The Garcia Exploration 45 Compared to The Boréal 47—Part 4, Inside Watch Stations

The inside watch station on the Garcia. "Raise the shields, Mr. Spock".

In Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 I compared the rigs, deck layouts, cockpits, hull form and build of the two boats. If you have not yet read those three articles, please do so now with particular attention to the disclosure that the series starts with.

Now let's move on to the inside watch stations that differentiate both of these boats from most others, and the very different approaches between the two.

By the way, I was going to cover the inside watch stations and the interior in this part, but it got so long that I decided to give the watch stations their own article, particularly since I think this is one of the most important parts of any boat, particularly one designed for expedition sailing.

Even if you are not interested in buying either boat, this article will help you evaluate the watch stations on any boat, yes, even a motorboat.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Richard Elder

Hi John,
Got a good giggle out of several of your comments in this go-round.

Any design that is to be successful in the market has to start from the psychology of buyers financially qualified to buy the product. When I designed the interior of my Lightspeed 58 catamaran I placed an adjustable leather seat from an offshore powerboat surrounded by an array of instruments and screens positioned directly in front of the salon entry. It was very rare for a male to head toward any other zone of the boat, and by the time he was seated on the helm throne surrounded by his toys he was already sold. Now to seduce the “decision maker”. My galley was located in the aft corner of the salon, surrounded by windows and facing a table that could party 10. Any cook who likes to socialize would never accept being banished to an in-hull galley again! Looks like the advertising department at Garcia had some of the same psychological tricks up their sleeves. LOL

Since the Garcia marketing image is one of ultramodern high technology, why not make use of technology to overcome its visibility shortcomings? I’m thinking a 5′ high, pole- mounted digital camera system mounted on the bow forward of the forestay. Multiple GoPros– motion stabilized and feeding 300 degree images to screens mounted in the console of the interior vessel management office. Active water rejection technology employed to maintain clear vision during rain or wave and salt

Since the Garcia apparently is intended to be operated by 5-8 paying or professional crew, we could enlarge the tiny little dodger and its gun slit windows into a proper shelter for them. They would have no need to venture outside except to stow the sheets from the self-tailing winches, since repeaters from the inside vessel management office would provide all the necessary information.

Speaking of visibility, can you really see out of the Boreal doghouse windows during a downpour of rain or after they have been salt-caked from spray being thrown up from the bow? Curved windows look sexy and are stronger, but how do you fit windshield wipers or North Sea active view ports to them?

And it looks like both the Garcia and Boreal have managed to end their dodgers at the perfect location so all rain and accumulated spray will drip exactly on your neck.

Once we ran out of trick things to do on a mega-motorsailor project the owner commissioned us to devise a means for him to keep track of his skipper while the boat was in Antarctica and he was sitting at his computer in East Orange New Jersey. We ended up with a custom built computer system that continually monitored 50 aspects of the vessel operations from oil pressure to the temperature of the skipper’s bunk and sent them across the world by Sat-link. Ain’t technology wonderful…

Once a cynic always a cynic—-.

Alan Sexton

I would like to see the “chart table” top of the Boreal kept clear of instruments.
This could be achieved by mounting them on the centre window mullion or depending on type, hanging from the overhead. The radar display would be a good candidate for the latter with a swivelling/hinged bracket positioned so it can be adjusted to be seen from the wheelhouse seat or from the helm
Alternatively a shelf top could be extended from the windscreen base as a mounting base allowing charts to slide under.

Rain-X is a good product to keep the windows clear.

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Alan,
Good comment !
I would say “done before” with the screen mounted to a bracket positioned between the two windows of the doghouse….

James Peto

Whilst sailing from Norway to Svalbard four up we always had two on watch, one at the helm and the other continually scanning ahead for logs/ice -tiring but safe and it is not only in such places where danger lurks having nearly collided with a drifting container off Ushant
I wonder why Boreal does not have windows in the side extensions of the Dog House as anyone sitting in the corner can only see fore and aft but not sideways – having said that I would give my eye teeth to have owned a Boreal.

Jean-François Eeman

Hi James,
Thank you for nice comment.
On the roof of the doghouse we have a build-in dorade which vents the two aft cabins…
The conducts do take some space and as we have a block for the main sheet on the top of the roof of the doghouse we need some structure… I hope this helps you understanding.

Charles Doane

John: Thanks for the blog plug; that’s very kind of you. Comment one on this subject as you’ve framed it: it’s basically apples and oranges, as I would not characterize the Garcia’s nav desk as a watchstanding station. It is a nav station with a view, similar say to the nav desks you find on many catamarans these days. You can spend a part of the watch there, but you cannot do the whole job from there, for all the reasons you point out. On my passage with Jimmy, which was in warm weather, I don’t remember anyone spending much time at the nav desk while on watch, with the exception of Jimmy, who sat in that seat behind that desk much of the time he was awake, tending to business. He, like Richard above, had a custom seat installed and made good use of it.

The Boreal’s doghouse, on the other hand, is a genuine watchstanding station, for all the reasons you cite. It is one of the boat’s very best features. If you want to install a lot of electronics in it, dedicated plotters with huge screens, you may well be frustrated. It works best with minimal small displays and perhaps a laptop that can be folded up and put away for bigger displays and images. I personally keep my electronics small and limited and segregated. Plus an iPad. And I always have charts laid out on the right side of the desk. No big screens. The space works great this way.

Like you I am tall with a lower back that ain’t what it used to be, and my one critique of the doghouse is that there isn’t quite enough space for me to sit fully and comfortably upright. If I sit in there a long time, slightly hunched over, my back complains. I’ve considered cutting down the nav seat a wee bit to address this, but probably won’t. The lack of perfect comfort keeps me moving around, in and out of the cockpit, which is the best way to use the space. My standard routine on watch on the Boreal in good conditions is to shuttle between a seat under the dodger roof watching electronics in the dog house and standing up from time to time to have a good look around, standing behind the wheel with a full view of the sails, and hanging in the doghouse.

In cold or bad conditions I spend a lot more time in the doghouse. I’ve waited out a few squalls in there without ever stepping outside, without feeling I am cheating, because the cockpit is so close. One neat trick I’ve found: you can easily monitor headsail trim by jumping down into the saloon and peering up out of the forward saloon windows, which afford a clear view of the top of the headsail.

I don’t find the doghouse to be a good “office.” If I need to spend a lot of time writing or working on ship’s business I use the saloon table below, where there is still a great view. The Garcia’s nav desk, on the other hand, is a great office. It’s what it is best at. Plenty of headroom there. I believe the standard layout, however, has you sitting on a bench seat, part of the saloon settee, with no backrest. To really revel in it you’ll need a custom chair like Jimmy put in.

When sailing singlehanded I do not try to sleep much in the doghouse. I sack out in a portside aft cabin berth, close to the working side of the nav station, with my radar and AIS alarms set nice and loud. It works well enough, except when the engine is running. Then I get nervous, as the berth is right by the engine, and I don’t sleep as much. As you point out, singlehanding on the Garcia would be a bit easier, as you can crash right next to the electronics and are also well away from the engine.

Richard Elder

Hi Charles & John
Are you aware that marketing research has shown a substantial positive correlation between height and wealth? For you of the wealthier (smarter?) stature perhaps a blown plexi bubble or canopy like many Open 60’s use is the answer. It need not be very tall– just prudently placed at the proper point in the Boreal dog house overhead. And unless you want your brains cooked it could be painted over.

When trying to get completely out of the wind and rain under the port side of the Boreal dodger the problem is that the seat (of necessity) is pushed too far outboard by the hinged door. Like most problems there is always a $$olution. Just redesign the hinged door as a sliding door with an internal mechanism to articulate the closing dogs.. Since it now lives in a pocket there is plenty of room to move the seat inboard where there is adequate headroom.

Richard Elder

Hi John
A sliding pocked door as I would design it would dog down onto the gasket at all four corners with a turn of a single rotary handle, thus making it even more waterproof than a simple hinged door. That is why I characterize it as $$imple rather than simple!

P D Squire

Thanks John. As a comparison of two nice yachts this is interesting. But the real takeaway for me from this chapter is what to look for in a watch station.

Is there comfortable head, knee, and elbow room in the Boreal to get all your wet gear off, and somewhere to hang it to dry before heading below?

Perhaps one of the head-up-displays designed to project a tablet onto a car windscreen might have application on the Boreal.

P D Squire

You’re right of course; we don’t want to be looking at instruments all the time. I thought sonar and radar might be useful but the Boreal’s bulkhead alongside is probably the ideal location; handy but not obstructive.

I wonder if the fwd-facing sonar systems are yet sophisticated enough to activate their screens only on alarm (eg Ice or submerged container ahead) and remain dim or blank the rest of the time.

Marc Dacey

Ice, no, but I have seen a boat’s hull crossing ours with our FLS, or at least its fin keel. Distance was about two boat lengths and depth was about six metres. I thought it was a fluke, but I am getting good results seeing gaps in seawalls and the base of the larger sort of nav aid, so I think there’s a non-zero chance of “seeing” a slab-sided, 2.5 metre draft object such as an awash container in a reasonably flat sea. Enough to do something in time about it is a different question, but considering I just wanted to have FLS for reef heads anchoring ground examinations, I’m finding it a bit more informative than I thought it would be.

Of course, I’d have to find an awash container to do a proper test…

Charles Doane

Re a wet locker on the Boreal: no way can you fit one in the doghouse. On my boat we use the aft head just at the foot the companionway below the doghouse as a wet locker. A compromise, for sure, as sometimes you want to use the head for other things. But with just one set of foulies hanging in there i’s not normally a problem. Sometimes the forward head (just a shower space on our boat) also gets used, but it obviously is much less convenient to the doghouse.



Eric Klem

Hi John,

I think that this series does a great job illustrating to potential buyers how important the implementation of a design is and not just the basic spec like having an inside watchkeeping station.  Part of this is undoubtedly due to the disagreement on what the real requirements of watchkeeping are and their priority relative to other requirements.  But a large part is in the trade-offs that the designer made in trying to come up with the best compromise design.

In engineering, for a  design of something like a pilothouse, we would do a lot of workflow analysis and then a lot of human factors work.  This would include defining what is done at what station and when and then doing things like understanding how many trips down below it requires, how disruptive to others people it is, how often the sheltered station is not appropriate and how often the user will use a non-appropriate station.  The whole field of human factors has really been exploding recently and there are large teams of people who now work on this.  One of the great things is that there are now published materials that provide good guidelines to designers on everything from reasonable actuation forces for a person in different positions to button layouts to body position for sitting information.  Being a guy who designs mechanisms for capital equipment, I have to go through defining workflows quite regularly but don’t get into direct user interfaces all that often.  It can be frustrating to have the extra requirements coming from human factors but it does lead to a better product and it is now a regulatory requirement in some industries.  I can’t speak to how formally this is done in boat design but my suspicion is that except for top race boats, it probably isn’t done all that much.


Eric Klem

HI John,

I suspect that you are right on the fact that a really well thought out boat doesn’t really sell.  But I also suspect that there is something else going on which is that most boat manufacturers and their consumers are unwilling to spend the money on the design that would be required to get to that point.  Just looking at how many people work in many of the design offices and how many designs a year they put out, the actual number of hours on a design is quite low.  Contrast that to many other areas in the industries that I have experience where design can be 5-10 years with a lot of people working on it and the man hours can be 1-2 orders of magnitude more.  It is a little hard to compare level of complexity of design so it is not a really fair comparison but it is interesting to think about.  On human factors, it would not be uncommon to spend the amount of man hours that I suspect is the equivalent of the total design effort on a lot of boats.

As to Jean-François Eeman’s comment I agree that there is no need at all to apologize for it.  It appears that their family wanted something practical and as such they ended up with a boat that many of us admire.


Richard Elder

Hi Eric
Your comments about workflow analysis (and the lack of same in yacht design) are spot on. All proper design should start from the physical characteristics of the humans who are going to use it, and in the case of yachts– from the demands of the ocean in the places the vessel will operate. The best solutions can be quite different depending upon use profile. The Beneteau Sense series cockpit design may indeed be ideal for unskilled bareboat operators to party in the sun in the VI, but life threatening for a delivery crew to bring down from New England in November.

To take an example other than the issue of watch keeping stations, why is it that virtually every 30-60′ sailboat has it’s head mounted athwart ships? it is not that boats don’t heel. It certainly is not that the head is easier to use when on the unfavorable tack. Most likely it is because early yacht designers noticed that there was a place partly hidden under the side deck that didn’t allow standing headroom but could provide a place to tuck the toilet into. Once the fashion was established the yacht artichokes didn’t bother to give it another thought.

Or to take another example from the world of design fashions for the ultra rich. In Jackson Hole there is a recently built new home situated on 30 acres of meadow land and forest.
It is an architectural award winner, contains over a million dollars in sliding glass walls, and is valued at 18 million $$$. Like most architectural designs, the concept originated from cardboard models and computer exterior renderings from the point of view of an outside viewer. However it is situated in a high elevation mountain valley where clouds of mosquitoes are a summer long feature every year. If the owners actually try to live in it they cannot open the million dollar sliding walls because they are too large to be screened and the house will become uninhabitable if they are opened.

All proper design solutions need to start from function and grow “organically” from that basis.

Marc Jackson

I really like this site as it is a fertile garden for the rare fruit called “common sense.” A subscription is worth every penny and then some. However, many of the articles and comment threads can easily be reduced to one conclusion…Why can’t I just buy a A40?

Edward Tewkesbury


A masterful series on these two boats. Not only a comparison, but an in-depth analysis of many aspects of both boats, with a who’s who array of contributors — including one boat’s builder, no less — to add more depth. And you’ve been able to merge a blog with a book with a forum. Very interesting and very compelling.

A perspective and 2 questions, please.

The perspective — These boats are built for and marketed to round-the-world and/or arctic dreamers, and I totally get that. But I come at this from a very different and simpler perspective. What if I want a boat I can sail on the east coast of the US, maybe to the Canadian maritimes, maybe to the Bahamas and beyond, with year-round sailing capability? Shoal draft, some climate-controlled space in which to escape temperature extremes and precipitation and big wind, and the ability to hop outside to make 1-2 day ocean passages. And maybe I don’t want a marina-bound look-alike. These boats — and few others — fit the bill.

Q1 – I get wanting to put the chain road more aft, away from the bow. But how would a crew of one knock mud off the chain in a muddy anchorage as anchor is weighed? Plus, I always have to spin the anchor around to nestle into the bow roller flukes down, it seems. With the foot controls way back by the windlass, how does one do that?

Q2 – Jimmy Cornell says his Garcia X45 was meant for the Arctic and the tropics. Yet I can’t discern any on-board climate control for tropical conditions outside the high season. I hate to sound like a wimp, but I’ve tried to sail in the Ches. Bay in August. Can one really deal with 90 degrees and 90% humidity on these N. Europe boats without air conditioning?

Thanks for your efforts! Keep up the good work!

Ted in NC

Charles Doane

Hi Ted: I weigh anchor singlehanded on my B47 all the time. I stand at the bow with a washdown hose (stows away in the forepeak) and blast the mud off as the chain comes aboard. I control the windlass with a remote control (which also allows me to drop anchor from the wheel—a very handy gadget). I carry a Spade anchor, it spins about and seats itself properly in the bow roller with no help from me.

Tiit Lepp

At first, thank You, John, for these articles. For me, one Garcia’s disadvantage is that in bad weather, wet clothes to reach the navstation is not good. Lot of water on saloon etc. On the other hand on Boreal instruments on left side for me uncomfortable, with full gear on it’s hrad to turn your body (95 kg). Otherwise Boreal’s navstation is very comfy and secure and nice place for wtach.