Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics

The Outbound 44/46 cockpit may look small and cramped at the wharf, but scores high offshore with great visibility, shelter, and ergonomics.

There are few areas on any boat that are used for more diverse tasks than an offshore sailboat cockpit. Everything from lounging on a quiet day at anchor to handling a fast-moving emergency at sea with a bunch of sail the black dark...with a ship bearing down on us.

Given that, picking a boat with a good cockpit layout is one of the most important parts of boat selection.

It's also one of the hardest to get right, because we will inspect most prospective boats at the wharf or mooring where features supporting lounging will be a lot more obvious than features that will work offshore at oh-dark-thirty when it's blowing stink and the yogurt's flying.

And, further, many of us will have to make this decision without a lot, or maybe any, offshore experience, one of the reasons I strongly recommend making an offshore passage with someone else before buying a cruising boat.

That said, I can provide a cockpit selection framework to make this process easier based on the thousands—literally, I did some back-of-the-envelope estimating—of hours I have spent on watch, mostly offshore, in all weathers, in sailboat cockpits.

To further set the parameters, I'm going to focus on cockpits optimized for one to four people. This is important to make clear since full-crew racing-optimized cockpits will be very different.

Also, keep in mind that this is just one article among many that I have written about boat selection, so, for example, I have already explored main traveler positioning options, and won't cover that again here.

As usual I will use the Outbound 44/46, the Boréal boats, our own Morgan's Cloud, and a couple of others to illustrate each point.

Let's dig in:

  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?

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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