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Pilothouse in the PNW

Jul 25, 2013
135
Macgregor 26S near Vancouver, BC
My wife and I have been been sailing a trailerable boat in the Vancouver area for a couple of years, mainly on Harrison Lake and Indian Arm. We plan to move up to something bigger in a few years when we have the time for longer cruises. Our experience so far has biased us in favour of pilothouses because, outside of a few months in the summer, we've found that we're out in rain quite a bit and also motoring more than I thought we would. There are some quite nice pilothouses around in our size and price range--Gulf 29, Saturna/Truant 33, Cooper 353, Tanzer 10.5. But it seems clear that, dollar for dollar, you get more boat with a "conventional" layout. You can nearly get two decent C&C 33s for the cost of a Truant 33. And I notice that even here, where pilothouses make more sense than probably anywhere else in North America, they're still relatively uncommon. So would I regret a pilothouse? If I can get a newer "conventional" layout with a canvas enclosed cockpit will I be happier in the long run?
 
Jul 27, 2011
3,402
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
From a few summer charters, or with local friends, I’ve noticed that powerboats dominate the “distant” locales. Realizing that you will be in rainy weather and motoring much of the time, the choice between a space-challenged pilothouse sailboat and a trawler of the same length, or nearly so, goes to the trawler or some other model with similar accommodations. I think the cockpit enclosure “splits” the difference, so to speak. But the folks we’ve met in BC traveling in pilothouse sloops, a total of two, have said they love ‘em.
 
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Jan 25, 2011
2,019
S2 11.0A Anacortes, WA
My opinion and take it for what it’s worth...A pilot house with inside steering is nice for the PNW during inclement weather..However, you can’t sail from inside. At least very effectively..From the cockpit, looking fwd in good weather, you have to look over the house. Deck access could be difficult. A lot of sailors like them as when down below, you are still looking outside instead of being inside a hull. With a “conventional” layout, you can install a dodger such that you can get out of weather and breaking water under power. I can stand in the companionway and drive the boat under autopilot with a remote. I could also enclose the cockpit if I want. When things are “favorable”, fouly up and get wet and sail! And a pilot house has more windage...It all comes down to what kind of sailing you want to do..
 
Oct 22, 2014
10,380
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
@Tedd I think Mark and KG hit the nail on the head. It is a question of taste or compromise.

There are a variety of boats with a pilothouse feel. But you may have to look at older designs. I found my Cal 35Cruiser in Seattle. It has the look of a pilot house, 9 big windows around the salon, but is a true sailboat. No steering or engine controls inside the salon. What is possible is to use the Autopilot and step away from the helm, step inside and still see where you are, who or what are nearby and where you are going.
69F9996D-F79C-4E3D-8A74-7033D896C632.jpeg93271BF9-4805-4894-A018-12C695A51A0A.jpeg

This works for me. When under way or sailing, I am out at the helm and when the weather sets in I am in foulies. (Or the “MUMMY” suite as my friend @JamesG161 likes to call it).

To combat the cold and wet conditions but still be sailing, you can use an enclosure. There are many boats out there that utilize this tool to create a dry and warm space around their cockpit. It is like adding a sun room. Good is that it extends their living space. It does add windage and a bit more work to get out and around the boat to manage the lines or sailing. The owners, I have talked with, that have enclosures use their boat more during the year.

I can tell you having windows that let you see what is happening around you on a cold and foggy day sipping a cup of coffee in the warmth of the salon is pretty nice.
 
May 20, 2016
2,821
Catalina 36 MK1 Everett, WA
As John says a full enclosure is much more sailing friendly than a pilot house. Plus you can unzip the sides in summer, or pipe in a diesel heater in the winter.
Alternatively look at the thread of @jssailem @Ward H and my winter cruise - dodger only in some of the snowiest weather in 50years.

 
Dec 25, 2000
3,958
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
Sail year around here and have a conventional sloop with dodger and bimini. No interest in a pilot house, have had the full cockpit enclosure and disliked it for a variety of reasons. Much prefer the dodger and bimini in all kinds of weather. Layering always helps when the temps dip low. Furnace keeps the interior cozy while on the hook.
 
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Nov 7, 2011
2,549
Catalina 30 Mk II Barnegat, NJ
Alternatively look at the thread of @jssailem @Ward H and my winter cruise - dodger only in some of the snowiest weather in 50years.
As @Terry Cox just said, dress in layers and enjoy the fresh air and view.
That's what I did on that winter cruise. I don't think I would have enjoyed it half as much if I was in a "cabin". Is it about the sailing or the destination?
 
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Dec 20, 2009
600
Hunter 466 Bremerton
In the PNW I have had both dodger/ bimini combo and the full enclosure. I find the full enclosure very flexible. Can zip on zipoff panels as required. A little buddy propane heater in the full enclosure really takes the chill off even in the worst of weather. The admiral appreciates it very much. Happy wife...
 
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Oct 19, 2017
5,213
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
I can't say that's the typical image that comes to mind when I think about sailing adventures, but it's sailing and good friends. Looks like a blast.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
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Dec 25, 2000
3,958
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
Some day when I install a USB port in my head, I'll be able to download several images and clips of my snowy, stormy, winter cruises. Perhaps when I'm out this winter, I'll capture some with my camera. Just say'n.
 
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Oct 22, 2014
10,380
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
install a USB port in my head,
I’m confused. Which head needs a USB port and why? Thought you sailed your boat like I do from the Helm.

Looking forward to a winter cruise or two.
 
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Jul 25, 2013
135
Macgregor 26S near Vancouver, BC
Thanks to everyone for all the great replies! It's great to get real-world advice from people who have extensive experience sailing in this area.

I'd like to throw out some numbers to add a little meat to the discussion. Here is a comparison of the Tanzer 10.5 (my current favourite pilothouse) with a couple of comparable "conventional" sailboats. All data is from sailboatdata.com.

Make & Model SA/D B/D D/L V_hull
C&C 33
17.6​
41.6​
237​
6.9​
Catalina 34
16.1​
41.8​
201​
7.3​
Tanzer 10.5
16.0​
43.9​
279​
7.0​

Nothing here jumps out at me as disqualifying the Tanzer from being a capable cruising sailor on par with the other two. Less sprightly than the C&C, most likely, but not very different from the Catalina. And, with its low pilothouse and high-ish cockpit (technically, it's a center cockpit design), it doesn't appear that sightlines forward from the cockpit are inordinately compromised.

What is different is that, for the same money as a Tanzer, I can probably get a somewhat newer C&C or Catalina. When I picture myself under sail on a dry day the C&C seems like the best choice, but perhaps not by very much. But when I picture myself motoring in dead calm rain the Tanzer seems leagues ahead. Am I wrong?
 
Oct 22, 2014
10,380
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Tedd. Not sure what you are considering in comparison.

Sailing speed? The general tool is to compare PHRF RATINGS.
CC33 = 135
Catalina 34 = 138
Tanzer 10.5 = 168

These indicate all things being equal the CC33 should get to the moorage ahead of the other two boats.

Draft? Getting in to shallow coves or crossing over shallow bars to passages. The Tanzer being a heavier Boat carries a deeper keel (fixed keel) than the other two.

But all this is just statistical talk. You have to like the feel of the boat. It needs to be able to do what you want to do. It needs to give you that “Ahhhhhh” moment as you approach the marina and catch that first glimpse of her waiting to take you out on the water.

If the boat doesn’t do that to your heart all the stats are of little comfort.
 
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Apr 8, 2010
1,158
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
Tedd. Not sure what you are considering in comparison.

Sailing speed? The general tool is to compare PHRF RATINGS.
CC33 = 135
Catalina 34 = 138
Tanzer 10.5 = 168

These indicate all things being equal the CC33 should get to the moorage ahead of the other two boats.

Draft? Getting in to shallow coves or crossing over shallow bars to passages. The Tanzer being a heavier Boat carries a deeper keel (fixed keel) than the other two.

But all this is just statistical talk. You have to like the feel of the boat. It needs to be able to do what you want to do. It needs to give you that “Ahhhhhh” moment as you approach the marina and catch that first glimpse of her waiting to take you out on the water.

If the boat doesn’t do that to your heart all the stats are of little comfort.
NA Bob Perry calls it "the row away factor" and it can be just as important as the rating numbers. Having said that.... having a boat with real speed under sail (or power) is really really nice.
 
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Oct 22, 2014
10,380
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
row away factor
Is that like as you row away from the boat at anchor there is a little twinkle in your eye and perhaps the beginning of a tear as you look back over the transom and have to pinch your self to be sure that boat is really yours?
 
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Apr 8, 2010
1,158
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
Is that like as you row away from the boat at anchor there is a little twinkle in your eye and perhaps the beginning of a tear as you look back over the transom and have to pinch your self to be sure that boat is really yours?
Yup!
 
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