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Explorer Yacht Main Helm Design

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

Then, finally, we came to our last design item, the main helm station. Staring at a blank piece of paper is not inspirational. I could say the same about staring at an empty aluminum space that needs a well-designed and ergonomically functional helm. I would instead count sheep for fun. Lastly, we need a workable design, as I'll be contemplating my mistakes for the next few years!

Ergonomics of position, sight, arm movements, reach, ref Trawler Forum

We started with a big aluminium space.

Looking for inspiration added confusion. You have the esoteric Dashew designs of the FPB range, the evolutionary compliance of Fleming, the order of Nordhavn, "Bling" of the super yacht brigade and the chaotic art of the self-builders. All and everything is out there.

So we started on three fronts; the first was to encode all the equipment that needed accommodation. The second was to have some basic ergonomic rules, so we turned to our favorite Trawler Forum. Their curmudgeonly old contributors (I'm one!) like what they like having developed those traits over a lifetime of sailing, so I'm figuring that's a good place to start. Lastly, we also looked at function, which boils down to "Helming" and "Everything Else ." We mostly separated them.

Yacht Helm Equipment

So let's start with equipment that is "Helm Related"

Helm - Wheel FFU

Engine & Hybrid Controls (2)

Helm - Wheel Emergency Hydraulic

VHF Radio Comms

Helm - Jog Lever NFU


Helm - Autopilot

Night Vision Camera

Helm - Dynamic Positioning Joystick

Satellite Compass

Helm - Dynamic Positioning Display

Fluxgate Compass

MFD Chart/Navigation Display

Magnetic Compass

MFD Radar Display/Backup

Steering System Selector


Navigation Lights & Horn

Yacht Helm Equipment in the category "Everything Else"

MFD System Schematic Display

3 Phase 50/60Hz Shore Power

Fire Alarm

1 Phase Electrical Victron Cerbo

Watchkeeping Alarm

VHF Radio Comms

Trackpads for MFD Display

Iridium Certus Sailor 4300 Comms

DMS Stabiliser Controls

Yellowbrick Hand Held Comms


Flags, Binoculars, Range Finders ....

Yacht Helm Chairs

We then thought about ergonomics. We would need a place for a computer / charts / logbook. We also need a place to store "stuff" flags, binoculars, books, and whatever. We needed to keep the screens' height low to maintain a view when seated; we needed two helm chairs with walk round access to both. Feet need to be seated on the deck, and legs supported when standing. The FFU Helm Wheel should not restrict access to instruments. Some instruments needed to be within reach when seated; think Autopilot, VHF, and Trackpad. We needed good airflow over the windows and fresh air supply to the crew.

Some thought was given to ventilation and clear windows regardless atmospheric conditions.

The conversation then bounced back and forth with Naval Yachts until the form was agreed. It took a while, but I think we reached a good compromise. The exact placement of instrumentation can wait until they assemble a mockup, and we visit in early April.

Final general design, individual components will be positioned on the mock-up. Some displays are tucked above head hight to keep the helm clean, some on the port side for items unrelated to navigation. The horizontal helm surface hinges upwards for maintenance.

So that was it. Design work is complete, and work now reduces to progress and much smaller decisions. We'll have to find something else to write about!

Chris Leigh-Jones

It's all a compromise influenced by ideas and personal preferences. Designing Vanguard has been an interesting journey and as a result she has become very different from her predecessor, Mobius, reflecting the different views and needs of their respective owners. There is best single answer here and the worst sin of all may in fact be simply prevarication.

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