The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility 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 up…in 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:

More Articles From Online Book: How To Buy a Cruising Boat:

  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. Selecting The Right Hull Form
  8. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  9. How Weight Affects Boat Performance and Motion Comfort
  10. Easily Driven Boats Are Better
  11. 12 Tips To Avoid Ruining Our Easily Driven Sailboat
  12. Learn From The Designers
  13. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  14. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  15. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  16. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  17. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  18. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  19. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  20. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  21. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  22. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  23. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  24. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  25. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  26. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  27. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  28. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  29. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  30. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  31. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  32. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  33. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  34. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
  35. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  36. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—How It’s Working Out
  37. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  38. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  39. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?
  40. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell