April 30, 2013

The price of standing headroom

IT’S GENERALLY ACCEPTED that full standing headroom in a boat is 6 feet 1 inch, but few sailboats under 27 feet in length can provide it without resorting to a tall and ugly cabin trunk.

There are several troubling aspects about a high deckhouse, besides the aesthetic shock. It creates wind resistance, for a start, which is particularly disadvantageous when you’re sailing against the wind. It’s also more prone to damage by large waves.

Furthermore, it’s dangerous to work at the base of the mast when handling the mainsail because you’re poised comparatively high over the water for the width of the boat. If she’s sharply heeled you could fall overboard without touching the lifelines.

Heavy-displacement boats can get away with lower, sleeker cabin trunks because their cabin soles extend farther below the waterline, but there is no alternative on a light-displacement hull (if full headroom is required) than to build upward.

But you really only need standing headroom when you’re not sailing. Under way, you spend your time mostly sitting down or lying down. And, as Uffa Fox famously pointed out, you can always go on deck. Plenty of headroom up there.    

Incidentally, good sitting headroom is 4 feet 9 inches. Anything between that and full standing headroom is truly a pain in the neck.

Today’s Thought
Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only  not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
— H. D. Thoreau, Walden

A friend says he never realized how short of living space the world has become until he arrived home early one evening and found a strange man living in his wife’s wardrobe.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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