Every Boat Needs a Helm Seat
If your car or truck had the headroom--say, like that of a bus--can you imagine always driving from a standing position, no matter how far or for how long? No matter the weather or road conditions? No? And yet the waters are filled with boat after boat, each featuring its own version of the helm seat from hell--so uncomfortable as to be virtually useless, thus practically forcing the skipper to stand.
Worse, there is the occasional sad vessel bobbing along with no helm seat at all, which is a real travesty. It would seem that even an overturned milk crate or five-gallon bucket would be better than nothing, albeit rather unsafe. So for safety reasons at the very least, if not aesthetics, toss the crate or bucket (but not overboard, please) and invest in a decent helm seat because the helm seat truly is a critical component of boating. It can substantially impact not only your comfort but also your enjoyment of each trip, as well as your safety.
Benefits of the Right Helm Seat
We already mentioned comfort, which of course ties in with enjoying yourself, and with safety. But there are a couple of other factors having to do with these things that you should consider, along with some other benefits.
- Comfort > Safety: Cruising for hours on end? Even though you're "just sitting", those long hours at sea are tiring. The right seat can help reduce fatigue. Less fatigue means more safety.
- Better Navigating > Safety: A seat that is just the right height and properly positioned greatly contributes to good visibility, and the correct ergonomic design gives more control. Again, these two factors equal more safety.
- Aesthetics: Remember the overturned milk crate and bucket we suggested you stop using for aesthetic reasons if nothing else? Yeah, well a nice helm seat will do wonders for the overall look of your boat, and a pair of them will make it look downright irresistible.
- More Storage (maybe): Some helm seats come with storage compartments, and even more have those handy pockets on the back for storing all sorts of things. And we boaters know that any extra storage on any size boat is a windfall.
Helm Seat Basics
So, what exactly is a helm seat? It's not just any old boat seat. A helm seat is essentially a captain's chair and while you could call it thus, it might sound a tad high falootin' while cruising around in a 20' ski boat with your buddies. On the other hand, helm seat, boat seat, capn's chair, skipper's stool, or whatever you want to call it matters little. What matters is choosing the right one for you and your type of boat, but with such a huge range of options available, the choices can be overwhelming.
That’s why we've put together a quick navigation guide. While it may not matter what you call your main boat seat, materials and construction do matter, very much. Most boat seats, including helm seats, are covered with some type of vinyl, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a.k.a expanded vinyl, or a vinyl-polyester composite. PVC resists mold and mildew and is a cost-effective textile in many cases. The composite is known for staying tight on its frame as well as being resistant to UV rays, mold, mildew, and fire.
Some vinyls such as the genuine Naugahyde used in some of Bentley's seats, are created to look and feel like leather (although Bentley's does offer one in genuine leather as well). But no matter how basic or luxurious the seat covering is, if it will be exposed to the elements, make sure it is also waterproof. Double-stitched fabric is important as well, especially if you're paying a premium price. As for the boat seat base, these are usually aluminum or stainless steel.
What's Your Style?
There is a wide variety of styles, colors, sizes, and price ranges to choose from. The boat bucket seat is popular for all of these reasons, plus they look great on any boat. Besides, the ones with the flip-up armrests not only have an added level of comfort, but the armrests can help prevent the occupant from sliding out sideways when things get rough. Boat bucket seats come in styles from a bare plastic shell that can endure being left out in the worst elements to luxurious leather like this posh Pilot Seat by H.O. Bostrom. Or how about a more middle-of-the-road version such as an H.O. Bostrom seat with built-in shock absorption?
Of course, H.O. Bostrom and Bentley's aren't the only kids on the block who make good marine seating. Tempress is popular with boaters as well, and we carry many of their quality seats, like their ProBax Orthopedic Captain's Seats in three different colors, plus two other ProBax Orthopedic seats. ProBax seats were designed by Tempress in conjunction with leading US Spinal Surgeons and Ergonomic experts and are clinically proven to provide optimal long-term back and upper body support.
But Tempress doesn't just offer helm seats. If you're looking for a boat fishing seat, there are plenty to be had in many different styles. Bucket seats with armrests do not generally make good fishing seats because unless they are flat and have flip-up armrests, they require effort to get in and out of. When holding fishing gear, a seat that is flat with no armrests that you can quickly slide off of is better. These types of seats are commonly found on bass boats where they may accompany a more stylish helm bucket seat. Many bass boat seats aside from the helm seat are very basic yet functional.
Many of these seats, whether they be helm seats, fishing seats, or even seats to just sit in and do nothing but enjoy the ride, are equipped to slide fore and aft, swivel, or be raised and lowered, depending and the style. On others, the backs can be folded down, and then there is the nifty back-to-back type that can be opened up and used for sunbathing or sleeping. But there are a couple of other kinds of boat seating we haven't yet mentioned--the fishing chair and bolster boat seats.
A fishing chair is another animal altogether. These are also referred to as a fighting chair. A fishing chair is quite stout and supports the angler and the fishing gear during an arduous fish fight. But what if you don't happen to be fishing for bluefin tuna or a giant swordfish at the moment, and you're just cruising merrily along--merrily that is, except for the fact that your butt is tired of sitting? You've tried standing, but every bounce over the waves deposits you unceremoniously right back in your seat.
What to do? The winds of fortune have blown your way, as there are boat seats designed for just such a sad scenario. These comfy creatures feature a bolster, which is actually the first several inches of the seat bottom. This is cleverly hinged and can be flipped up, turning your seat into a leaning post. Some bolsters are higher than others when in the flipped-up position, so while browsing, consider your height and the level of support you think you'll need while standing at the wheel of your boat.
What Will Your Seat Sit On?
The different boat seat components available to put together a complete seat unit are also impressive. Once a seat is decided upon then next is selecting a suitable seat mount, pedestal, and pedestal base. This is where an online store like Go2marine makes the choice so much easier because you can easily start fitting the pieces together before actually buying them. After finally matching all the components together to assemble the perfect seat for the boat, it's a good idea to protect your investment with a suitable cover that will protect the seat from the elements. Generic seat covers are available from suppliers such as Tempress or Taylor Made which are an economical alternative to having a custom cover made.
So, if you are considering replacing a worn-out, wobbly helm seat, or other type of boat seating for that matter, start here and see what we have in store for you.