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Helm Seating - What do you do? (H38)

Apr 2, 2021
152
Hunter 38 Ft. Pierce
In my boat (H38) the helm seating position is awful. If I am seated behind the wheel I can't see a thing. The instruments are in a poor position, including chartplotter, and I can't really see in front of the boat. The dodger height only makes things worse. I essentially stood from Ft. Lauderdale to Hilton Head. I'm 6' and my SO is 5' she actually has to stand on the "seat" to see.

I do find that sitting on a fender helps, but its not secure and of course when you stand up the fender rolls around as is generally a pain.

Does anyone else have the same problem? What do you do about it?
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,487
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
Agree, the helm sets is less than optimal but have not found many sailboats with optimal helm seat. At least I could see over the helm navigation display straight through the dodger window on my Hunter 386 when seated. Not so on my Hunter 46 with its larger navigation display. I either sit at the helm seat and look around the navigation display, stand up OR sit on the lazarette adjacent to the helm seat.
 
Apr 2, 2021
152
Hunter 38 Ft. Pierce
My dodger top is in my direct eye line. I'm going to raise it but even then not a complete solution. I may end up fabricating something to place on top of the seat behind the helm, but will need to make sure it is secure and won't fly around if not being used.
 
Apr 8, 2011
453
Hunter 36 Deale, MD
I have a similar boat to yours - a 2009 H36. And I agree, the helm seating is nearly hopeless - seated behind the pedestal you are blind. The bimini reduces in height to reach the dodger and the pedestal requires you to stand to see over it. That said, some things I've done:

1. Use the autopilot a lot, and buy/install an electronic remote so you can steer from anywhere on the boat. This is somewhat limited, as your course corrections will necessarily be small due to the controls, but very handy. I also consider this both a safety and comfort item. Safety as I can steer from wherever the best visibility is to see traffic and obstructions (my 135 genoa can cover a good bit of the forward view, even though its cut a little high), and comfort as its nice to be under the dodger when it gets really wet or windy and cold outside.

2. Buy a purpose made helm seat. I purchased a Bottomsiders Saddle Helm cushion from this site a few months ago when they auctioned off merchandise. I'm not sure, but I think Bottomsiders is out of business, but these guys make similar ones which will still require you to sit a little off to the side, but help a lot: C Cushions - Custom cockpit cushions for boats

3. If your cockpit canvas is in multiple parts, like mine is, it may help to remove one or more while under sail in fair weather. I find that if I remove the stepdown canvas from the bimini to the dodger it provides much better visibility to me (5'6" tall) or any number of friends over 6' tall when standing at the helm hand steering. I also roll up my center window on my dodger to give me an unobstructed view in fair weather (it also improves airflow through the cockpit).

4. I find my instruments when hand steering are very handy and easy to see. Curious to know what your configuration is. Speed and depth are forward over the companionway on separate instruments in line of sight when looking forward, the autopilot and wind instrument angled up to me at my waist at the helm pod. The chartplotter angled up to me right at chest height when standing. I dislike where the engine "instruments" are located in the coaming to starboard as they can be blocked by seated passengers (and my Yanmar B panel has no temp or pressure gauge, just idiot lights and a tach - though I may upgrade this). But I shoo passengers aside there and they quickly learn. If you will be hand steering for any length of time its nice to have a standing pad (like those made for kitchens) to take the pressure off your feet. Boat shoes (or bare feet) aren't generally very supportive.
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,487
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
To add to the last post, have your local canvas shop fabricate a fit-for-purpose cushion is contoured to the helm seat to a height acceptable to you and strapped to the seat using snaps. Also have them modify the dodger to give you a larger window as you suggested AND, if necessary, modify the instrument locations head of the wheel to optimize your visibility while sitting at the helm behind the wheel.
 

Ward H

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Nov 7, 2011
3,083
Catalina 30 Mk II Barnegat, NJ
My C30 had the same problem. The helm seat was flat. It had a hump seat cushion that was worn out. I layered up throwable seat cushions until I had a seat high enough. I then took the 4 throwable cushions apart, stacked up the insides and sewed a cover to fit. I ended up with a 12" tall cushion. I talked to a couple of cushion makers like C-Cushions, or maybe even them, at boat shows. They all said they could only make a cushion 6-8" tall max.
Here's a photo of my cushion.
IMG_2168.jpeg
 
May 25, 2012
3,789
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
i have a great helm seat with options to sit to either side, all comfortable. great 360 view when either standing or sitting. i demand it this way, that's just me. i love the sailing of my vessel, love doing it by hand. ... and i'm good. :cool:

1627586490420.png


nephew driving

1627586600102.png
 
May 24, 2004
6,752
CC 30 South Florida
Here was my solution and it works great!
We did the same thing except latter upgraded to a chair with armrests. The beauty of the installation is that the chair and post can be easily removed and the seat converted back to a transom step. To cover the bolts that protruded from the seat when used as a step we used rubber grate tiles epoxied to the bottom of the seat.
 
Oct 22, 2014
15,751
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I’m restless.

I am rarely seated behind the helm. Sitting on the Starboard or Port side means it is difficult to watch the opposite side.

When I was attacked by a local fishing boat coming out of the fog. I was seated on the Starboard side of the cockpit. It is what saved me and my boat from a terrible event.

The best seat in the house now is the corner pulpit seats.
40CF801E-1CA6-45D1-9062-78ACEDE60783.jpeg
I give the task of wheel turning to the AP. I can control the AP now using a remote. This has resolved my visibility issue.

But I’m still restless finding myself moving about the boat to various places, keeping my situational awareness of what is happening on the boat as well as around the boat.
 
Dec 25, 2000
4,982
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
Ditto John's comments. Hard to sit in one spot for any length of time. Trimming, bow sweeps, etc. Our 150 deck sweeper Genoa keeps me on my toes. But, I did make rail seats for our boat port and starboard in order to offer good visibility while under sail. The windward side seems to work the best. Hunter 42 Owner Modifications and Upgrades
 
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RoyS

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Jun 3, 2012
1,134
Hunter 33 Steamboat Wharf, Hull, MA
I also insist on being able to see clearly from a seated position behind the helm. To this end I installed a proper captains helm seat, tossed the dodger, and raised the head sail so that I could see the water around me. I sail in an area polluted with lobster pots. Regarding the dodger, unless your boat is prone to splash coming over the bow and into the cockpit you would be better off without it IMHO.
DDF94486-25BB-4AEE-B33D-2AB4A27EA136.jpeg
 
Apr 11, 2010
854
Hunter 38 Whitehall MI
We have a couple of these on our 38. Use them when sitting in the cockpit reading or sometimes down below when I need a little more back support.
I also use it when at the helm. Raises me up a few inches and provides back support. Like others have said I use the autopilot a lot but there are times in certain seas when the autopilot struggles or has to work to hard so I hand steer and this seat comes in handy for that

 
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Dec 25, 2000
4,982
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
May 24, 2004
6,752
CC 30 South Florida
No deck sweepers for a coastal cruising boat. I keep tacks and trim adjustments to a minimum, I'll motor sail to keep speed up. The majority of my movements are to the head, the fridge and back to the helm. I do appreciate the comfort of the Captain's chair in those long hauls. The AP does the steering but I seat mostly behind the wheel because it is the most comfortable seat in the cockpit and it affords a good view around me. If I had to choose between the the chair and the bimini top, sorry to say the chair would be gone overboard. We use the dodger only a few times a year and when on the boat it is mostly folded. In other words, do the changes that will work for you.
 
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MFD

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Jun 23, 2016
56
Hunter 41DS Seattle
The pics here look like a powerboat thread, not a sailing thread?

If you are really sailing, you are going to be wanting to be standing for a variety of reasons. For other times, the invisible crewman 'Otto' works just great?
 
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Sep 30, 2016
10
Hunter 36 Westbrook, CT
The previous owner of our boat designed this seat for our 08 H36 which we have since also replicated for an 03 H356 with some minor modifications. This is very comfortable for us to sit on as well as lean on at the helm. When we need access to the swim step it can stow under the dodger. Our dodger is very tall so easy to see under even for my over 6 ft tall husband.
 

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Nodak7

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Sep 28, 2008
1,181
Hunter 41DS Punta Gorda, FL
The pics here look like a powerboat thread, not a sailing thread?

If you are really sailing, you are going to be wanting to be standing for a variety of reasons. For other times, the invisible crewman 'Otto' works just great?
MFD well that sounds good from a "pure sailing" perspective but on long transits standing for 10 -16 hours is not an option!