It was a rough day with wind driven spray. Even at trolling speed the tower leg was coated with a film of salt water and my hands became wet while climbing back into the tower after fighting a marlin from the bridge control station. As I picked up the VHF radio’s microphone to call in the tag and release to the committee boat the radio jumped back to channel 16. I spun the dial back to the tournament channel and tried again with the same result. Not until the third failed attempt to contact the committee boat did I realize what was going wrong.
The new radio I had recently had installed had a feature that seemed logical to some electronic tech-head but was a major hassle to me in the real world. The radio was designed to automatically switch back to emergency and stand-by channel #16 when placed into its metal holder. Unfortunately, I could not hold the radio in one wet hand without changing away from the channel I was supposed to use for tournament communications. We cut the wire which activated the unwanted feature and the radio worked just fine on whatever channel I chose. I do the same thing for microphones with key pads and buttons that switch channels up or down. They may work well on big yachts, but in rough water on fishing boats they are a nuisance.
That night over an evening cocktail we had a discussion of several ideas which had looked good on paper but were an inconvenience or even a real nuisance to boatmen who actually went to sea in less than perfect conditions. Here are a few…
I really dislike modern towers where form has interfered with function. (I almost always STAY in the tower to get the enhanced vision the extra height gives me.) To create a stylish look many towers have back legs/ladders so close to vertical it is dangerous to attempt to climb them in a choppy sea or at cruising speed.
Equally bad is the tendency to have supports for the Bimini top/sun shade that angle fashionably inboard to follow the line of the front tower leg supports. It is impossible to get comfortably wedged into a corner of the padded belly rail in rough weather without being beaten to a pulp by the un-padded aluminum of the sun shade supports (and the majority of new towers won’t allow you to get wedged in a corner and still reach both reach the steering wheel and the control levers.)
The seats with back rests that are common in today’s towers are a great spot for the owner’s kids to sit looking ahead and drinking a coke in calm water, but make watching trolling baits or seeing what is going on in the cockpit when fighting a fish almost impossible. I rarely see a tower these days I would allow on any boat that I had to run and fish competitively!
Badly designed flying bridges are also far too common on new boats. I was on a “sport fishing” boat that cost several million dollars, from a highly respected custom builder, with a helm station that did not only NOT allow me to see the angler in the fighting chair, I could not see any part of the fore deck while attempting to dock the boat. (When the mate stood as far forward as possible on the bow I could barely see the belt buckle at his waist!)
Yacht captains may be used to running back and forth across their flying bridge as they carefully approach dock but I find that unacceptable in a sport fishing boat. (“Wait a minute and hold still Mr. Marlin while I run over here and see where my angler is right now!” -Fat chance!)
I need to at least be able to see down to the angler’s waist to see what the spool of the reel is doing so I can properly maneuver the boat to help, rather than hinder, my angler.
Cockpit controls can help but should not be placed where an off balance guest can inadvertently pull or push them. (One big advantage of the new electronic controls is that they only function after being activated and assuming command at the designated station, thereby eliminating sudden changes when a control lever is used as a grab rail!)
The new fashionable look in modern sport fishing circles of vessels without a bow rail is also just plain dumb! You may not plan on anchoring (no bottom fishing?) but if you ever have to (especially in rough weather) the owner or designer or builder is ASKING for a law suit if the passenger or crew setting the anchor falls overboard or gets hurt -and every boat that doesn’t spend ALL its time in dry dock or a marina will at some time have a problem requiring that an anchor be set!
Also, if you are ever going to live aboard or spend a weekend offshore forget about having all the towels exactly the same. Monograms are fine but let’s have several colors so everyone can know which towel is theirs and hang it up to dry and allow at least a couple of days use. (More towel racks please!!!)
- Peter B