How Safe are Windows in the Hull

awol

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For my sins I watched "Saving Lives at Sea" tonight - the "rescue" that caught my attention was a Salona 40(something) that issued a Mayday 'cos it was taking in water. The water ingress was via a popped hull window in the fo'c'sle which the crew had stuffed with a cushion (at last a use for scatter cushions!). Pumps were passed from the lifeboat, boat was towed home and all was well ... but I was confused by several things:
  • Supposedly the yacht was in or going to a race - #3 pennant on backstay but no sail number!
  • There was no liferaft visible - if there was one on board I would have expected it to be readied when the Mayday was issued - so what Cat of race?
  • The popped window was on the port side but the yacht had its mainsail up and was sailing on starboard tack.
  • Buckets were in use but no-one was manning the deck pump.
My cynical mind wonders if this was a reconstruction after the fact for dramatic effect. Perhaps someone who knows the boat and/or incident could put my mind at rest. And, of course, are hull windows popping a common occurrance, has the glue got a "life" (like e.g. brass through-hulls) and how does one test them?
 

Bobc

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It did happen. It was a friend of a friend.

There was a callout a year ago off Cornwall where a French charter yacht had its hull windows blown in and was sinking.

Personally, I would never buy a boat with windows in the hull, especially not in front of the mast, where all the pressure is.

If I had a boat with hull windows, I would make sure that I carried 2 blanking plates to seal them off should they go pop.

There was also a second casr earlier this year of a Dartmouth boat having a window blown in.
 

noelex

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I too have concerns about hull windows, especially larger windows close to the waterline that seem to be permitted these days in offshore vessels.
 

ashtead

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I missed the programme but interested to know if the sad event was followed up by end form of report on the vessel involved? Any liferaft might have been under the cockpit sole of course. Was it a salona 40 as stated ?
 

penfold

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If I had a boat with hull windows, I would make sure that I carried 2 blanking plates to seal them off should they go pop.

There was also a second casr earlier this year of a Dartmouth boat having a window blown in.
That's the prudent thing to do; have a set of blanks and strongbacks made up, stow them somewhere and go sailing.
 

awol

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The commentary that went with the Beeb prog had a great deal of water in the boat before they opened the fo'c'sle door and saw the problem. Not sure that a heavy bow and breaking seas would mix too well with trying to attach blanks, that's assuming the windows are most at risk in heavy weather.
 

Concerto

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I have always said that large hull windows that are just glued in are a weakness to the integrity of the boat. Glueing a window in is much faster and cheaper to do than using mechanical fixings like bolts. 2 years ago I commented that hull windows leaking was the biggest warranty problem for Fairline powerboats. Yet over the past decade the number and sizeof hull windows have increased. Over the next few decades I expect a lot more problems with glued windows. Some people have commented that aircraft wings are glued on - BUT these joints are checked on a regular basis. Whereas, once a boat has left the factory, who checks them on a regular basis, just the owner who would rather be sailing.
 

Baggywrinkle

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Were they glued from the inside or outside of the hull? Was the boat repaired? Were the windows re-seated at any time? With the number of yachts at sea with hull windows these days, I am surprised there are not more reports of hull windows being breached if there is a fundamental problem. A Salona 41 has pretty small windows, and the report said 20knot SW winds with rolling seas .... nothing that out of the ordinary. There is more to this IMO than anyone here knows.

I remember my dad discussing windows as a kid in the 70s .... same fear and anything bigger than a dinner plate was considered dangerous. Bear in mind that most cabin windows on cruising boats in those days were the same height above the waterline as hull windows are today - and there were plenty of boats whose windows were popped out of their rubber seals which was why windows were always a talking point. It was a criteria considered in any boat purchase back then ... how big are the windows? How are they seated? ... at least they all agreed windows were worth having though.

Making the inside of a boat less like a cave by letting more light in, and allowing crew to see out without having to go on deck or open a hatch is a feature worth having IMO ... with modern materials and adhesives there is no reason why this feature can't be delivered safely.

As always there are the knee-jerk reactions of those whose preference is for older. more "traditional" boats, but the devil is always in the detail. Would be good to see a detailed report into what failed and why.

Incidentally, @guardian gave up restoring his Westerly, cut it up into 30x30cm pieces and put it in a skip ... his blog was not particularly complementary of Westerly lay-up ...

Another observation whilst slicing and dicing was how skinny and uneven the lay up was stem to stern;

A Gentlemans Yacht

The point being you can't generalise about any aspect of a boat, the hand lay-up of the Westerly Centaur certainly didn't support the "they don't build 'em like they used to" belief and the Salona popped a suposedly secure hull window out. I also have first hand knowledge of a HR36 that grounded and ripped it's skeg off, causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage and a long stay in the boatyard getting fixed - including removal of the interior.

All anecdotal evidence which should not be generalised - Westerly Centaurs, despite the lay-up inconsistency noted above were considered solid boats and the typical safe family cruiser in the 70s, there are thousands of boats afloat with hull windows, some of them massive power boats with massive windows.

I think the only take-away from this story is that any boat survey should include an assessment of the integrity of any hull windows, paricularly if there are signs that the window has been re-seated, the adhesive has been exposed to UV, or the boat has been repaired.
 

Talulah

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Our boat (Najad 390 1989) lost a hull window whilst alongside. Crew member put his bag on the shelf which pushed out the Perspex from the frame. I thought the rectangular portlights were designed in such a way that this couldn't happen but they are not.
We carry 5 spare plywood blanks that can be fitted from the inside so not an issue.
Later I examined the other hull portlights. All those in front of the mast could be pushed out with a single finger. The bonding had broken down. I suspect the boat flex's more up forward and this had caused the bonding to fail.
The rear windows were fine. I replaced all 10.
 

dunedin

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Were they glued from the inside or outside of the hull? Was the boat repaired? Were the windows re-seated at any time? With the number of yachts at sea with hull windows these days, I am surprised there are not more reports of hull windows being breached if there is a fundamental problem. A Salona 41 has pretty small windows, and the report said 20knot SW winds with rolling seas .... nothing that out of the ordinary. There is more to this IMO than anyone here knows.

I remember my dad discussing windows as a kid in the 70s .... same fear and anything bigger than a dinner plate was considered dangerous. Bear in mind that most cabin windows on cruising boats in those days were the same height above the waterline as hull windows are today - and there were plenty of boats whose windows were popped out of their rubber seals which was why windows were always a talking point. It was a criteria considered in any boat purchase back then ... how big are the windows? How are they seated? ... at least they all agreed windows were worth having though.

……….
I may be thinking of a different incident, but I seem to recall when first hearing about this rescue it was one of these “why in heck were they out there” situations, where they had ignored very severe weather forecasts?

Certainly didn’t look like big hull windows, and a few cushions / pillows should have been able to stem the flow.
And as noted, these hull windows are highter above the waterline than a Contessa 32 saloon windows :)

I do like modest sized hull windows. But certainly wouldn’t want to embark on a round the world Oyster Rally on one of the latest Oysters with huge triple near vertical slashes in the sides in multiple places. Would worry me me even in harbour (one I see regularly the fender often is against the glass) let alone in a proper storm mid ocean.
 

doug748

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I have no doubt that hull windows could be designed to be stronger but it would be expensive so my guess it is seldom done as well as it should be. Just observe the care with which ship's windows are mounted, even when they are 60 foot above the waterline. Mention of Contessa 32 windows is interesting, they are formed with several components, are metal framed and feature toughened glass.

Adhesives have been used extensively on aircraft for many years, including wooden construction but the flat statement that "aircraft wings are glued on" is a bit of a wind up and well short most people's understanding of the words..

.
 

Baggywrinkle

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Here is Sirius Yachts take on hull windows .... and they have quite large ones ...

How strong are the hull windows on a boat?

We are often asked online and at boat shows about the strength of our hull windows. While we cannot answer for other manufacturers, we can say with complete confidence that the hull windows on Sirius Yachts are stronger than the hull surrounding them!
 
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