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The Scout 275 XSF Helm
The Scout 275 XSF Helm

When Buying a Boat: What to ASK about the Helm/Console?

You know a feature is important when it’s part of the boat segment’s name. In the fourth part of our series on “How to Buy a Center Console Boat,” we asked our experts about:

What should you consider when it comes to the helm/console?

Alan Lang, Scout

Alan Lang,
Alan Lang,

“Accessibility and comfort should be the primary considerations when looking at a console. We try to place every component so that the captain can reach it easily. Trim tab switches are placed in areas where you don’t need to take your hand off the steering wheel to use them. Electronics are placed at an angle and location that resists the glare of the sun and allows for easy visibility.

“It’s important that the features that control the boat’s maneuverability are placed with the most focus to ensure the boat’s safe operation. We think of all of these things and more before we take a console to market.

“Exact features will ultimately depend on the size of the boat and how it will be used. However, it will always be a console’s function to provide protection from the elements and storage of some type.

“You’re also starting to see more and more consoles come to market that are more pleasing to the eye, with sleeker shapes. Scout has always focused on this, as the console is where the captain spends most of his time. We put a lot of time into our consoles, as some of the more aesthetic consoles are much more labor intensive.”

Bryan Harris, Everglades

Bryan Harris, Everglades Boats
Bryan Harris, Everglades Boats

“You need to look at how ergonomically put together a console is. Can you sit comfortably? Can you reach the wheel? Do you have a place to put your feet? Is it functional and does the overall design work?

“Next, consider how big the console is. Does it meet your needs based on what you plan to do? How much protection do you get from the elements? Does it have a T-top? If so, is it fiberglass or canvas? With a hardtop, you can have a lot of things built in, like lights and speakers. That may or may not be important, but you need to think about how you plan to use the boat and make that distinction.

“What kind of windshield does it have? Our boats have sliding, adjustable windshields — either manual or hydraulic. How big is the dash? The electronics are getting bigger and bigger. We’ve now made it so our consoles will fit 12-inch electronics. Consoles have also gotten bigger inside. Having a head on the boat has become important. Can you get in and out easily?

“Lastly, consider the cosmetics. If you look at T-tops now, powder coating is big. Ten years ago, most T-tops were stainless steel. But the powder-coating process is much better and more respected now. And obviously people like it, because boat builders are doing more and more.”

Grady-White Fisherman 230 Console
Grady-White Fisherman 230 Console

David Neese, Grady-White
David-Neese“The primary consideration is always going to be safety. Assess the sightlines. How long do you lose visibility at planing, and on plane, can you see five or seven boat lengths ahead? Most consoles are built pretty far back and at floor level, so seeing over the bow or console can be a challenge.

“The second part is comfort or ergonomics. Can you reach the wheel and shifter when seated? That’s a pretty good test. You don’t want to have to move yourself to be able to control the boat. If you’re a fisherman, if you run far offshore and fish all day, it’s a long day, and you don’t want to work to drive the boat, it just tires you out more.

“You also want good protection. How tall is the windshield? How will it protect you on a really nasty day? One feature that we’ve kind of focused on is a windshield wiper on all of our consoles. It mystifies me that this isn’t included on more boats.

“Things have gotten much softer over the years, with better padding and vinyl bolsters to stand and lean on. There are more refinements — more stereos and cup holders. The insides of some of our consoles are air conditioned and heated. I’m six-one and in our boats 28-feet and up, I can stand and move around in the consoles, so there’s more room for rod storage and other things in general.”

The Boston Whaler 240 Dauntless Helm
The Boston Whaler 240 Dauntless Helm

Jeff Vaughn, Boston Whaler
Jeff-Vaughn“When people are looking at a center console, they need to think about how they’re going to use the boat — the people that will be with them, the conditions they will be in. Then, visualize how the console will help them achieve their usage goals.

“Two areas that come to mind right away are visibility and ergonomics. The console is either easy to see over and around, or it’s not. Some consoles can be too high. Almost all of them have T-tops now, with pipe structure, so it’s easy for a console to not have the visibility it ought to.

“By ergonomics I mean how comfortable is this piece of equipment to use in various scenarios? Can I stand up and drive the boat and sit down and drive the boat? Do passengers have a place at the console to rest their legs and put down their drinks? We make consoles where people can put their feet and hands in the proper place to be comfortable.

“The shape at the top of our consoles, it slopes down ever so slightly — it’s not flat on top. That’s so we can have ‘tuck space’, a place to put your hat or binoc’s. It takes extra to engineer that in. Another thing we’ve done is try to accommodate the bigger display screens that electronics’ manufacturers are giving to us.

“These days, consoles are getting finished off inside. They’re all fiberglass with vents and heads and storage. Some of them even have sinks, galleys and accommodations. The evolution over time has become to use each inch of space and create more of a multi-tool.”

Joan Maxwell, Regulator
Joan-Maxwell“The console should be laid out with a thought for operation of the boat. Are the throttles in close proximity of the helm? Where are the trim switches located? What about electronics? Can they be added to the console and still be visible?

“Our consoles are slightly sloped forward, so the bow is more easily seen while the boat is in operation. In addition, they have large, flat faces that allow for installation of the newest thin electronics. The breaker panels are visible — no bending down to see whether or not you’ve turned on the correct switch.

“All Regulator consoles have tempered safety glass windshields, built to take heavy seas. Whether it’s a passenger holding onto it or a wave breaking over the bow, we want to make sure that the windshield stays in place. Cheaper Plexiglas windshields could snap off in these conditions.

“Serviceability is also important. On our boats, access to the back of the electronics, wiring and steering systems can be easily achieved through the hinged doors inside of the console compartment. Enough head room to actually stand up.

“Our consoles are scribed and fitted onto a boss/lip on the liner. This allows for the fasteners to be placed vertical and not horizontal. Imagine the lid of a shoe box sliding down on the box … there isn’t a flange sticking out. Flange-mounted consoles are easier to install, but they don’t provide an even surface for the angler/operator to walk around. They could become a source of toe-stubbing.”

Coming up: Look for our article on center console features and amenities in the next issue of All At Sea. To comment on this article, email editor@allatsea.net

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