Bright Ideas

On catamarans, clever port coverings establish privacy while maintaining a feeling of openness and light. From "Makeovers and Refits" in our August 2008 issue

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These decorative windows, made from liquid acrylic, provide a bit more privacy below and also help to regulate Toodle-oo's air-conditioning.R. Booth Mitchem

Catamarans, with their inherently larger ports, offer terrific views of the outside world. But like monohulls, when the curtains are closed, it's easy when you're inside to feel claustrophobic.

On Toodle-oo, a 26-foot Catalac catamaran built in 1981 and owned by R. Booth Mitchem of Williamsburg, Virginia, the challenge was to create window and port coverings that offer both privacy and an attractive barrier to escaping interior air chilled by his onboard AC. "My color windows germinated from pragmatic concerns," said Booth, who'd installed a 5,200-Btu air-conditioning unit to cool the master stateroom. "The unit doesn't really have enough oomph to do more than that," he said. Circular cutouts in the bulkhead were intended to let outside light penetrate farther into the boat, but they allowed the cool air to escape from the stateroom, overtaxing the air-conditioning.

"I didn't want an opaque closure, and I preferred something a little more decorative than simple Lexan or Plexiglas," said Booth, who originally wanted stained glass but was afraid it would chip. So he made windows from liquid acrylic that hardens to resemble stained glass. They're held in place by a few clips that can be easily removed. This relieved the overburdened air-conditioning. Next, he tackled the privacy issue.

"To me, on a small boat like this, curtains seem to take up too much room and are too conspicuous," Booth said. "So for the side window, I made another acrylic window overlay of a volcano. Three windows span the front of the cat, which look into the stateroom and the head. For these, I simply had a mirror film installed. During the day, no one can see in. At night, there's an exterior window cover that preserves privacy." Booth cautions that mirror film isn't suitable for Lexan or Plexiglas, which exude gases; over time, the film will develop bubbles. The film works well with glass, he said. Toodle-oo now has custom window coverings and a contained area for more efficient air-conditioning, and the result is a one-of-a-kind work of art.

Bernadette Bernon, a CW editor at large, and her husband, Douglas, spent six years cruising aboard their Shearwater 39, Ithaka.