Arrive Dry in a Pilothouse Trawler By Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell
Capt. Bob bringing his 57-foot trawler into Winyah Bay after a few overnights in the Atlantic. Excellent visibility with a full electronic suite. The American Tug displays a wide side deck door and excellent rear view over the salon roof and dinghy deck aft.
Arrive dry. This simple statement came from a disgruntled sailor presently shopping for a pilothouse trawler. When asked why the conversion from sail to power, this sailor admitted he was tired of arriving to his final destination in his foulies, dripping wet from rain—or sweat (take your pick). We quite agree on the need for comfort. When you’ve reached that stage of life where you still enjoy cruising but prefer to be comfortable in a climatized cabin, try a pilothouse trawler. Often with panoramic views, windows that open for a lovely breeze—or that shut tight when the weather is less than ideal—a pilothouse trawler may be your next boat. Some trawlers have an interior steering station that is just there for practical use, lacking many relaxing creature comforts for you. Our own trawler is a perfect example. She’s an early ’80s vintage and has a complete lower helm in the salon, but it has no helm seat, besides having poor visibility from the downstairs position. While we can see ahead if we remove the fender storage racks off the bow rail, we still have to stand the entire time while piloting, plus we have no stern view (except the TV, which is a distraction for sure when the Saints are playing football). We purchased the boat way back in 1995 and decided not to install navigation instruments below because we were weekend boaters. We had no plans to be downstairs, thinking we would always be on the flybridge enjoying the weather. Hmmm. Did you ever get caught in a sudden afternoon squall in the Gulf of Mexico? Time and experience have changed that thinking. Becoming full-time liveaboard cruisers, and after turning many pages on the calendar, we have 32
learned the pilothouse is a very desirable feature. Just what exactly is a pilothouse—or a “raised pilothouse” (RPH) trawler? Let’s compare it to a flush deck boat where the lower helm is on the same deck as the salon, giving you poor forward and rear visibility. A raised pilothouse is exactly that—a raised or elevated steering station giving you improved visibility forward and aft. The side door entrance also provides better access to the side decks and upper deck, possibly a flying bridge or dinghy deck. Imagine the steering station in the pilothouse on a shrimp trawler or tugboat (or look at the photos for those of you who need some help in the imagination department). They are perched forward, giving a first-class view of the bow and the waterway ahead. The helmsman has easy access to the side decks and an excellent view of the aft deck of the boat. Other than the improved visibility, which sailors or stinkpots can both appreciate, a pilothouse design trawler adds many features you may not have considered. The pilothouse can be a guest stateroom, a breakfast nook, a navigation station or a man cave. When the bugs come out at dusk, we’ve been known to move the cocktail party into the pilothouse but only after the anchor is down, of course. Many RPH trawlers include a day bunk for a mate while you are cruising, which is also an excellent overnight sleeping accommodation during those long ocean passages. Now imagine a fully instrumented RPH. Other than the engine controls, you may include two 12- or 15-inch multifunction displays (MFDs) that include a host of options, including: GPS chartplotter, RADAR, automatic identification system (AIS), depth gauge, fish finder, weather prowww.southwindsmagazine.com