010
2,260
Catalina 310 Hingham, MA
Well you can tell how I feel about the subject.
FB_IMG_1572914681980.jpg

Probably the single best improvement we have made to the boat. And that is on a 31 foot boat.

But I will also disagree comments that look at big cockpits with walkthrough transoms as a bad thing. We have been sitting comfortable and dry while friends are sitting waste deep in water waiting on cockpit drains. Every time I read something about what a cruising boat "should" have, I just look around the anchorage and see less and less of those boats. I found this article from Ocean Navigator very interesting regarding this subject: The Making of a Bluewater Boat.

As far as the arch, without it we wouldn't be energy independent. We couldn't lift our dinghy for security or on passage.

Just my thoughts. Good luck and fair winds,

Jesse
 
Feb 11, 2017
467
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
When I bought my boat I posted this picture on the Robert Perry, Yacht Designer, Fan Club Facebook group. Bob Perry replied "I was looking at that beautiful Freeport 36 and in time my eyes were drawn to all that crap on the back. What a shame."
Ouch. But I really like having that free energy to keep the beer cold.
IMG_2255.JPG
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: Will Gilmore
Apr 8, 2010
1,178
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
And -- you probably do not (usually) have to run the engine for multiple hours at a time to keep that beer cold! Some friends of ours have put several months a summer on their Islander 38, with solar panels. Covered lots of sea miles, and they bring back any unused fillets caught during the last week or two for eating at home.... thanks to their freezer.
'Course this is not related to mainsheets on arches, but solar power trumps traditional esthetics every time when living aboard and wanting power.
Great photos!
:)