Pearson 424 vs Celestial 44
Paul, hello again...
"Do you find that the large cockpit is a serious asset? Liablity? Am I making too much of the small Celestial cockpit?"
I guess the short version is Yes, No, Yes. Your friend is correct that a cockpit - in temperate climates, at least - is almost always in use and it''s the logical place to host friends in the anchorage, eat your meals, and lounge about...which makes WHOOSH''s large cockpit a bonus. (You haven''t mentioned the three cavernous cockpit lockers, which are an even more appreciated benefit of a 424 cockpit).
The conventional view is that a large cockpit offshore is a liability, altho'' I think it depends on multiple factors. If you really are hoping to circle the boat, then I could understand it being viewed as a significant liability. Hoever, we''ve had the misfortune of filling our cockpit multiple times and I''ve been doubly surprised by how little impact it had on the boat''s buoyancy back aft AND on how quickly it emptied. That''s one reason we decided it was of little significance when deciding on an in-season Atlantic Crossing. (And as implied above, neither of the 424''s that circled suggested this was a problem issue for them).
The biggest (potential, but not guaranteed) advantage of the small Celestial cockpit is that it can work better for bracing, whether shifting about when working the wheel, vane, sheets, etc. or when trying to get comfortable. Offshore that''s the disadvantage of a large cockpit...but there are ways to minimize this (wood cleats on the cockpit sole for bracing, e.g.). OTOH I find ''most'' of our cockpit is being used when we''re both spread out, reading and watchstanding, and with some room left for tweaking the sails or adjusting course. It''s just the nature of the beast that most center cockpits are high(er), further forward (near that wet bow wave and what comes aft), require companionway ladders too steep to be as safe at sea, and make a convenient run to the chart table, the galley or to wake or talk with the offwatch an inconvenient hassle...all of which are offshore issues. On the hook, they make a nice perch...but as you point out, perhaps less so when you''ve got company aboard and it''s overly full.
Let me know if the other info would be helpful for you.