I liked hang­ing around the docks long be­fore I had a boat.

Boating - - TESTS -

VIS­UAL AS­SETS

I liked hang­ing around the docks long be­fore I had a boat. I still en­joy it, though not quite as much as pi­lot­ing my own ves­sel. Once while at the dock, I watched as a cap­tain came into a nar­row port and aimed his bow at the slip. Just short of the slip, he turned his back to the helm. Stand­ing be­tween the throt­tles, he took one in each hand, and pulled one up to for­ward at a pretty strong idle and pushed the other to re­verse with equal author­ity. Com­pletely con­fi­dent, from both prac­tice and the clear view of other boats and dock fingers, he piv­oted his beauty 180 de­grees, then non­cha­lantly re­versed throt­tle po­si­tions, stopped the pivot and aimed the stern straight into the slip. Just as the lac­quered ma­hogany tran­som might have struck the dock, he ap­plied for­ward thrust, and water boiled up be­tween the stern and dock, stop­ping the ves­sel per­fectly, just inches from the pier. Dock hands threw lines on the cleats, and the boat was made fast.

CLIMB­ING LI­A­BIL­I­TIES

That skip­per had a crew await­ing him on the dock. Had he not, at least six steps stood be­tween him and his dock lines. As the boat idled there, tech­ni­cally still un­der­way as the rules of nav­i­ga­tion go, he could drift into other boats in the ma­rina. The skip­per in a fly­bridge had bet­ter be sure­footed or have a crew (or a re­mote con­trol or a lower sta­tion to trans­fer to). With a crew, the up­per sta­tion be­comes an as­set again, be­cause he can as­sign tasks and ob­serve his crew as they se­cure the boat. Like­wise, up­per sta­tions are not for the long-in-the-tooth com­man­ders who may not have that youth­ful spring in their step.

AREA AS­SETS

The only thing bet­ter than en­joy­ing the view from above is shar­ing it. That up­per sta­tion sup­plies ex­tra seat­ing, and the so­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties it pro­vides are at least charm­ing — if not ro­man­tic with the right pas­sen­gers. Of­ten, if the ves­sel is large enough to carry it, an up­per sta­tion can have an elec­tric re­frig­er­a­tor or at least an ice chest, and some boast a cock­tail gal­ley with a sink.

AC­CESS LI­A­BIL­ITY

You have to climb to the bridge in a con­vert­ible or fly­bridge, and that re­quires stairs or a lad­der that takes up space in the cock­pit be­low. Some­times that loss of space is sub­stan­tial, crowd­ing the gath­er­ing area. Even a lad­der to the bridge cre­ates in­con­ve­niences in that gath­er­ing space. And some skip­pers pre­fer hav­ing all the ac­tion on the main deck rather than di­vid­ing the so­cial­iz­ing crew be­tween up­per and lower decks.

LOFTY AS­SETS

It’s the best place to grab some rays and feel the breeze, whether stirred by na­ture or by throt­tle. You’ll look very smart up there too, giv­ing the boater’s wave from that lofty perch. And as the skip­per, your crew will com­pete for your com­pany, giv­ing plenty of op­por­tu­nity for more in­ti­mate con­ver­sa­tion.

LOFTY LI­A­BIL­I­TIES

That added height can cost you some wa­ter­way ac­cess and even stor­age fees — es­pe­cially if you dry-stack your boat when it’s not in use. Dry-stack mari­nas charge by length and by height. So, be sure of the stor­age fees be­fore you buy. Fur­ther, that added height means wait­ing for draw­bridges or be­ing un­able to gain pas­sage be­neath fixed bridges to cer­tain wa­ters al­to­gether. Will it be worth it? It’s up to each in­di­vid­ual boater.

CASH AS­SETS

Ex­pect that up­per sta­tion to cost be­tween $25,000 and

$75,000 de­pend­ing on the boat and the ac­com­mo­da­tions in­cluded above. On some boats, an up­per sta­tion can make them re­sell faster and some­times for a higher price than with­out one. That is par­tic­u­larly so if the boat’s up­per sta­tion isn’t the sole sta­tion. That higher re­sale price, though, may be off­set by the cost of main­tain­ing helm hy­draulics, throt­tle and shift con­trols, and nav­i­ga­tion equip­ment in both sta­tions.

STORMY LI­A­BIL­I­TIES

On a beau­ti­ful day, noth­ing is bet­ter than skip­per­ing from above. On a stormy day, noth­ing is worse. An up­per sta­tion is high above the ves­sel’s cen­ter of grav­ity, and the only thing worse than lung­ing for­ward through rough seas is wob­bling side­ways through them with each wave at­tempt­ing to sling­shot you abeam. Trying to come through a sloppy in­let in stormy weather will make you kick your­self for not in­vest­ing in a sec­ond lower sta­tion.

You’ll find lots of op­tions in fly­bridge boats and de­signs for many tastes and wal­lets. The de­signs range from pocket trawlers to lux­ury cruis­ers and sport-fish­ers. Here are some top ex­am­ples, along with some as­sets and some — let’s just call them trade-offs — in the bar­gain.

Just short of the slip, he turned his back to the helm. Stand­ing be­tween the throt­tles, he took one in each hand, and pulled one up to for­ward at a pretty strong idle and pushed the other to re­verse with equal author­ity.

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