Pilothouse Windows

One spectacular thing about a Krogen 42 is the view from the pilothouse. For those uninitiated, the pilothouse is the inside place where you drive the boat. It’s out of the wind and weather, and all the best instruments and controls are there. Simply, it’s why you sell your sailboat. If your boat was a plane, the pilothouse would be its cockpit. Note: Cockpits on boats are altogether different than planes: if you’re lucky to have one (not all boats do) it’s on the aft (ass) end, above the rudder, where you fish, handle dock lines, visit with neighbors, grill, smoke, and at 3:30am, pee.

So back to the pilothouse Windows. In a Krogen 42, there are 11 windows, giving the “pilot” a comprehensive view of the sea beyond. If you’re at the dock, the view is mostly of neighboring boats, but when you’re hanging with the 40-60 footer crowd, it’s a nice view. There’s 3 facing forward, 3 on each side, and 2 facing aft. When we bought Cirila, all but the aft facing windows were in bad shape. The prior owner, seeking refuge from the Texas heat, put reflective panels, like some folks put on the dashboard of their Nissan Sentra, behind the windows.

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The problem was he fit them much more closely than the car versions are, and he cooked the windows like a 12 year old cooks grasshoppers with a magnifying glass. Two had a mesmarizing pattern of cracks, four others were delaminating, with brownish bubbles of goo separating the layers of safety glass in the corners and around the edges. At best it distracted from the spectacular view, and at worst, it could prevent you from spotting your best friend’s eight year old, who fell out of the cockpit trying to pee like the grown-ups.

So last week, we replaced all but the aft facing windows. Do you remember when you got your first pair of glasses, or installed new lighting in your kitchen, or had cataracts surgery, or had a miraculous recovery from near blindness? Yes, it’s kind of like that.

We got our first quote to fix the windows during the boat buying process, when we negotiated the final price based on survey findings. We got our second quote after we owned Cirila for a month, and our 3rd a couple months after my very brief stab at the do-it-yourself route. Afraid I would do irreparable harm, I got that third quote.

Number three was from Admiral Glass in League City. For the lean sum of $200 per window, Admiral Glass, and more specifically Paul and his sidekick John, turned our night into day. Paul did the first 4 on his own; speed increased 25% when John helped with the last 7. Paul is a master glass cutter and caulktician. John is a good dude, just not inspired by cleaning decades old caulk from the removed frames. Not sure I blame him – the thought of it inspired me to get that third quote.

All went well except for that first center forward window install. This window is different than the rest. It opens, wide, hinging upward, like an aligator’s jaw. A stainless steel frame holds the glass in a small recess of the FRP wrapped wooden frame. The entire assembly is the aligator’s upper jaw. Master Paul stopped using his impact driver after cracking the first two windows. With an old fashioned screw driver, the third time was the charm.

While said construction was ongoing, this author was working his day job, from his home office on the port side of the pilothouse. Understand that Cirila’s navigation computer is to starboard, home office to port. The pilothouse is also home to all the major electronics, half the DC power breaker panels, both air conditioning units, the communications center, tool crib, chart room, and is open to rain and 95 degree heat during this entire process. In the 30-45 minutes each window was out, I sanded the inside teak frame, since it’s so much easier when the window is out, and rain is coming in. We did have two weather delays, which while frustrating, smoothed out paying for it all.

Paul caulked on the third day, and yes, the biblical reference is real – his caulking is that good. He did the exterior. In the interest of economy and seeking my own place in caulking lore, I applied three coats of spar urathane (which I do have the skills for), and caulked the inside myself(which I don’t) If I bolted my severed arm to a robot slolen from the welding line of a Mercedes Benz factory, my caulk bead would wander like a snail track, and have swells, like those bulging rings on a pregnant earthworm. After the caulk set, I spent many hours on conference calls, dreaming of casting off, trimming those fat spots off with an Exacto knife.

The varnish looks nice and THE WINDOWS ARE MAGNIFICENT. Wait, that’s the view, I don’t notice the windows anymore.

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