Looking at your pic, I can see the distortiions everyone is worried about in your enclosure. I can also see where you would not want those at night (I only sail a GP14 at the moment.. so no enclosures for me), but having said that, I do not see any show stoppers as far as seeing what is out there. Keep the clear parts scratch and wrinkle free and you should be good.
I’m getting the impression that very few of the proponents of full enclosures do much, if any, sailing after dark… Like I said, it’s one thing to motor down the ICW in daylight hours inside such greenhouses, but after dark, or in fog, it’s a whole different ballgame… Entering a place like Charleston, for example, behind the passage of a cold front, sailing close hauled and taking continuous spray, it’s truly frightening how blind you can be flying, forced to peer through a narrow funhouse-effect panel of vinyl 6 or 10 feet away… So, you brighten the chartplotter display in an effort to help ensure you're not straying towards the submerged jetties to either side, which only results in becoming even more blind to the world outside the enclosure...
+1. If you're cruising - especially with family - comfort is extremely important, and is actually a safety factor in itself.
Probably just me, but I’d say the ability to be able to see where you’re going should generally trump “comfort”, and can actually be a safety factor in itself… (grin)
Jon has some good points but not sure what his big beef is other than being ugly. He even doesn't like dodgers for which I don't either (current boat doesn't have one). Having said that though, if one is cruising or liveaboard full time in cold weather or rough/bad seas where water is coming over the bow, I believe it is necessary.
“Ugly”? How can anyone think today's breed of ICW Conestoga Wagons are ugly?
Nah, I don’t mind most dodgers, though I still think a rigid windshield with a “convertible” dodger top and side panels is the overall best way to go… Scandanavian builders like Hallberg-Rassy and Malo are the ones who have really sorted that arrangement best, IMO... Unless you've cruised with such a setup for awhile, it might be difficult to appreciate its practicality, and I've always been surprised more production builders haven't followed suit. In periods of clement weather, it's surprising how little one might really "need" a dodger, and how much the absence of one opens up the boat, and can make sailing and moving about the boat much more effortless. Fold down the top when you don’t need it, rather than be stuck with a dodger all the time… A windshield alone can still afford an impressive amount of shelter from the elements. This was one of the chillier days on my trip south last year, I’d come out of Hilton Head behind the passage of a very frigid front in mid-January, but as long as I was in a position where either the windshield or weather cloths was sheltering me from the wind, I was totally comfortable… I don’t believe I ever put the dodger back up until a rain shower came thru one day in Miami Beach…
What I object to, is the inability to have a clear, unobstructed view over the top of the dodger from the helm, whenever necessary… I think anything less can be extremely dangerous… And, no - those tiny "slits" that can usually be opened with the removal of a panel between dodger and bimini don't count for nuthin'... (grin)
The utility of being able to stand up behind the dodger, on top of the cockpit seats, cannot possibly be underestimated… Just that little bit of elevation can so often be of great value, whether one is dodging lobster pots in Maine, or trying to read the water in the Bahamas… How often in an open cockpit boat, is one's first reaction to attempting to identify something in the distance, or floating on the surface, to stand up on the cockpit seats or deck level, in an effort to gain a better, clearer view?
My wife made our windows out of Strataglass. You cant roll our windows up, but they zip out, so you dont have any wrinlkling like cruisingdads. They are as clear 4 years later, as regular windows. The trick is ib their care and to use the space age portectant when polishing them which acts like rainex.
You also have to cover them when not at the boat. Theonly problem is refected light from the inside like Jon said. I highly recommend Strataglass over all the other dodger glasses.
That’s definitely the way to go, I’ve used EZ2CY for my windshield, it’s used on bridge enclosures on many of the powerboats I’ve run… Great stuff, closest there is to clear glass… However, I would guess stowing those panels for an enclosure could present a problem on many smaller boats…
One final point, a minor and all but forgotten one to many, no doubt… But IMHO, one of the greatest pleasures and more mystical experiences to be had on the water, is a night spent offshore under sail, beneath a brilliant canopy of stars, or a bright moon… To snuff that out from view, and isolate oneself from such majesty, well – just seems downright criminal, to me… That sort of communing with the world and universe outside of the boat is one of the primary reasons I'm out there to begin with, after all... And, not the least of reasons why, whenever I start a trip on a boat with such a cockpit canopy, one of the first orders of business is usually to dismantle the damn thing...
I’m certainly in the minority here, no doubt about it… Although, I would imagine Hamish and Kate Laird might get a chuckle hearing about the “necessity” of a full cockpit enclosure to motor down the Ditch late in the season… Shuttling their expedition charter vessel SEAL between Greenland and Antarctica, these folks know a thing or two about sailing in cold weather… (grin)
We are surprised to find no internal steering station. “That is because only a hydraulic system would do the job,” Kate replies, “… and we don’t want leaking hydraulic oil inside the boat. But we can use the autopilot for internal steering when the on-watch person has to be monitoring the radar. When the wind and seas are rough, however, we feel it is very important to be outside helming — with the wind on your face you can react much faster and more accurately. The other issue is that if you are already outside you are much more in tune with the weather and are more likely to reef early if conditions deteriorate.”
Seal: A Cape Horner for the 21st century - Ocean Navigator - January/February 2008