Project Porthole

As everyone has seen in the movies, most boats have portholes.

bb bed view 2 bb bedroom 1
Pictures: our bedroom complete with metal trimmed portholes.

Our boat has four portholes with opening tops, 2 oblong windows with opening tops and sliding sides in the kitchen, and 2 oblong windows with opening tops only in our seating area.
The window frames are all aluminium, and an absolute bitch in cold weather for attracting condensation. In fact any metal surface is a haven for it, and if we’re not careful we can have unexpected showers from the back doorway or Houdini hatch (aka escape hatch or skylight) in the kitchen.

bb other side bb 4 6
Pictures: our boat from both sides, showing 2 portholes, one slider window and one top opener each on the starboard and port side.

We have survived 2 winters here (in fact we are still going through our second as the weather is so unpredictable, each time we put the radiators and dehumidifier away, temperatures plummet and we have to get them out again), and on the larger windows and hatch have used a clingfilm type double glazing. For our portholes, we modified square picture frames and used draught excluder on the edges to make a seal against the side of the boat when we screwed them to the wall.
It has worked very well for us insomuch as a dab here or there with the elephant’s bog roll occasionally has kept us internally dry.
blue rollHubby has been pondering our porthole problem for a while though.
It’s been all very well taking off the aluminium trim in winter and putting up our frames, but that has two major drawbacks:
a)  we cannot open the windows on warmer days, and
b)  if any condensation happens to occur, ventilation is a bit of a game.
Another disadvantage has been damage to the trims in removal, and although only minimal, damage it is and they no longer lie flat against the wall.

Hubby therefore wanted to replace the metal trim with a wooden frame, and set about pricing them.
He was glad to be sitting down as the cheapest he could find was £250 each, but that did include fitting.  Also they would each have to be made individually as no two were exactly the same size.
Note:  this was the trim/frame only, NOT a double glazed unit, which is a totally different ball game and definitely out of our league.

Plan B was therefore to make them himself, but the question was how to get the wood to bend for the inner liner, and the best way to cut a circular ‘doughnut’ without the proper equipment.

He never ceases to amaze me with his inventiveness and originality in solving a problem.

He used 2mm plywood for the inner ring, cutting it just under an inch wide, then dampening it to bend to shape. A bit of glue to join the ends together, clamps to hold in place, and voila, one wooden halo ready to fit.
For the outer circles, which he cut in two halves, he used 4mm plywood.
No he did not use a dinner plate for a template (for a 38 cm diameter my plates are too small), and no, he did not use a bucket either.
Instead, he made a wooden pair of compasses using a piece of batten with three holes drilled in it. One end held a pencil, and the two holes at the other spaced for diameters of 22 cm and 19 cm held screws and represented the depth/width required for our doughnut.
He managed to get two pairs of doughnuts out of each piece of plywood by looping them over each other top to bottom. This also meant that the grain for each half would go in the same direction.

bathroom doughnut 1 bathroom doughnut
Pictures : Bathroom porthole window (day and night)

He learned a lot making the first one, and tweaked his procedure a little in cutting the inner ring slightly smaller, then bringing it out to meet the outer frame, rather than cut the pieces to fit together in situ (lots of shaving, trimming and sanding).
He used crazy foam filler to make a proper insulated seal, then filled in any gaps in the frame with wood glue. He gave each porthole a few coats of woodstain before varnishing.
The end results are fabulous (well, I think so, they look really good).

bedroom doughnut 1 bedroom doughnut
Pictures : bedroom port and starboard side.

We’ve had some low temperatures since completion and any condensation has collected on the inside aluminium window casement as intended and dripped into the relevant gully therein.

corridor doughnutPicture : Corridor porthole (night time)

Yesterday was spent making new ‘stuffers’ as the cake boards we’d originally used no longer fitted and we had just been putting pieces of card up at the bedroom windows..
cake boardWe’ve used the same principle though, covering one side with dark card and the shiny side  faces out. We’ve put small door knobs in the centre, and sealed the edge with plastic tubing as used in aquariums. This holds the stuffer in place without too much force or possibility of damage to Hubby’s masterpieces on removal.

stuffer doughnut 1
Pictures:  our cake board stuffers with knobs on!

This morning we awoke to four eclipses in our porthole windows, as the sun shone through the clear plastic. It was an interesting effect, by no means intrusive or distracting, and better still everything was still in place having had no clunks in the night from something falling out!

The double glazing bit will be investigated through the warmer months (if we get any) as our original idea didn’t work and needs a bit of tweaking.

Total cost for the job less than fifty pounds, plus 4 discounted cake boards at £2.85 each.


About pensitivity101

I am a retired number cruncher with a vivid imagination and wacky sense of humour which extends to short stories and poetry. I love to cook and am a bit of a dog whisperer as I get on better with them than people sometimes! In November 2020, we lost our beloved Maggie who adopted us as a 7 week old pup in March 2005. We decided to have a photo put on canvas as we had for her predecessor Barney. We now have three pictures of our fur babies on the wall as we found a snapshot of Kizzy, my GSD when Hubby and I first met so had hers done too. On February 24th 2022 we were blessed to find Maya, a 13 week old GSD pup who has made her own place in our hearts. You can follow our training methods, photos and her growth in my blog posts. From 2014 to 2017 'Home' was a 41 foot narrow boat where we made strong friendships both on and off the water. We were close to nature enjoying swan and duck families for neighbours, and it was a fascinating chapter in our lives. We now reside in a small bungalow on the Lincolnshire coast where we have forged new friendships and interests.
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11 Responses to Project Porthole

  1. scifihammy says:

    A lot of work goes into maintaining your boat, but the effort is worth it. Looking good 🙂

    • Thanks. It does indeed to some extent, but at least it’s not major jobs like replacing fence panels, roof tiles, or mowing the lawn. Hubby always likes to keep busy.

  2. These are quite pretty – and practical to boot!

  3. Very clever solution! (Doesn’t it seem that anything that can be labeled “marine”/”for boating” cost many times more than it should. Window, ports, and skylights are worth serious consideration when looking at boats. Well done!

    • Thanks. Yes, mention the word caravan or boat when you are looking for something specific, and a miraculous ‘1’ seems to appear in front of the price!

  4. lbeth1950 says:

    I have always wanted to see your boat. Do you stay on board in stormy weather?

  5. Pingback: Money Orientated | pensitivity101

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