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Protecting windows and portholes during heavy weather conditions

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What is the issue?
Hull openings, hatches and so on are vulnerable in storm conditions. Should the vessel fall badly off a wave, or a heavy broaching wave should fall directly upon the window, it is possible for the weight of water could smash or drive a window or porthole through, letting in great volumes of solid water.

Why address this?
The breakage of a window or porthole breaches the vessels watertight integrity placing the vessel in grave jeopardy in any sort of seaway. The windows have to be sealed up as quickly as possible.

How to address this?
Make a set of two to three emergency weatherboards, also known as storm boards or shutters, with bolts, wingnuts, topping off acorn nuts and strongbacks to fit the largest windows on the vessel. Have these emergency plywood weatherboards on standby during heavy weather conditions in case of trouble.

Weatherboard boards for storm breakage
Photo: Tony Gibson

Predrilled 12mm marine ply that will fit over your various portals and add a thick rubber mat to help to create a seal. Place these emergency weatherboards in a location that is easily accessible should they be ever called upon.

Should you lose a porthole secure the boards in place by passing the strongback(s) out through the hole from the saloon or cabin and tightening them from the outside against the external frame of the port/window/hatch.

The reason being in the violent conditions in which you might be deploying these boards, you will not be able to do much more than get the boards in place before blacking out. Having run before a Hurricane for 6 days I cannot express the level of exhaustion involved in carrying out even the smallest task in these conditions. And getting a board in place will be a critical operation that will be demanding and very dangerous for the person tightening outside.

But once complete the exposed end of the bolt cannot be extruded into the cabin for fear of anyone being thrown upon as the storm continues. Likewise, the length of the bolt will be of no consequence abovedeck. You will most likely be running under bare poles so there should be no lines to snag upon. Nor will any crew be venturing out beyond the briefest of visits to the cockpit.

Having some acorn nuts that can be fitted over the exposed bolt ends is a quick way to remove their sharp top edge when the situation abates. They will help prevent any cuts to skin or clothing from snagging upon them. But when normal operations recommence the bolts are just asking for someone to fall against them when going forward and they are sure to snag headsail lines. If you have to live with them for any length of time, take a hacksaw and cut the ends of the bolt(s) off short and replace the acorn nut.

The precautionary boards may also serve a double purpose of being a planned part of a makeshift jury rudder Experience.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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