Cockpits should be designed and
built with an awareness of the structural requirements of wood boat
They also need to address other criteria such as; Safety,
size, Drainage and your style of boating.
Every structural element of a wooden
boat contributes to its overall
strength and stiffness.
Whatever preferences you have regarding the size, shape or position of
your boat cockpit you need to pay serious attention to the deck
The more openings and the larger the opening in the deck the less it
will be able to transfer loads and stresses.
While openings such as boat cockpits, cabins and hatches can be
partially compensated for by building strong carlines, the longer the
carline the less support it will give.
also an important structural element.
A bridge deck between the cockpit and main
hatch is often and rightly,
recommended as a means of keeping water from entering the cabin.
However, on a wooden boat it also of structural value.
Not only does it allow for full width deck beams but the bulkheads also
add stiffness and strength.
And while we are discussing structure, the strength of the cockpit
itself needs to be considered.
Not only should it be strong enough to support the crew but in the
event of a swamping, it should also be able to withstand the weight of
a full cockpit of water, and that can be quite considerable.
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or Center Boat Cockpits?
There is a lot to be said for a
cockpit but they only work well
on larger boats.
They work best on boats over
40ft, 12M, on anything less
than 30ft, 9M, they of more of a complication than they are worth.
On large boats the center
cockpit has the advantage of
keeping crew weight towards the mid sips area.
As they are usually high this
will allow for good
visibility from the helm and the effects of motion will be lessened.
The center cockpit is also the
ideal solution on ketches
and yawls where the cockpit can be sited between the masts.
On smaller boats however,
center cockpit will pose restrictions on the size of the
The advantage of privacy
afforded by an aft cabin must be
weighed against the restriction on size.
And having the helm amidships
will require complicated
Perhaps it's because I'm a
small boat sailor at
heart that I prefer an aft cockpit.
I like to be able to sit back
and look up at the sails
and I prefer the immediacy of tiller steering.
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structural considerations the desirable size of a boat cockpit will
much on your style of boating.
There is a lot to be said for
a large cockpit with lots
of comfy seating where you can stretch out and relax, especially when
On the other hand a sail boat
at sea needs to allow for
the crew to brace their legs comfortably against the leeward side.
And in bad weather the
the boat cockpit the less 'green-sea' it will
The feeling of security that a
deep cockpit gives is
illusory, just imagine what the weight of a cockpit full of water would
the trim of your boat.
That is why most blue water
cruisers opt for a foot-well
with a cockpit combing.
However, once they are
anchored up they probably all wish
they had a huge cockpit complete with a table.
Having a large cockpit on a
small boat will mean a
reduction of space left for a cabin.
However for those with more
modest cruising aspirations,
a large dry comfy cockpit can be converted into living space by
The size will also have a
bearing on how easy it is to
reach the sail control lines on a sail boat and the engine controls on
Will there be enough room for
crew members to pass each
other without having to leave the safety of the cockpit.
And equally as important, does
the helmsman/woman have
clear visibility forward while sat down.
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cockpit builder, where possible should incorporate scuppers to drain
rainwater and spray.
There should also be
for a boat cockpit or any
other recess in the deck to self drain particularly in the event of a
Unfortunately for this
effective the floor of your
cockpit needs to be a minimum of 6inches, 150mm above the waterline to
And the further the
floor is above the waterline the more effective self draining will
The simplest and probably the
most effective arrangement
for an aft cockpit with no lazarette is to slope the cockpit sole back
transom, then cut a large drain hole straight out through the transom
This can then be protected
with a skin fitting with a
simple non return flap to stop water coming back in.
On a sail boat which is going
to spend a lot of time at
the heel put a drain at each corner just as they do on sailing
Where there is a lazerette a
similar arrangement will
work simply by piping the water through the lazerette.
Any discomfort caused by the
slope of the sole can be
compensated for by building up the aft end of the cockpit grating.
Many alternative and ingenious
methods of draining have
been used on small boats however simple is always the best.
Any piped arrangement will be
vulnerable to blockages and
will be more expensive requiring non-return
valves, sea-cocks and
Whatever arrangement you
choose the most effective way to
prevent water from your watertight cockpit getting below is with a
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Safety and Comfort.
The most important issue regarding crew
safety is ensuring that your
boat is sound and strong enough.
With regards to boat cockpit
design you should also
- Crew Shelter;
That deep boat cockpit may seem safe but in my opinion that is an
In the event of a swamping and that can happen anywhere, it will be a
liability. And that depth can have an adverse effect the
I have sailed on a number of plastic production boats which have deep
cockpits, on none of them could the helms-person see forward without
On a long 'trick' this can lead to tiredness and a loss of
And that also means paying attention to the ergonomics
Admittedly no one enjoys being exposed to the wind spray and rain but
better than being exhausted.
Judicious use of dodgers and spray hoods can minimize much of this but
don't forget that it is imperative that every vessel should keep a
constant all round
watch when under way.
- Safety harnesses;
Going on deck at night or when
the wind gets up can be risky so there
be provision for clipping on a harness before leaving the safety of the
- Pad eyes on the aft face of the bridge deck immediately
hatch and perhaps even jack-stays along the cockpit sides will allow
to move around without un-clipping.
And before I finish it is also worth considering how
someone can get
the boat cockpit from the water.
fallen overboard accidentally or have just gone swimming, a fold down
the transom can be a lifesaver.
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