Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike

On days like this we need a proper seamanlike cockpit, not a party patio.
Note that our companionway boards with windows are in, not our solid ones, because we were sailing in a sheltered bay with an offshore wind (relatively smooth sea state) when this was taken. Even so, I could argue it either way.

A little while ago...OK, August...I wrote an article on voyaging sailboat deck layouts. A subject that gets way too little airtime in the cruising community, given that a good layout will contribute far more to a safe and enjoyable cruise than all the complicated gear that seems to consume more and more of our attention with each year that goes by.

I'm as guilty as anyone given that it's now December and Part 2 was conspicuous by its absence while I waffled on about induction cooking, electric winch handles, generators, and a bunch of other stuff.

Anyway, with that mea culpa out of the way, let's get back to the stuff that really matters, particularly when we get offshore far from land.

As with the last deck article, I will use the Outbound 44/46, our own McCurdy and Rhodes 56, and the Boréals, as well as some others, as a base for my thoughts.

  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  8. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
  9. Learn From The Designers
  10. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  11. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  12. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  13. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  14. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  15. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  16. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  17. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  18. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  19. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  20. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  21. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  22. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  23. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  24. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  25. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  26. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  27. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  28. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  29. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  30. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  31. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
  32. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  33. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—How It’s Working Out
  34. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  35. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  36. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?
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David Bangsberg

Hi John, What are your thoughts on the new Boreal 47.2? Cockpit is much larger than the 47. Apparently there is a additional set of drain holes and also not an open cockpit, water can flow around the swim platform when up. Thanks, David

Michael Lambert

Since I’m waiting on one I’ve thought about it too, but I’ve decided/justified that it’s more or less a cross shaped pool, not as much volume as it could have had given its fuller stern. I haven’t started bothering them in earnest yet so idk, but I wonder too if the stern platform can be rigged with bungees(and magnets!) to open when pushed upon by water….

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David Bangsberg

I think it would simpler to simply fabricate a permanent hole/slot in the swim platform in line with the central companion way so the water flows out the transom. I will be interested in plugging the drain holes and taping the gaps between the swim platform and transom, filling the transom up with water to the brim, then undoing it all to see how long it takes to drain.

Michael Lambert

The problem there is there would then be a hole in the platform.

And John, good point about something looking solid but not. No bueno. Maybe a line run a little forward to one of those shackles that can be released under load.

Michael Lambert

Upon reflection David, a grill with a flap on the outside could be very sizable, and dump a lot of water, and not effect the use of the platform. That might be the way.

Robert Withers

Between UK and NZ, we had only one time when we got substantial amounts of water in the cockpit of our Boreal 47. Approaching Madiera, the continental shelf arrives quickly and the seas can pile up even in moderate conditions. As we approached in a F6-7, we got 2 large waves over the stern so they landed on top of me standing at the wheel. The cockpit was quite full according to my wife, but drained quickly enough for it to not to notice (I was thinking about other things!). My boots, however, were still full until we after docked

The great thing about the door compared to washboards is that it can be shut properly in a couple of seconds so there’s never any “It’s such an effort” hesitation.

George L

The door could be split into upper and lower part and the lower part kept closed in bad conditions. Alternatively, an inside washboard could be added for bad conditions.

Philip Wilkie

Our boat has a hard dodger over a door, a 200mm sill, then a Dutch door with a 250m horizontally hinged lower panel, and the balance of the door is divided into two small vertical panels. Combined with a small cockpit and huge drains, I’ve been told by the PO that it’s been filled coupled of times by boarding waves with no problems at all and it gives me a great sense of security to know this. (An aft cockpit with relatively low freeboard means that I have to be aware boarding waves are going to happen to us, not very often, but it only takes one to go wrong.)

This door arrangement is not something I’ve seen elsewhere, and while it’s not the roomiest hatch to pass through, it’s never proven a problem for anyone using it either. The two small vertical panels work very well and have very little impact on the cockpit layout.

Another thing that does irk me a lot, is the number of otherwise quite good sailors on YT who don’t put their washboards in, even in quite challenging conditions. I’d largely put this down to a general lack of awareness around the risk of sudden down-flooding; it seems like one of those blind spots the sailing community has developed over time. Yet as you say there is absolutely nothing new about this hazard.

As for that huge fat-assed party boat pictured in your article … it doesn’t look designed to leave the marina much less go offshore.

Philip Wilkie

John,

I hesitate to post this in this state; I still haven’t finished off the cockpit painting and the door/timber is going to be the last task to tackle. But it does show the layout.

Door.jpg
Dave Warnock

Philip,
Totally agree about the YouTubers who don’t have washboards in and hatch closed. They need to read the Fastnet report.

Dave Warnock

Our Rival 38 Centre Cockpit is fairly unusual in having the wheel on the forward bulkhead (companionway slightly offset to starboard). So a bit like an Amel (but cockpit is a lot smaller). Full glass windscreen and grp wheelhouse top (partially open sides, fully open back).

So what about wheel placement? Forward, middle, aft, twin?

My feeling is the better protection is going to be great hand steering in bad weather but less engaging for inshore sailing. Leaves a clear cockpit when using the windvane or autopilot but at expense of a comfy lounging seat facing aft on port side. Reach is compromised to genoa sheets and mainsheet for singlehanded sailing.

However, rock solid Whitlock gearbox and rod steering connections (and a nicely positioned underdeck chain driven Navico autopilot drive unit). So not planning any changes (which would dramatically get in the way in the aft cabin)

It does seem this is a very uncommon wheel position.

Our bridgedeck is a step plus what is essentially a lower fixed grp washboard level with the cockpit seats.

I’ve recently upgraded the cockpit drains (bad skin fittings, hose disintegrating, drains blocked). Now have 50mm TruDesign seacocks with 50mm reinforced hoses to new drains at aft of cockpit and branches leading to 36mm drain holes at forward end of cockpit.

As we have space due to switching to the much smaller electric motor I am planning to “box” in the seacocks (these are the only 2 seacocks left below the waterline) and stern tube seal to above the waterline with opening lids. Maximum hole would be if the propeller shaft fell out (it can’t go all the way as skeg in the way) which could be filled with a bung.

Net effect is to achieve a bit like the metal boats with tubes that go to above the waterline with flanges to fit the seacocks to.

Dave Warnock

Agree about the issue of open seacocks on a mooring. As ours are for the cockpit drains it is a dilemma. Close them for safety but then the cockpit can fill up.

James Greenwald

This is how we roll, I believe fairly workman like meeting most of the criterium

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James Greenwald

Hi John, We added the aft cockpit hatch and stairs to aft stateroom to avoid the dance. The thing is I really like moving around the boat and tweaking lines. With 2 strong auto pilot systems, I have no problems single handing. I have done my best to bring jacklines as close to center line as possible. You can see the dodger frame. Makes a cozy nook in weather along with Bimini. I have as you yourself have advocated keeping clutter to a minimum and very workmanship like.

Stein Varjord

Another hatch type is the one used on Amel. Instead of washboards, it’s a single piece that slides down to open. A vertical sliding door. It can be left in any position between fully open and closed. I’ve never sailed an Amel, but I notice the way the Delos crew uses it. Just as easy as a normal door. Seems like a good solution. However, it does need a self draining slot below the entrance, which might be difficult on many boats.

While I’m at it, sliding doors are becoming the standard on catamarans. Since there’s almost no heel, the door will always open and close easily. The bottom of the door opening is usually almost a metre / 3 feet above the waterline, and cats are often floating high enough to almost never have waves land in the “cockpit”. Probably it’s quite ok, but “almost never” isn’t the same as never…

The monohulls using a similar solution try to mimic the joined salon-cockpit lounging area of cats. Thus they lift the salon floor a bit and lower the cockpit floor accordingly, often with a very spacious cockpit and open stern. This can probably also be done well, but I haven’t seen it in a configuration I’d want to sail in bad weather. Also, when on a good heel, that sliding door might be pretty hard to operate, and it seems like it could even work as a guillotine. Not normally considered a maritime tool…

Dave Warnock

There are plenty of examples of getting lots of water through the doors in the Sailing la Vagabonde videos. Often seems to be waves coming over from the bows and over the cabin / along the side deck into the cockpit and then straight into the bridge deck cabin.

Drew Frye

Re. Catamaran doors, I agree completely. Some have cockpits high enough to get away with it, and then designers of lower boats copy this feature. I was sailing on a Gemini Legacy on the Chesaapeake, and we had water in the cockpit, a few cupfulls slopping into the cabin! It was rough with some steep chop, but hardly off shore conditions. My PDQ, on the other hand, was center cockpit, with a smallish cocpit and a transom over 4 feet high. Not a problem in any conditions were the boat would still be right side up, and even so, the door was sturdy and there was a 6-inch sill. I will never understand boats with no sill. Well, actually we both understand the boat show appeal.

The point about lying to a drogue is dead on. This is more likely in a multihull, in part because heaving to is a poor stratagy and in part because they respond so well to it. But the transom design must tolerate wave strikes. My PDQ was at ease lying to a drogue in near gale conditions, actually relaxing. My open transom F-24 would be swallowing wave tops every 30 seconds in a strong small craft advisory.

Do you have any examples of “check boards?” I’ve often though that sounded like a good idea, but have never seen one and Google didn’t help. My F-24 has waves slosh through the cockpit if I just slow down in sustained 15- to 20-knot conditions. Not a problem day sailing, but perhaps a good idea off shore. I’ve even consider a low check board that I could drop in under the traveler bridge as a way of avoiding wet feet in the winter!

Lee Corwin

Have sailed a Outbound46 for the last 7 years. There’s storm boards that fit into a slot under the helm seat but don’t go all the way down to the sole. Although there are also 2 cockpit drains forward from experience can say green water leaves through the back. The drains don’t contribute much at all. When thinking about drainage one should also consider boat motion.
similarly in power a common technique when it gets real bumpy is to face the wave train. So imho your opinion about Portuguese bridge decks maybe over stated. Would point out on a design like the smaller Nordhavns green water that got over the Portuguese bridge would drain down the stairs quite quickly. Yes the new 41 got rid of the Portuguese bridge but personally don’t think down flooding or lost of stability from deck water was the reason. Believe the 43 and 40 are a safer boat in a seaway. Turning to aft cockpits such as seen on the diesel ducks given they are at deck level and have open side access green water would drain very quickly even in the absence of drains in the cockpit sole. So the issue of down flooding is in the ream of “it depends”. Prospective passage makers should view any vessels risk based on that vessel alone not just one feature presence or absence.

William Balme

Also an Outbound owner – the storm boards are standard equipment as are 3 thick plexiglass (or something similar) companionway boards that can be used in conjunction with the split hinged main doors.
One of the nicest features of the cockpit is that in a heavy sea, both my wife (small) and I (big) can easily brace ourselves with a foot to the opposite bench.
It’s also a nicely sized cockpit for those wonderful evening gatherings in a lovely secluded anchorage with friends – accomodating 6 people comfortably for drinks and snacks. (We even did a full clambake with lobsters one evening for 6 guests (8 in total) – but that was surely pushing it!!!)

Bill

Malcolm Rowe

Something that may get overlooked is how well the covers on the lazarets form a seal against ingress of water if the cockpit floods. I attached closed cell foam to the lazaret covers such that a near water-tight seal is created when the cover is closed. In rough conditions, I insert small wooden plugs in the latches for the lazaret covers so that they will remain closed, for example in a knock down. The one occasion when the cockpit partly flooded I was spared from flooding below by the high bridge deck. I learned my lesson and I now maintain the kind of protocols that you do regarding wash boards. My boat is a Southern Cross 28, a small boat but seaworthy for her size and suitable for sailing along the Newfoundland coast.

Marc Dacey

John, I had the Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger “Dutch door” design fabricated for our boat in stainless steel. Combined with our Atkins & Hoyle sliding hatch and gasketing we annually “refresh”, we feel quite secure. An added benefit is that the somewhat “bank vault” appearance may deter thieves.About our biggest problem is securing the door fully open on days with low waves but strong swell as it tends to want to swing. https://alchemy2009.blogspot.com/2017/07/fab-results.html

Marc Dacey

Oh, undoubtedly. The door has been successfully belayed with a length of cordage; a more elegant solution would be a sort of claw-shaped catch that could be mounted on the underside of the pilothouse roof and would need to be physically lifted to close the door, which must be dogged to stay closed. I designed the door to be “overcome” by my rather compact wife: she can swing a leg over the lower, closed portion without danger onto the first step of the companionway. The “flap” allows communication between deck watch and “pilothouse” watch pretty easily, and, when downwind, allows welcome ventilation. We have found this door a great improvement over the traditional Lexan dropboard the boat came with, which was just not up to keeping the sea out of the boat in rough conditions.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

Good thoughts. I think the desire to have a comfortable place at anchor can make this tricky and is often the reason why we see certain solutions employed which are not necessarily appropriate for heavy weather. To be honest, the most comfortable solution at anchor for me is usually not in a cockpit at all, it is on a boat with a big enough unobstructed deck area that you can set in folding chairs up there but it can create height problems if you cruise in hot enough places to want an awning. Our boat is not that big so the cockpit is where we hang out.

Something which has long bothered me about most companionways is that one of the hardest things to get a good seal on are square corners as the tolerances usually make it hard to get a good fit and you can’t get pressure in all directions. I find the best way to think about what shapes are hard to seal is to try to draw out how you would put o-rings in and if you can only find a path where different rings must meet, it will be hard to seal. If we want the smallest viable hatch, then the angle of it should be roughly perpendicular to the stairs. Hence, the solution of a single large opening hatch installed at an angle like Erik has can make some sense. Of course, the issue is what to do with it when it is open or partially open. I realize that you don’t have to keep out 100% of the water but it does seem like water is often one of the levels in a cascading failure (maybe this speaks to poorly laid out electrics in relation to the companionway). Often even worse are cockpit lockers which seem to usually rely on labyrinth seals which of course only work when not submerged and in the correct relation to gravity. One potential place for people to look is how kayak hatches seal. While there are several types, the one that I am thinking of involves a neoprene skirt stretched over the opening which has a lip for this and then a protective hard cover over the top to block the big impacts and keep the sun off. This is pretty effective at sealing in whitewater which means it should work in a cockpit and gives you the option of leaving the neoprene skirt off for normal use but putting it on for ocean passages.

I have never understood the need for a bridge deck on its own, you can make a sill plenty strong enough. The only difference then becomes the volume that they eat up and that is a function of many things not just whether there is a bridge deck although that is one way to minimize it.

On scuppers, I have come around to liking the idea of having a transom that allows direct draining. This can be done like Outbound does or with a couple of really large pipes/hoses. The Outbound solution is great for use in harbor and like you say, I don’t see a major safety concern offshore provided it is done right. I wonder whether a big wave deflector would work both to add security for people and to keep some of the water out in a big wave strike. The idea would be to have a flat plate bigger than the opening sitting a few inches behind the opening so that a large amount of water could pass around it quickly but it would dissipate much of the energy of a direct wave strike. It may be that this just doesn’t do enough and you need to do something without gaps that has flaps that open and close but that sounds like one more thing to maintain and listen to.

I agree completely that small yachts have some real stability advantages when compared to many tall ships although there are some which actually do quite well and also have the advantage of sheer size. I have been involved in stability calcs and inclination tests for a few and it can be quite alarming but also reassuring for others. Also, there are quite a few that are grandfathered in and don’t pass current regulations. Potentially more concerning is that many of these vessels use ballast that can shift, sometimes all or often the trim ballast. In terms of hatches and ventilators, most seem to be designed with the assumption they will never go in the water.

Eric

Marc Dacey

Eric, very good comments from which I can learn, so thank you. The designer of our custom boat made the aft cabin with standing height by giving the boat a bit of a “stern castle”. The sailing helm (as opposed to the lower, sheltered pilothouse helm) is a small cockpit set into an otherwise flush aft deck. At the rear of this cockpit, which is more a glorified footwell, are two four-inch wide pipes fully open aft and angled down. They can barely be seen inside the aft cabin itself, but are not in the way as we sleep transversely forward of the very rear of the cabin. I have never been able, even with a large powerwasher, to get much water to fill this cockpit, as it drains so quickly. The only improvement I can think of would be to add flaps of the freeing port type, to keep pooping waves from sending gouts of water into the cockpit, but I don’t see this as a pressing problem.

Eric Klem

Hi Marc,

I like the sound of those pipes. Unfortunately, a pressure washer is probably not the best tool for testing this sort of thing as while they are quite high pressure, their flow is very low so water can return around the incoming stream. To be honest, I can’t think of a good way to test them using materials that most people already have short of going out and experiencing the real thing. Adding flappers would certainly mean that you would almost never have water come up through them if done correctly. It is also possible that the height of everything is such that you will almost never get water through them regardless and that it will also evacuate quite quickly.

There are always situations where flappers become difficult/impractical to install, especially if someone is unwilling to extend a pipe out beyond the hull to get the angle correct. In that case, it may be worth investigating a trick that sportsfishermen use known as a surge pipe that allows them to back down hard into big seas. The implementation is that there is a straight section of pipe coming in from the hull skin and dead ending. The exhaust comes into this pipe at an angle from above significantly far in from the dead ended piece of pipe. When a wave smacks the transom, the water shoots up but most of it hits the dead end and loses its energy there. I am sure some forces its way into the angle pipe but with the exhaust pressure and small amount of energy, it can’t get into the engine. I have never seen this implemented on a cockpit drain and there is a possibility that without the exhaust pressure, it won’t be as effective as desired but it may well do the job. Maybe someone on here knows the answer?

Eric

Marc Dacey

I agree about the pressure washer, but short of plugging the scuppers and half-filling the cockpit to see how fast it drains, it is difficult to estimate effectiveness should a ton of angry ocean plaster the stern.

But that surge pipe idea is very interesting. I have a Seadog skin fitting with a flap on it for the bilge pump, the hose of which exits the port side just above the waterline and which features a decent rise in the hose above the WL to discourage downflooding. My two exhaust outlets (very like the “North Sea” transverse exhaust in Dave Gerr’s book) are also on either side of the boat and do not require flaps in use as the two exhaust hoses run “downhill” from an underdeck “T” fitting coming up from a centerline waterlift. With the cockpit drains, their exits are actually higher on the stern than the two 7 x 14″ portlights, and so likely don’t require flaps, but thank you for mentioning the surge pipe concept.

Huw Morgan

Agree with all your comments again?. My only surprise was to be pooped twice when in the Bristol Channel? Wind not strong but sea state slightly odd following a couple of days of f5 but the occasional wave top breaking a little. Broad reaching easily in my old Ecume de Mer with no washboard in as conditions seemed better, fortunately the cill of the hatch was well above cockpit floor and a little above the seat height. Cockpit filled instantly but emptied very quickly as the Ecume also comes with 2 big grp drains straight down through the engine space with no sea cocks. This also stiffens the cockpit floor. The washboards also come with fittings that keep them attached by a line that you can lock on a lower cleat. Lesson learned – even in benign conditions you don’t see a stern wave coming usually and a small cockpit volume plus a high cill meant I didn’t get a drop into the cabin. Also makes me keep in the lower washboard on my current Winner 9.5 even though it has a safe design. Two permanently open drains onto a small stern step, but I would prefer them to be a little bigger with no hose connecting pipe? It’s a well built Dutch boat, but I chucked the poor one piece washboard and made a traditional two piece out of marine ply and teak. Also changed the lock so I can open or lock the hatch from inside the cabin or outside in the cockpit. Not been pooped in the winner yet, possibly because she is much faster on a beam reach? Incidentally the comments of others on hatches were interesting as I used to worry about the very big lazarette locker hatch on the Ecume, but the design was so simple and effective it never caused any problems. No seals needed as a deep lip worked well with a line down into the cabin on a jam cleat locked it in place – practical French design.
You have reminded me to fit a bolt for my lower washboard, but as the current COVID regs are keeping us all out of our marina, perhaps I’ll wait for your next article?
Huw

Dick Stevenson

Hi all,
People talk about filling the cockpit by being pooped or with a stern wave. I may have been lucky, but my experience has been 2 times with the cockpit filled (or close to it) and each time it was boisterous conditions but nothing over F5-6, probably a close reach and we rolled into a wave that came down the side decks, hit the dodger pretty good on the low side, and curled around to fill the cockpit, probably to 2/3rds full. Each time was a complete surprise.
We have run in heavy winds (50kn+) a couple of times and in gales many times and I do not ever remember feeling concerned about the cockpit being filled. Rather, I have been in awe of watching a stern wave approach: looking way up at it (in memory it is always at night) and feeling so grateful that the stern lifts and the wave passes underneath.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy 

Dick Stevenson

Hi Dick,
Yes, that’s pretty much been our experience too, although one of our filling events was, if memory serves, a broad reach.
That said, people should not get complacent when running off because if the boat does broach badly the cockpit will almost certainly fill and an open companionway may even go under as the boat skids sideways and on her side. An even like that can produce an unrecoverable down flood in seconds.

Hi John,
I think pretty much any of the “reaches” could fill the cockpit when the combination of a good boat roll matches with a wave (and not even a big wave.
As for broaches, I believe we come, to some extent, to boat design. I feel fortunate to have a boat that tracks well and an autopilot with quick reaction time (and maybe some luck), so I have little experience with broaches.
I do know the feeling of excitement when the bow dips down and the stern starts to slew around: sort of like when the rear end of a car has a mind of its own in a skid. On TV it looks easy, fast and exciting, but I am clear that, when losing control of my stern, that easy/fast/exciting is not a likely unfolding of events on any vehicle I am in charge of.
Having the washboard(s) locked in place is sort of akin to having your coat zipper zipped when going forward in boisterous weather: just wise.
My best, Dick
 

Drew Frye

Locally, someone sank a J-24 that way some years ago in small craft advisory conditions. The chute held her down, and without the boards in, she flooded and went under in 30 seconds. Luckily, every one was on deck and there were other boats nearby.

Dave Warnock

When I was about 12 we were sailing around St Alban’s Head on the south coast of the UK in an Eygthene 24 (cruising version of Ron Hollands first 1/4ton cup winner).
5 of us on board. We got caught in the end of the tidal race which extended beyond the marked buoys as it was a spring tide. Very confused and large waves. We dropped off one with a huge bang, so I was sent below to check for problems. I remember some water coming into the v-berth I shared with my younger brother from the anchor locker, but said there was no problem because all the water was on his side 🙂
As I was about to climb back into the cockpit we hit a wave and saw 2 inches of water come streaming down both (very very wide) side decks and fill the cockpit. It drained so fast none of them even noticed it until I pointed out their wet legs. Going into Weymouth (very narrow entrance) the engine failed and we had to beat in, later we also found that the bulkhead compass had jumped off it’s bearings at some point in the trip.

Some 20 years later with our own family of 5 we sailed round the same head (and on past Portland Bill to Dartmouth) in a Hirondelle Mk 1 23 foot catamaran. We were very cautious and went way out 🙂

William Koppe

We also had a 300mm raised section with a further 300mm horizontal flap on a piano hinge, which folds down when not required to give easy access to the companionway.Then 2 washboards with the top one having another horizontal hinged section. This is only 50mm high and is usually kept open.The sliding hatch is kept in place with 2 barrel bolts which are accessed through the 50mm slot. I worry that a wave could easily force open a sliding hatch. When the top flap is closed it is held in place by the lock. On the new yacht we will copy that system.
The large centre cockpit on the new yacht would have held 8 tons of water and Lloyds specified 2 cockpit drains of 75mm diameter . I raised the cockpit by 200 mm and increased the drain diameter to 80mm each.

Alex Borodin

Hi William,

This setup sounds interesting. Do you have a photo of it?

William Koppe

Hi Alex,
This is new yacht Tanielle
You can see the U shape stainless the boards slide in and the cutout at bottom for the panel (not yet fitted ) to hinge up into.

Tanielle_2416-1024x683.jpg
William Koppe

Hi Alex,
This previous yacht Delta Wing showing washboards to aft cabin with hinged top panel in place.
Sorry don`t have a complete pic

delta 2.jpeg
William Koppe

Hi Alex
Found a complete pic
The louvre washboards are relaced with solid, stored under stairs, as needed

PA090008.jpg
Alex Borodin

Thank you, William! This looks great.

Marc Dacey

Beautiful design and execution and she looks safer than most. Thank you.

William Koppe

Hi John,
Also looked at lowering a section of the cockpit coaming by 250mm, but decided it would reduce the strength of the backbone effect ,and that if it was rough enough to fill the cockpit it would also be rough enough to “slosh ” a fair bit of water out again

James Evans

I’m surprised no one mentions tying the washboards to the boat: a recommendation from the Fastnet disaster if I recall correctly. It only takes one of them to get loose at the wrong moment…

Randall Shelman

My favorite solution to a safe and convenient companionway entrance is to throw away the washboards and install a heavy, single piece hinged door.
I installed just such a system on our Ericsson 26 and it worked great on our Bahamas cruise.
The open sliding hatch still provided plenty of airflow with the door latched closed if desired.
The best element to the design was that the door and the slider automatically latched together with a click by simply closing them together, and they could both be opened by simply pulling on the monkey fist lanyard.
You can see an example in this video starting at 16:20
https://youtu.be/OhLan1B1Vd0

645713E1-7F3D-426D-9EC0-57F526B56A03.jpeg
Randall Shelman

That’s true, while this upgrade gave us greater safety when weathering the green water over the deck that we sometimes experienced, I don’t think it would be a solution that would fix an inherently un-safe cockpit design.

Michael Gillingham

I got aboard an Outbound named Horizon at Annapolis a few years ago. I was immediately smitten with the boat for all of its utilitarian and heavy duty features. My initial thought was Now this is a boat built for offshore sailing! One thing I failed to do was lay down in the cockpit. I think it must have been occupied with other folks when I boarded. Hope this doesn’t front run the next article. Perhaps supplement? Balance in all things is important. If we are utilitarian to the point of sacrificing creature comfort, perhaps we should pull back just a touch. Likewise on the condo cockpits which sacrifice safety for comfort. I agree that they are no place that I would want to be in a rough sea state. Looking forward to your article on ergonomics.

Stanley White

My Xc38 is the best of all worlds. The cockpit is very comfortable and it has a fixed table in the center with sturdy handholds at both ends and a solid foot brace below. The companionway has a substantial sill and the pull up washboard is heavy plexiglass that lets light below and is always accessible for quick deployment. The two cockpit drains have plenty of capacity and the dropdown stern allows water to drain out while providing security for the crew. The rope locker below the companionway includes the drain for the dropdown washboard.

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William Koppe

Hi John,
One of the issues with fixed cockpit tables is the narrow walkwaythat results.Our solution is to use seat sldes on the 2 pedestals to widen the passageway most of the time, with a small flap under to accommodate the difference.

Stephan Will

I’d like to add another example for a proved seaworthy solution of a companionway closure with a „vertical sliding door“ as Stein already mentioned earlier.

The picture is a bit older, taken from our Atlantic 36. The main ‚door‘ is sliding up and down in guide rails, fixed and held in position with solid springloaded bolts. One on each side, both connected by a small rope.

The door itself is made of reinforced synthetic plates(as used on house-roofs) und held in a welded watertight cassette equipped with self draining pipes.

If the cockpit is filled with water (happened only once – almost up to the ‚doghouse-seats’) only a few drops made it into the cassette during the short periode of time the big pipes out in the ‚lower cockpit‘ needed to drain the cockpit.

We experienced a „ready-to-use“ and reliable solution, operated with only one hand (important) and always available and therefore always used with ease when underway (even more important to us).

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P D Squire

So it seems that there is an ideal cockpit size for a cruising couple that is safe and ergonomic, and would scarcely change with boat size. But what about protection? As you develop this series I’d be interested in your thoughts on dodgers and biminis, especially in heavy weather. Is there a minimum boat size that can carry the windage of these protective elements? Do you fold them away in heavy weather to reduce windage etc? How large does a boat need to be to wear them in any weather? Could something small like the A40 get away a bimini? Would you remove either or both when lying to a drogue or hove too in a storm?

Wil Bailey

I appreciate the various inputs regarding defences aginst downflooding. I sail a very modest old boat of just 27′ overall, with a bridgeck at c’seats level, so there are plenty seas big enough to leap up and fill more than the cockpit. So here’s my take on fitting the boards:

The first board goes in with the first mainsail reef; the second with the second reef; and if a third reef is warranted, the sliding hatch is closed and dogged. I can also pin this with just an inch or so open….

I often sail solo, and have several personal tethers on board. I fit and use two back at the helm position, specifically so a lurch or knockdown cannot throw me out of the cockpit and I can still reach and fiddle with the windvane; I have one clipped just inside the c’hatch on a ringnut so I can clip on before clambering up the steps into the cockpit, and I have two others – one each side – already clipped to the aft end of the P&S jackstays.
‘Belt and braces’, perhaps….but they’re no use to me in a locker.