what is the helm of the boat

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Generally, in the boating world, there are a lot of vocabularies that not many people are conversant with. This is partially related to the fact that mariners were isolated for long periods of time. As a result, they came up with a common language that was different from the rest of society.

For this reason, it can appear like there’s a unique word for everything within the boating world. Understanding the correct terms can assist you to comprehend what others might be communicating to you.  This article will talk about what is the helm of the boat. So, you better keep on reading…

What Is the Helm of a Boat?

Helm is the word that’s used to refer to space from which a boat is steered or commanded. This word comes from an antique English term which means “rudder.” In other words, the Helm of a boat is anything which is utilized to steer the boat. Ordinarily, a hem can be a wheel or a tiller. Thus, when a person requests you to “take the helm”; what they mean is that you’re in charge of “driving” the vessel.

Important Features of a Boat Helm

The kind of boat, be it an express cruiser, a motor yacht or long-range trawler, will determine the particular details required. Below, have a look at a few essential features to consider:

Line of Sight

The best line of sight is a 360-degree. However, that’s seldom possible on a boat. A reliable line of sight ahead, not only of the horizon but also of the water right at the front of the boat, is vital so you can circumvent debris noticed at the very last moment. A line of sight by the side is also important to help you keep watch on other vessels which may be on the collision course.


The navigation electronics and engine ought to be arranged so that they are easily scanned within the line of sight of the skipper. Moreover, all controls must be conveniently accessible. Some things, as little as the location of the shifters, can become an annoyance if not well positioned and even deadly in the worst circumstance.


Honestly, a helm seat that’s uncomfortable can quickly become huge trouble in your butt. In the case of a coastal cruiser that operates mainly within fair weather, a bench seat can be OK. Actually, a bench can provide the opportunity for the skipper to enjoy companionship. However, with an offshore passage, a greater pick could be a dedicated helm chair having a foot platform and armrests to ensure that the skipper in sturdy in position without any troubles. Companion seating which needs the skipper to move each time someone requires to sit down or even get up is an example of bad layout.

Deck Access

Doors that lead to the side decks ought to be near the helm if there’s a plan to cruise short-handed and require handling lines. Nonetheless, the position of the helm seating must not hinder the crew from straightforward access.


Sport boats are usually furnished with vents in the dash to either heat or cool the helm section while opening overhead hatches and windows make the helm comfortable by supplying fresh air.


You might have the most modern chart plotter; however, every boat ought to carry a collection of paper charts about the neighboring area as an alternative in case the electronics unexpectedly stop working. Coastal boats can have a drawer to keep a chartbook. On the other hand, skippers going offshore will need a complete chart table plus flat stowage for bigger charts.


Normally, it’s surprising that the instruments end up around the helm, though it’s all important. From reading glasses to binoculars, a cup of coffee to chart protractor, a cell phone to pencils, you’ll require a space for these things that is safe in a seaway. Every counter is supposed to have fiddles for keeping things in position, and drawers require positive latches as well.


Wisely positioned grab rails, either about the helm or on top, can supplement security while underway. The sole around the helm ought to be a non-slip surface, as your crew can come off wet decks.

Long Rangers

Being in a position to shut the helm section from the cabin lights at night is important on cruising boats to let the crew utilize the galley or salon minus diminishing the night vision of the skipper. Additionally, possessing either a steadfast pilot berth within the pilothouse for a person to sleep is important. Conversely, the off watch is helpful if the skipper requires another pair of eyes. Lastly, having a head positioned near the helm can be a wise touch.

Different Types of Boats with Different Helm Designs

San Juan 48

This is a Down East-style boat with a helm section isolated from the rest of the deckhouse, and with a wide seat and a lot of space for electronics within the bright teak dash. From the adjustable wheel to the teak footrest, this is an illustration of ergonomic convenience with an artistic finish.

Outer Reef 80

This boat includes a counter to port which houses a chart set and the instrument console that has room for 4 screens plus the overhead cabinet that handles much more systems. The boat’s design is great and you’ll like the rails atop the counters as well as the bookshelves that hold manuals and guides. The huge settee additionally functions as a skipper berth.

Kadey-Krogen 48

This trawler boat includes reversed helm windows to do away with instrument reflections, blends counter sea rails with handrails and has twin Dutch side doors to enhance access and enjoy fresh air. The big chart table comes with flat stowage drawers beneath, and the settee transforms to a berth to accommodate the off-watch.

Sea Ray 540

Sea Ray 540 must balance time underway with resting time, and it resolves the problem with double helm seats which swivel away from the helm facing starboard, to a lounge, to the cockpit entertainment space. Rocker switches are properly-protected over the dash, which possesses two multifunction-electronic-displays.


Offshore-64 features a huge instrument panel. In addition, it has an overhead console that contains the monitoring system needed for convenient viewing. Great touches incorporate recessed panels that prevent unintentional switching. Also, its galley can be shut for night operation while the settee transforms into a pilot berth.

Ocean Alexander 60

This is a truly raised helm, isolated from the salon important for night operation. Doors leading to the side decks, the sole is non-slip teak & holly, and you can find overhead rails that enhance the safety. The chart table to port comes with flat stowage beneath, with more counter area at the elbow of the skipper. The instrument board has space for an array of electronics, while the raised settee serves as a skipper’s berth.

Helming a Boat

In essence, the helm of a boat is the “office” of the skipper anytime the boat is underway. As such, the helm ought to be designed accurately and outfitted so as to match that crucial role.

At first, helming a boat can really be overwhelming. This is because you not only require steering, but you additionally need to check on the compass, waves, the direction, wind, the wind vane, the sails, heel of the boat, the telltales and other related aspects. As a beginner, even when you’re only trying to steer within a straight line, you’ll find yourself all over the place. However, just like with driving a vehicle, the more experience you get, the simpler things are going to become.

The Basics of Boat Helming

When it comes to accurate helming, the first step is to become conscious of your senses:

  • You need to pay attention to and feel your boat heeling
  • You should feel the direction of the wind atop your ears
  • Get to listen for the flapping sails
  • Lastly, observe the pressure over the boat’s helm

All of these provide you with an indication that something is going on and a change or adjustment is required. Also, whenever you’re steering a course, try not to spend your time beginning at the compass. Actually, this won’t assist because unlike a vehicle, the wind forces and waves are invariably putting out of the course. In fact, you’ll end up recompensing, steering left & right, and then sailing a zigzag. Of course, your fellow members of the crew won’t like it either since they’ll eventually feel uncomfortable!

Hence, the best action to take is to choose a point up ahead (it can be a landmark or a cloud) then focus on that. If you happen to go against the course your senses are going to tell you. Here, you’ll think what requires to be done so as to correct the course. Ultimately, it’ll become your second nature. It’s important that if anyone aboard feels seasick, then the best thing to do is to take the helm. Providing them with something to focus on (instead of letting them think about how rough they are feeling) relieves the sick feeling nearly immediately.