There’s been an explosion in the popularity of hullside windows in modern production boats over the past decade or so. As a result, they have infiltrated every segment of the yachting industry but one: American sportfishing convertibles. Let’s pick this one apart.
I’ve written on the topic of hullside windows in a previous issue, but only recently have I pondered more specifically the sharp divide between sportfishermen and the rest of the seafaring crowd in the 2020s. Trendy Euro-cruisers all have hullside windows now. Sportfishermen don’t have a single hull fenestration. The gulf is real and will only widen. And there’s more to it than windows
Now I’m not talking about a traditional portlight, the wise old middleman here. Portlights let in a reasonable amount of natural light and fresh air without endangering the vessel’s very survival if the glass should fail on a bad day. Many people, myself included, appreciate traditional ports blistered along the topsides. A nice melon-sized opening portlight allows me to see, hear and smell trouble from my bunk day and night, especially at anchor—with or without the air on. They offer a level of situational awareness unavailable to the guy sleeping off a long day of fishing and drinking aboard a modern battlewagon.
I’m referring to the gargantuan, irregularly shaped holes in the hull which are covered in tinted, tempered glass. Glass with equivalent puncture resistance to the surrounding fiberglass is really heavy, but at what cost? Like many questionable styling trends, these big hull holes were first conceived in Italy and emigrated to three of the four corners of the modern boatbuilding world.
One need only look around at the next boat show to quickly realize it’s impossible to buy a new Azimut, Absolute, Sunseeker or any of the dozens of other Euro-cruisers or their sistren from the U.S., Australia or Asia that doesn’t have sprawling, randomly shaped hullside windows from bow to stern. Conversely, with rare exception, no quality sportfish builder offers a single hullside window in any of their offerings under 80 feet.
The sportfish guys are slavishly devoted to “the look,” meaning there’s very little that can be added to or removed from the exterior of a custom or production convertible anymore. Stripping the boat of bow rails, davits, deck hatches and ports is all part of the look. And ports leak, they say.
But I think there’s more to the MIA status of hullside windows on America’s sportfishing boat than just the look and the leak. It’s part of a larger picture. Along the waterfront over the past few years, I have compiled a mental list of things that often accompany massive hullside windows and the things that don’t.
Little embroidered red lobsters on dark-blue pants? That guy’s boat has hullside windows.
Stainless Yeti tumbler with NRA logo on it? No hullside windows.
Hybrid Lexus in the marina parking lot? Big window guy.
Lifted F-250 with a “Let’s Go Brandon” sticker on the back window? Who needs windows, y’all?
Women boarding the boat in high heels? Big, big windows.
Jack Daniels and fresh fish at cocktail hour? No hullside windows. Rosé and goat cheese? Buy more Windex.
George Strait playing from the cockpit speakers? No windows. Ed Sheeran? Still not enough Windex.
Where is this all going? I can see the future in this industry. Eventually, some Italian builder will offer all-glass hullsides for the lobsters-on-the-pants set who like to see the outside world from the bidet. Conversely, the day will come when trickle-down military technology will allow for windowless, autonomous sportfishing boats
catering to adventurous Americans who like a good burn from both the sun and the tequila.
So, in 2035, when a software glitch on an autonomous American battlewagon causes it to collide with the boat driven by the guy listening to Ed Sheeran and shatters the glass hull on his floating Italian chandelier, remember you heard it from me first.