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A sailor's pilothouse

Jan 1, 2003

Pacific Seacraft's Don Kohlmann knew he had a problem. As the demographics of the sailing community changed, he was seeing people drop out of sailing and move into power boats. "These are folks that have been sailing for some time, but now want to have a little more comfort in inclement weather," Kohlmann explained. "And because they have more time for destination-type voyaging, they are also looking for a boat capable of motoring and sailing efficiently and economically."

Kohlmann, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Pacific Seacraft, knew that a motor-sailer (usually the worst of both worlds) wasn't the solution to this sailors' attrition. Instead, the Pacific Seacraft team decided to build a pilot house on a good sailboat hullin this case their venerable 40-footer. "Our typical owners are a couple approaching retirement who have spent many years sailing," Kohlmann explained. "So our challenge was to develop a boat that could be easily handled by a couple; a boat designed so they can travel while sitting in the air-conditioned or heated pilot house with a great view of the world; and, most important, a boat that wouldn't compromise sailing performance."

What came off designer Bill Crealock's drawing board is the new Pilothouse 40. Like her siblings, the Pilothouse 40 carries an impressive list of standard, offshore-ready gear, including a cutter rig. Aesthetics play an important role in the success of a design, and Crealock hasn't let them down. The 40's low freeboard and moderate beam are graceful. And, with the signature Crealock canoe stern, the proportions of the hull are balanced to the ends of the boat. "Some designers torture the hull lines for the sake of interior volume in the aft cabin," said Kohlmann, "and that has detrimental effects on the overall handling and performance. We've built a pilot house on a proven blue-water hull. That means you don't have to power through light to moderate air; you can actually sail this boat in those conditions."

A successful pilot house design does present some unique engineering challenges. For example, when selecting a steering system, Kohlmann wanted to avoid the relative mushiness of a hydraulic system. "We found the answer in Whitlock's Mamba shaft-drive steering system. It's easy to run the shafts through the boat, linking the inside station with the outside cockpit pedestal's gear box. The system requires little space, it's remarkably smooth, and, best of all," he said, "it's absolutely bomb-proof, an especially critical factor for an offshore boat."

The Pilothouse 40 boasts a forward cabin with an island berth, as well as an aft cabin double. Even though these are production boats, Kohlmann reports that there's a lot of room for personalization by individual owners and that no two boats come off the floor alike. For example, the midships section of the main cabin may be customized with a starboard cabin layout. Approximately eight feet long, it comes with over-and-under berths. This same space would also make a great spot for a washer/dryer, workshop, or sea-going office.

The pilot house configuration allowed the builder to raise the cockpit sole eight inches and the main saloon sole 20 inches. In doing so, a tremendous amount of machinery and storage space was picked up. The extra space is especially nice because it allows for more convenient installation of and access to the ship's mechanical systems.

The standard Pacific Seacraft Pilothouse 40 is equipped with a Yanmar 4JH2TE, a turbo-charged 62-hp diesel to handle the boat's displacement while providing a good turn of speed. The Yanmar quietly delivers a solid six knots when under power. With 220 gallons of fuel in two aluminum tanks on board, the Pilothouse has a range of more than 1,500 miles.

For a shakedown cruise, the owner of the first Pilothouse 40 sailed the boat to Mexico and spent three months in the Sea of Cortez. Rich Adcock of Gig Harbor, Wash., the owner of a Pacific Seacraft 37, helped sail the boat to Cabo San Lucas. "The Pilothouse is fast and comfortable, everything that my 37 is and more. I thought I was going to enjoy the pilot house feature the most, since I'm from Seattle and comfort in any weather is important to me. But the performance of the boat was the best. I really enjoyed sailing the boat."


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