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  #1  
Old 12-25-2012
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Are Centre Cockpits Good?

I'm looking for a good bluewater boat that is somewhere between 42' and 52' or there abouts. I started a couple of months ago and realized that I had quite a long list of boat prejudices. I have been able to overcome most of them. For example, wood, steel, and aluminum can be okay - maybe even very good. Sloops don't necessarily rule the world - I would be much happier with a cutter or a ketch, or even a schooner. Staterooms with sea berths are not a waste of space - they're excellent for stowage, a workshop, and sometimes even for sleeping. Sprits are not passé and ugly, they are very useful and even beautiful. On and on my rehab goes.

The one that is giving me the most trouble is the centre cockpit! I have enough bluewater experience to know that rough seas and high winds gets the helmsman cold and wet even in the aft cockpit of a 57' boat - I can imagine what it would be like in a CC. The CC is more prone to filling with seawater and probably slower to drain. It's probably more ergonomically difficult to eyeball the mainsail. I can go on with why centre cockpits are bad and the only good thing I can think of is that the pitching motion of the boat is kinder to the helmsman.

I had the chance to sail a CC Swan to Morocco, but had to decline so I've never sailed a CC boat in my life. Can someone please fill me in on the virtues (if any) of a CC? Or are they really just bad things for an ocean going sailboat? Remember, I'm talking about bluewater and crossings, not just coastal sailing. I saw a beautiful cold moulded Van der Stadt 52 that I can't buy because it has a CC

Thank you for all helpful insight.

FM
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Old 12-25-2012
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

I think the main reason for them is the private aft cabin rather than any benefit on deck. They frequently have very big engine compartments under the CC as well.
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Old 12-25-2012
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

Yes your prejudices have limited you a lot.

What can one say? It appears you have painted yourself into a corner.
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Old 12-25-2012
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

I've ocean sailed both extensively; center cockpit and aft cockpit.
A center cockpit boat will rarely ship water in the cockpit as it's higher and with a good dodger won't be wet. In large following seas you're unlikely to get a wave break into the cockpit and the motion amidships is kinder. Almost all aft cockpit cruisers we see have cloth panels alongside the cockpit to reduce the spray, an indication of wetness.
Obviously, visibility from the center cockpit is much better and though many aft cockpit cruisers tout the ease of docking, being lower and closer to the stern for getting a line to the dock, I almost always use a spring line as my first line to a dock, which is more convenient with a center cockpit.
As mentioned above the aft cabin in a center cockpit boat is a pretty nice feature and they usually provide a better machinery space under the cockpit as well.
I doubt that I'd choose a boat just because it had a center cockpit, but it would definitely be in the plus column, especially if I wanted a really comfortable bed in a nice aft cabin.
I look for liveaboard comfort at anchor (so many lovely looking, high performance cruising boats are horribly uncomfortable at anchor even in a mild swell), sea-kindliness and construction quality first, putting aside esthetics. We do not have one of the prettiest boats in an anchorage, but we do have one of the most comfortable and she's a pretty good sailing boat too; pictured above doing about 8 knots sailing into Admiralty Bay, Bequia.

Last edited by capta; 12-25-2012 at 12:16 PM.
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Old 12-25-2012
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

Generally a center cockpit is much higher above the spray, and pretty much 100 percent have enclosures that provide protection from anything a prudent skipper is going to sail through. My little dinky 38 ft center cockpit has four 2 inch drains, not that I expect it to ever take waves over the stern that would fill it's 8 foot by 6 foot space.

That enclosed cockpit provides an additional room on the boat with a 360 degree view - and because you are centered on the boat you have a much better sight line to all corners - makes for easy of maneuvering. Generally a sailboat pivots about where the helm is on a center cockpit - add that to the list of pluses.
Okay, now that I've destroyed the list of negatives you have provided:

The full sized aft cabin with walk around berth with overhead ventilation is an added benefit, show me one like that on a monohull and I'll show you a view of peoples ankles in the cockpit (i.e. lack of privacy). The aft deck is a porch at anchor and a wonderful storage platform underway.

That wonderfully stable secure, and dry cockpit that has less pitch than a monohull has a drawback of course, less vomit on the sole. So, if you are into the vomit deal from pitching and soaked crew go it.
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Old 12-25-2012
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

Quote:
That enclosed cockpit provides an additional room on the boat with a 360 degree view - and because you are centered on the boat you have a much better sight line to all corners -
Many trade offs here and each boat handles it differently

As my wife and i look at boats in the 42 ft range the option of getting a center cockpit boat is more readily available so I have tried doing some do dilligence and travel in a few.

Agree on the better 360 view, only because you are higer though....disagree on the sight line to all corners, the bow yes, you are closer, but in an aft cockpit you are at the stern and closer therefore you also have a better sight line of the stern too,

The volume of room for a large large aft cabin is undeniable and a nice feature. Because we will only cruise to the Carribean and will not be at sea for extreme long trips, this feature is appealing to have a nice aft cabin with headroom. However for a blue water cruising boat spending a lot of time at sea, this would be less desirable IMHO and something where there would be seaberths more appropriate.

One place that gets sacrificed in center cockpit boats I have noticed is the galley and the salon space. Some of ther center cockpit boats have straight line galleys and some even located in the area leading back to the aft stateroom. I prefer a U shape or L shape galley you can safely work in under way. generally salon space on the center cockpit boats is 1/4 less than aft cockpit boats. Since this is where I spend most of my time below when awake this enters into the decision also.

In terms of seward motion I am having a difficult time understanding how being up higher in a center cockpit boat creates less side to side motion than being lower in an aft cockpit boat. being closer to the centerline of the fore to aft motion yes, I get that part, being higher can not be less motion for the side to side motion. Seems like a tradeoff.

In the boats I have traveled on I found the lower freeboard of the aft cockpit seemed to have an easier seaward motion than the pitching of the center cockpit in most conditions. Also the angle of heel as you got to 12 degrees seemed to exaggerate the motion on a center cockpit boat more than an aft cockpt boat. It may have just been the boats I was on, but the exagerated height of the boom off the water thus the wind pressure at a higher point made the sailing characteristics less efficient than on an aft cockpit boat with the main and boom closer to the water. The main sail covered more of the area from the mast head to the base of the mast thus spreading the loads lower on the boat. This was more noticeable to me in gust situations. Many of the center cockpit boats also had less sail area as the booms were substantially shorter than aft cockpit boats which seemed to have stronger sail plans.

In terms of spray...I found the center cockpit boats actually more susceptable as you were way closer to the bow. On a 40 ft CC you are 22 feet from the bow as opposed to 38ft on and aft cockpit. In additon the windage that a fully protected center cockpit cabin has has is far greater than a streamline aft cockpit presents. Its also easier to see the mainsail shape/ masthead on an aft cockit boat both with dodgers. On the CC you are almost blind to the main unless you stick your head out the back from under the dodger. Also you tend to have greater difficulty seeing under the jib on a CC leaving you with a much larger blind spot on your bow quarter. I found this somewhat disconcerting when approaching crab pot infesteed areas on the Chesapeake close hauled. It was difficult seeing behind the jib. This decreased visability under way may be what eventually decides it for me. Using a jib with a high cut clue could allieviate this of course.

Deck room the centercockpit has a greater amount of usable space behand the cockpit which is fun for stoage, hanging out and many options. Aft cockpit however have greater space foward of the dodger area. Aft cockpit boats have easier access to the main sail and boom. Afft cockpit seems easier to egress also. Drainage is better on Aft cockpit in general. Less steps into the salon.

Engine compartments on center cockpits seem to have better acccess except where on the aft cockpits the engines are located below the soles.

For us each boat is different. I love the rear berths of the CC, whether it is worth the tradeoff in other areas I am not sure. My wife and I need a nice berth, walk around may not be what we need. We like the rear platform of the CC. Sea motion seems to be a toss up. Sail plan favors the aft cockpit as does visability under sail.

There is no completely perfect boat and some of the decision on center vs aft depends on personal preferences as well as the type of sailing/ cruising you will do.

Dave
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Last edited by chef2sail; 12-25-2012 at 01:43 PM.
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

Just a comment about the aft island berth. They are great at anchor.

However, underway they as absolutely unusable without lee clothes. My experience comes from a delivery of Hylas 46 from Newport RI to St Barths, via Bermuda and around most of Vancouver Island on a Hunter CC45. I have sailed Nauticat 37 with a large aft island berth; with lee clothes it is great.
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

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Originally Posted by jackdale View Post
Just a comment about the aft island berth. They are great at anchor.

However, underway they as absolutely unusable without lee clothes. My experience comes from a delivery of Hylas 46 from Newport RI to St Barths, via Bermuda and around most of Vancouver Island on a Hunter CC45. I have sailed Nauticat 37 with a large aft island berth; with lee clothes it is great.
Our center line aft cabin berth can actually slide to the lee side, which makes it quite comfortable under way. A great idea I'd never seen before.
As to visibility under way, we sail with a Yankee jib, rather high cut. The boat has a genoa which we have yet to use as there's generally too much wind down this way for the genoa anyway.
We probably sail more than most; just puttering around the West Indies we've put about 2000 miles under our keel in the last 15 months, but even at that, we're still at anchor much more than underway, so the livability of the center cockpit boat is a real plus.
It is really nice to have he separation between the guest quarters forward with their own head and ours aft that the center cockpit design allows. Obviously our 50 footer has a nice size salon, so I can't comment on that aspect of the 40 footers. However, at sea I find myself in the cockpit or trying to catch a few Z's, not hanging out in the salon, mostly.
We do have the passageway galley, which is quite usable at anytime and tack as it's narrow enough to lean on the engine room wall and wedge one securely into where you're working in the galley. We also have a safety strap, but have not used it; we weren't exactly interested in cooking in the 70 knot blow we encountered on our way to Bermuda in 2010.

Last edited by capta; 12-25-2012 at 04:03 PM.
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Re: Are Centre Cockpits Good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jackdale View Post
Just a comment about the aft island berth. They are great at anchor.

However, underway they as absolutely unusable without lee clothes. My experience comes from a delivery of Hylas 46 from Newport RI to St Barths, via Bermuda and around most of Vancouver Island on a Hunter CC45. I have sailed Nauticat 37 with a large aft island berth; with lee clothes it is great.
Just like cruising is about fixing boats in exotic locations it's also about being at anchor in exotic locations.
The 10% of the time you are sailing - and it's not downwind so you are heeled, well, that's what a salon settee is for. On the other hand, some of us actually have aft queen sized berths with splits so we and rig lee cloths (you know, like we thought ahead).

The Chief in Charge on the USNS Apache that I replaced was taken off as a loss to the Navy because his back was ruined when he slid head down to the foot of his rack which was oriented head to bow, feet to stern. Lee cloths mean nothing in the event of a huge wave, collision etc.
I had a waist belt installed in the rack - same as I used on my first ship - a submarine.
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I've wondered about this too, I have a friend who just went from a westerly center cockpit 36 to a Hans Christian 33. He finds that it is roomier, preferring the large central space over the divided one. He and his wife find it far more comfortable, especially underway with less sea sickness, a lot of which could likely be attributed to the hull, but he is certain that the cockpit position also plays a large role.

Perhaps in the larger boats the issues are quite different, at 36 there isn't a whole lot of aft deck, at least on his boat.
I still like the boat, and the layout would really work for me.

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