Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Not All Cockpits are Created Equal

Good times and good peeps in the cockpit of Rasmus!
While there were many reasons we chose our new boat, one of the biggest reasons was her positively ginormous cockpit.  While some people refer to the cockpit area of a sailboat as a strictly outside space, the cockpit of a live-aboard cruising boat can be more like a living room if you play your cards right.

We've gotten a few emails lately asking us our opinion on the matter; all with the final question: "how important is the cockpit?"  In our experience, very.  We spend a lot of time in our cockpit both underway and at anchor.  I'm not the mathlete of our duo, but Scott estimates about 70% of our time is spent there.  They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  There are aft cockpits, center cockpits, wide sterns and canoe sterns, huge cockpits and tiny cockpits...there are pilot houses, two-tier cockpits, enclosed and exposed cockpits...some have dodgers, others have biminis and some have full enclosures...the list goes on.  Every boat is different and no two cockpits are the same.  The way we see it, there are two factors that really contribute to the comfort factor of a cockpit in the equatorial climates:  size and protection from the elements.

A nice, roomy cockpit that can provide you with enough space to stretch out - and lay down in - is a huge bonus.  Sleeping in the cockpit is a treat from time to time (can you say 'siesta'?), not to mention that fact that it is where you will do 90% of your entertaining (Scott and I did a lot of this, anyone recall my killer sangria??).  The more space you have, the bigger the party!  Additionally, a cockpit with large combings that you can lean against is another plus - we loved that we could lean our backs agains the cockpit combing of Rasmus - we were not only comfortable, but felt very secure and safe!

We loved our cockpit "walls" on Rasmus.  Every seat was comfy!
Protection from the elements adds another level of comfort.  There are different degrees of coverage, from spray hoods, to dodgers to full-enclosures.  After having sailed extensively on boats with and without them, the full enclosure is something that Scott and I have grown to love.  I cannot tell you how nice it is to remain dry in what would otherwise be a very wet passage, or escape the relentless tropical sun on a very hot day.  Furthermore, with an enclosure the living space of a sailboat increases significantly, regardless of the weather outside.  We have always looked at our cockpit as another room, not just a place to sit while underway.

Because of the reasons above, a large, comfortable, enclose-able (center) cockpit was one of our "non-negotiable's" during this last boat search .  While we looked at a lot of great boats that would have served us well (an Amel 46, a Vagabond 42, a Bristol 45.5,  a Stevens 47, two Whitby 42's, a Moody 47 and an Amphritrite 43) we kept going back to the Brewer 44 because her cockpit trumped all the rest.

Bottom line: the cockpit is where you will want to be most of the time; it offers the best breeze, the best view, the greatest ambiance and it's infinitely more pleasant than sitting down below - so make sure you chose wisely and consider the "comfort factor" of your cockpit (after you make sure it's safe, has good access to lines, adequate scupper drains, and all that other good stuff, of course!).


Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

Your comments "fly in the face" of so many older books that we read before buying Que Tal. They all emphasized a small cockpit for offshore passages so that if you took a breaking wave in the cockpit, there wasn't too much water to drain out.

While Que Tal's cockpit (Tayana 37), wasn't quite tiny, it was small -- tight even just having 4 in the cockpit, although do-able. And so we didn't invite people over nearly as often as we might have . . .

Were we to buy another boat, we'd definitely be looking at cockpit size and layout. And yes, bigger IS better!

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

At the end of the first paragraph in my comment above, I should have added the sentence: "So we deliberately looked at boats with smaller cockpits, trusting their advice."

Windtraveler said...

Yeah, I realize that the cockpit issue is sort of two fold this is just what we have learned on our boat and what WE like - smaller IS safer if you are taking a giant, breaking wave from the sea and there are a million other variables that can factor into the "Seaworthiness" of a cockpit...the chances, however, of taking a HUGE breaking wave into the cockpit are rare for most people on the milk-run route, and any sailors doing more "hard core" sailing aren't taking our advice anyway! We also read a lot of the 'cruising' books and we completely over-prepped Rasmus...we could have sailed around the world twice and never made landfall with all the stuff we had on board!! Lowered her waterline two inches!! There is such a thing as overkill - but you can never have enough wine!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Although we haven't started cruising yet, we already appreciate our roomy cockpit ... many evenings sitting in our cockpit listening to music and watching the sunset ... in our backyard! =)

I imagine we'll just about every evening in the cockpit once we set sail. Good advice!

Princess Aboard said...

The cockpit on the 68 Irwin is my dream cockpit aka the deck salon. lol

SailFarLiveFree said...

True enough, conventional bluewater wisdom says there's a trade-off between a comfortable cockpit (usually large) and a safe offshore cockpit (usually small). If there's a gripe I have with some of my favorite designs (HC33t, Baba 35, etc.), it's that the cockpits are too much like a bath tub! As long as there is good drainage, proper coamings, spray protection and secure storage, why not opt for a large cockpit?

Serah said...

Our cockpit is where I fell in love with our boat. The perfect angle of the forward bulkhead for leaning against, that I can stretch right out and sleep there comfortably, and that we can simply fold the tiller up and comfortably sit 6 for dinner were what sold me on our little boat. Sailing in the PNW, the dodger has proved invaluable. A full enclosure would be divine, but simply will not work with the boom set up. An autopilot with wired remote, plus a windvane somewhat negates the desire for such though.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you felt you overprepared with!

Windtraveler said...

@Serah - We outfitted our boat like we were doing a non-stop circumnavigation because that's what a lot of the books prep you for. We ended up giving away TONS AND TONS of food, that is really the biggie. Plus we had WAY too many spares...we ended up having to throw away some water separators and fuel filters because they rusted from sitting so long. I think if you are doing a fast circumnavigation, heavy prep is necessary - but if you're just Caribbean cruising - you don't need quite as much. The food was the biggie for us - we had SO much of it and a lot of it went unused.

B.J. Porter said...

We love the center cockpit on our boat. Hard dodger is nice over it. Snap/zip down sides on the Bimini turn it into an extra room with fresh air when it's raining.

You can go a bit bigger with a center cockpit than an aft cockpit because it's so much harder for a wave to poop you.

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