In­side An­gle

Hull­side win­dows are a new trend in yacht de­sign—or are they?

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Bill Prince

Think to­day’s large, hull­side win­dows are a new trend? Far from it. In fact, ship cap­tains have been en­joy­ing them for cen­turies.

Hull­side win­dows are all the rage on any con­tem­po­rary power­boat big enough to have Dolby 7.1 and LED tape light­ing. The temp­ta­tion for a builder to dis­tin­guish its oth­er­wise rep­e­ti­tious 60-foot float­ing ten­nis shoe ex­press coupe with a stand­out hull­side win­dow de­sign can be over­whelm­ing, mar­ket forces be­ing what they are. This phe­nom­e­non— like a lot of pass­ing styling af­fec­ta­tions—be­gan in Europe. Some­times I won­der if the piv­otal in­ter­view ques­tion asked of prospec­tive de­sign­ers at a typ­i­cal Ital­ian boat­yard is “Can you draw a goofy-look­ing shape that does not ex­ist in na­ture and turn it into a win­dow we’ll lo­cate awk­wardly close to the wa­ter­line?” If the ea­ger young de­signer nods in the af­fir­ma­tive, the job is his!

But the hull­side win­dow idea took off and it has spread to the USA. It’s got­ten to the point where even some of the big­ger sport­fish­ing boats are adorned with hull­side win­dows, 30 years af­ter builders did away with sim­ple port­lights be­cause half the time they leaked.

As novel as to­day’s crop of hull­side win­dows may seem, they are far from orig­i­nal. I watched the replica HMS Bounty pull into my home­port sev­eral years ago, be­fore she was lost at sea in 2012. I was im­me­di­ately re­minded that this wheel had al­ready turned.

The cap­tain’s quar­ters on the old sail­ing ships were al­most al­ways lo­cated in the stern, and were the only re­motely lux­u­ri­ous spa­ces on board. (Crew and rats were rel­e­gated to a space the size of a Sea­keeper gyro sta­bi­lizer on a mod­ern yacht.) And many of them were adorned with ex­actly what you see on the Bounty: hull­side win­dows.

Given the typ­i­cal mo­tions of a boat at sea (at least be­fore the days of said Sea­keep­ers), a case could be made that the aft cabin ar­range­ment on the sail­ing ships from the bad old days and the “bay win­dow” de­sign of the Bounty’s day­light open­ings were su­pe­rior to what we of­ten see to­day. The Bounty’s win­dows were much far­ther aft and pro­por­tion­ately higher, vir­tu­ally free of bow spray and less likely to see green wa­ter rolling by at eye level. Some­one’s gotta clean the salt off those win­dows if they’re go­ing to be any good to see out of, re­mem­ber.

Be­cause hull fen­es­tra­tions have pro­lif­er­ated so rapidly in yachts of all sizes, I was asked to give a pre­sen­ta­tion to ad­dress their safety, and it got me think­ing. While big win­dows can cer­tainly trans­form the feel­ing of a stuffed-in-the-bilges mas­ter state­room, they also quite lit­er­ally open up the pos­si­bil­ity of a sink­ing should they leak, crack, break or oth­er­wise fail to keep the sea on the out­side.

Be wary of hull­side win­dows that are close to the bow, as they will be ex­posed to higher slam­ming loads from head seas than win­dows amid­ships. Hope­fully the Sparklethruster’s win­dows are bul­let­proof and prop­erly at­tached to a well-en­gi­neered sur­round.

Take a hard look at very large and/or low open­ing win­dows, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. It’s a bad day at sea when your teenager leaves a low win­dow open, the in­di­ca­tor light at the helm is burned out (if you had one to be­gin with), and you find your car­peted cabin soaked in 3 inches of salt wa­ter af­ter cross­ing to the Ba­hamas.

Fi­nally, rel­ish the thought of your boat tied up to a sea wall, the one with the rusty lad­der po­si­tioned just so. The wind shifted vi­o­lently some­time while you were at the office, and that lad­der had sev­eral good shots at your win­dow. Fri­day came and nobody in­spected it from in­side or out, so now you’re un­der­way with a hole in your boat.

De­sign trends come and go, but this one seems to have legs. Where is this headed? Will we soon have boats with top­sides that are 90 per­cent glass? Will we be cruis­ing and fish­ing in glass-hulled boats that don’t need paint be­cause the “smart glass” can change its color and opac­ity at the owner’s whim? What would Capt. Bligh think?

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