The flying bridge has become one of our favorite places at anchor and when on passage in pleasant weather.
Entering or leaving harbor and docking it is the preferred location from which to operate the boat.
There are several key ingredients to making this area comfortable. The first is the relative motion. As this flying bridge is quite a bit lower than most trawlers – about the same as standing on the pilot house of one of our larger sailboats – it has proven comfortable even in the rougher sea-states. The only elements which have us heading below is heavy rain and/or lots of wind.
Next, we need protection from sun, rain, and wind – but we also want good ventilation. The framework shown above supports a more or less permanent awning.
The temperate climate awning shown above is designed to keep the sun and rain off of us when we’re conning or seated at the aft end of the fly bridge area.
This awning is up 99% of the time – even in the high latitudes (where it is used to keep us dry).
In the tropics we add a forward section so the entire fly bridge is covered. At low sun angles we always have at least two seats in the shade (and the rest of the day almost all of the fly bridge is shaded).
It is hard to put into words what it feels like to be sitting under this big awning in the tropics.
With sparkling, clear water all around (and great viewing angles), and a lovely breeze keeping us cool – even on still days – the flying bridge/cockpit area has become our favorite spot both at anchor and under way.
Any time we’re navigating in difficult areas, or working in coral, we use the flying bridge.
If the boat is slowed down, perhaps we’re studying the wave patterns at a pass into some lovely lagoon or a breaking bar on a river, we roll a bit.
When this occurs we have overhead handrails as well as hand holds on the table. Engine controls, pilot steering control, and water proof switches for windlass, deck winch, and various lights are all close at hand.
A clear plastic cover protects this gear from the elements.
The handrails on the companionway are waist high, and continue between the two masts and forward. The masts themselves provide an excellent bracing point.
In addition, there handrails all the way around the perimeter of the table.
Finally, the overhead awning support has a set of handrails integrated into it.
The fly bridge area will sit seven to eight when required. But our major design concern is when it’s just the two of up here.
There are “wings” on the table, which fold up when we’re eating.
We can sit four comfortably for dinner on the sides, two more if we squeeze. And then two additional guests can sit at the forward end of the table on folding chairs.
When the table wings are down they, along with the seats on each side, act as spray shields for the large hatch (36″ / 90cm) over the galley.
The awning above also does its part to keep off rain. This system allows us to keep the galley hatch open through a wide range of conditions which otherwise would force its closure. This past summer, in a very rainy Alaska, we eventually set our larger tropical awning, which does an even better job of keeping us dry.
Protecting this hatch is a major design objective, and it delays the need to run air conditioning through most weather.
If you look carefully at the rails surrounding the flying bridge you may be able to pick out the clear plastic “weather clothes”.
These keep almost all spray off of us and reduce or eliminate wind below head level. They work really well and do not block our view, or look clunky when we’re at anchor.