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Old 09-09-2002
NautTwilight NautTwilight is offline
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Pilothouse--Are Builders Missing Market?

I doubt the free enterprise system ever misses a market. The market for new boats, however, seems to be dominated by the biggest boats at the lowest price, and a pilothouse costs a bit more to build.

While there is no overwhelming need for a pilothouse for fairweather cruising on the Chesapeake, or short coastal hops, I believe a well-designed pilothouse sailboat is ideal for shorthanded offshore and extended coastal passages, but it seems most cruisers can''t afford a new boat, so they have to adapt what''s already available

Too many pilothouse designs appear to be adaptations of more conventional sailboat designs. Even well-regarded builders such as Shannon, Pacific Seacraft, Valiant, Cabo Rico and Tayana have produced these. Others have built heavy, chubby "motorsailors" resembling trawlers with sails.

I believe Siltala Yachts of Finland, who produces the Nauticat line of pilothouse sailboats from 32 to 52 feet LOA (in addition to the Nauticat line of 33-44ft. "motorsailors"), got it right ( I have a Nauticat 42 on order).

Starting in the 1980''s, Siltala began building a line of pilothouse sailboats designed from the keel up by Sparkman and Stevens as pilothouse sailboats. The current line consists of in-house designs that appear to emphasize performance even more. The pilothouses are low in profile and the cockpit helm is placed to allow unobstructed visibility forward. The interiors of the pilothouses benefit from the "Deck Salon" concept (and they have been doing it for almost 20 years). The large, accessible engine and ample tankage is low and centered. Unlike the current "Deck Salon" boats, however, these are designed to be steered, and navigated from the pilothouse. Though it''s no place to be steering while tacking up a narrow channel, I''ve never had trouble sailing from a pilothouse with the aid of wind instruments.

Nothing seems more absurd than scurrying up and down the companionway ladder like a crazed hampster, taking bearings topside and plotting them below in the so-called navstation, all because the cockpit is too windy or wet to manage a chart. Maybe that''s why virtually all workboats have some form of pilothouse.

Even this latest generation of Nauticats is on the heavy side, but that is partly due to their totally uncored hull and deck, powerful engines and long-range tankage. Nonetheless, our test sail revealed surprising performance under sail and power, far superior to the similarly heavy Island Packet we had just chartered, and featured better build quality for a similar price.

I''ve paid my wet and cold dues, and a flimsy cockpit enclosure just won''t do, thank you. Besides, how can you possibly keep a responsible lookout through those distorted plastic windows?
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