Portlights, Main Salon, Trim, Mahogany

The portlights in the main salon fully trimmed-out in mahogany
Few things add more class to the interior of a fiberglass boat than trimwork in exotic woods. Many an Ericson yacht was trimmed in mahogany, and the Ericson 25 was no exception. There were, though, many differences in the way each of the different Ericson models was trimmed-out. In the case of the Ericson 25, there was a significant amount of mahogany throughout much of the boat. In the area of the cabin trunk, however, and by this I mean the upper area of the boat, there was very little. Two parts of this cabin trunk that were especially bare were the overhead and the area around the portlights. Wishing to clothe these areas with the warm tones of mahogany, I devoted some amount of time to the creation of trimwork that would make these parts of the boat more soothing to the spirit and more pleasant to the eye. In the present article, I discuss the steps I took in the creation of the trimwork for the portlights in the main salon. Just like almost every other project that I undertook in the refitting of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, this one, as we shall see, served not only an aesthetic purpose, but a practical one as well.
This trimwork project for the portlights grew out of a practical need for the covering of the portlights with new curtains. I suppose that at some time in the 1970s, when this boat was manufactured, the portlights were covered with pleated curtains, not unlike those seen in the picture below from an original promotional document for the Ericson 25. I've never liked the appearance of pleated curtains, and I had no intention of making new ones, or paying someone else to make new ones for this boat.
With no curtains, I had a blank canvas on which to create something entirely new. I briefly considered reusing the original plastic tracks, but when I found out how much money one chandlery and the next wanted for new curtain slides (just the plastic slides, not the curtains), I quickly decided that I needed to devise some other solution to the covering of these portlights. It was then that I started to think that maybe I should do what other people had done - screw two eyelets into the fiberglass at each end of the set of portlights and then run pieces of shockcord from one eyelet to the next. The shockcords would then be used as flexible curtain rods of sorts to support the straight, unpleated curtains that I could easily make out of a single piece of cloth. I didn't stick with this thinking very long. The main reason for me moving away from this shockcord approach was that every single picture I had ever seen of anyone's shockcord curtain set-up was cheap looking - sort of like what you might see in a cheap, run-down motel. I had to do something different . . . but what?
One thing was for sure - those tacky plastic tracks just had to come down.
That these tracks had been screwed into the hull liner with bronze screws made me think that they were original to the boat. The previous owner certainly would never have used bronze.
Before I ever started this project, I had removed one of the portlights for the purpose of inspecting it. I knew that these portlights leaked, and I new that I would need to re-bed them with adhesive/sealer.
One of the other things that had driven me to create this trim for the portlights was the work I had been doing with regard to the installation of the GPS and the new VHF. See the pieces of cardboard taped to the cabin trunk in the area next to the plastic tracks? Those were mock-ups for the pieces of mahogany I planned to install for the purpose of mounting the microphone for the VHF and also an anchor alarm that I would wire to the GPS. The mock-ups started making me wonder how the microphone for the VHF and how the anchor alarm might be obstructed by bunched-up layers of fabric, that is, if I hung curtains in the traditional fashion in the same basic area where the plastic tracks were located.
Puzzled by this problem, I spent many an hour nursing bottles of barley and hops, until at last I devised an unconventional, yet entirely workable solution. Instead of having curtains that slid back and forth on a track or on a piece of shockcord, why not have curtains that could be snapped into place and then later unsnapped, whenever they were no longer necessary? That was how I started thinking, and the more I started thinking this way, the more I liked the possibilities.
The trim, I thought, could be used to anchor the male halves of the snaps. I could have two different sets of curtains, both of them just simple, flat pieces of cloth. The first set could be navy, the color I would use on the new cushions. The navy curtains could be used to block the maximum amount of light at night, when privacy was desired at a dock, or early in the morning, when bright sunshine might not be welcome after a late night with heady beverages while on the hook. The second set of curtains could be white. These could be used on bright, sunny days to let lots of light in, but not direct sunlight. On those days that were cloudy, when direct sunlight would not be an issue, I could simply do without curtains. Both sets of curtains on these days could be rolled up and stored away somewhere in a locker. This was how I started thinking, and I designed this trim with this in mind.
I knew that I needed to create a frame of sorts around the portlights. I struggled, though, with the way that I should join the strips of mahogany at the corners.
I created one cardboard mock-up and then another in my quest to find the design that looked just right.
I eventually decided that I wanted to have small trim pieces at the corners and no strip of mahogany between the two portlights. Simplicity, to me, was more classy.
I also eventually decided that the small corner pieces should have curves in them, not unlike the corner pieces that I had recently created for the overhead trim. You can see one of these overhead corner trim pieces at the top right in the picture below. I intended the curves in these trim pieces to resemble the curvature of the hull.
Along these lines, I created additional curved trim pieces for the area between the two portlights. Doesn't that piece of cardboard look like the hull of the Ericson 25?
I thought the curved trim piece at the midpoint helped to define both of the portlights, without over-defining them.
When I added a strip of cardboard between the two portlights, it looked to me like overkill. Too boxy, too defined, not fluid enough.
At this point, I suddenly decided that before going any further with this trim design, it might not be a bad idea to see if it was possible for me to remove all of the portlights from the boat without damaging them. I knew of some persons who had destroyed their original portlights simply by trying to remove them from their boats. Why? Because some dullard who owned the boat before them had decided that it would be a good idea to re-bed his portlights with 3M 5200 - that permanent, polyurethane adhesive that has been the bane of many a boat refitter for a long long time. Fortunately, I was able to remove the port side portlight pictured below without any problems.
Here's what that portlight looked like after I had extracted it.
Next, I focused on the starboard side portlights.
Luckily, the aft portlight popped free of the cabin trunk with just a little pressure, right after I had loosened the screws.
The forward portlight on the starboard side also gave me little resistance.
Now I knew I could move forward with the creation of the mahogany pieces based on the cardboard mock-ups that I had earlier created. To get started, I had to plane down a piece of rough-sawn mahogany from 4/4 (1 inch) to 1/2 inch.
Not wanting to plane the entire board at once, I determined what length of it I would need for the creation of the various pieces.
With this properly sized piece in hand, I moved forward with the planing of the board.

Next, I ripped the board to size on the tablesaw.
Then, it was a matter of cutting off properly-sized segments of the finished board for each of the specific pieces.
As I had done when I had created the corner pieces for the overhead trim, I used the flange of a bronze through-hull to scribe the curves.
Notice the beautiful ribbon stripes in this mahogany. I hand picked this board from the lumber yard, because these stripes were unmistakable, even in the rough-sawn state. For more on this yard and this mahogany, see "Main Salon, Overhead, Trim, Mahogany."

The Makita jig saw did a fine job as always on these graceful curves.
As always, I did everything I could to get the most out of every piece of mahogany. This hourglass shaped piece, of course, is the scrap.
After I was finished with all the cuts, I laid all the pieces out so that I could inspect them.
As you can see, I oriented all of the ribbon stripes in the same direction so that they would accent the fore-to-aft lines of the long, mahogany strips that would join them.
I cut these long strips out of 1/4 inch solid mahogany.
Into each corner piece I drilled three holes.
Note that I set the drill bit deep enough in the chuck of the drill, so that only about 1/4 inch of the bit would protrude from the mahogany. This was my idiot-proof way of ensuring that I did not drill all the way through the cabin top when I drilled the holes into the fiberglass hull liner.
The first corner piece installed in the hull liner.
The straight-edge ensured that that top corner piece would be aligned with the bottom one.
One of the reasons why I wanted a break, or I should say why I needed a break, between the two portlights was that it was impossible for me to run a 1/4 strip of mahogany all the way from one corner to the next. Why? Because very few things on a boat are straight or square. Despite the fact that it looked like it was a straight shot from one corner to the next, it wasn't.
Breaking the trim into two separate sections allowed me to disguise the fact that the lines were not straight and the overall design was not square as it would be in residential trimwork.
One thing I had to be careful about, as I moved back and forth between installing the 1/2 inch corner pieces and middle pieces and the 1/4 inch mahogany strips, was to re-set the depth of the drill bit in the chuck. If I used the drill bit set for the 1/2 inch piece to drill the 1/4 inch strip, I would run the risk of drilling all the way through the cabin trunk.
Not content with my earlier decision to abandon all thoughts of installing a strip of mahogany in the center, I continued to experiment with one design then another.
I also experimented with pieces of cardboard on the ends, thinking it might look good to have a solid yet appropriately broken appearance to the trimwork.
To continue the trimwork on the forward end, I temporarily reinstalled the portlight that I had long-ago removed from this space.

I should note that every strip of mahogany that I installed required several trips up and down the ladder into the boat and several trips back and forth to the cut-table inside of the house. Measure, cut, measure cut, measure cut, until the length of the piece and curves at both ends are just right.

It's difficult to see in the picture below, but the lines along the bottom of the trimwork were off.
Therefore, I removed the screws and adjusted the trim pieces until I thought they looked just right.
The duct-tape helped me in the battle against gravity while I figured all of this out while gazing at it from afar.
After I had made these adjustments, I continued to experiment with the small cardboard mock-ups.
I sort of liked the way it looked when the area within the frame was filled, but I was still unsure, so I decided to continue mulling it over while I worked on the basic layout for the portlights on the starboard side of the main salon.

On the starboard side, I began by taping the two corner pieces and the center piece into place with duct-tape (rolled up on the back side of the pieces). This enabled me to mark the hull liner with pencil and cut the mahogany strips to the proper size.
I used this duct-tape approach, since I had not created mock-ups for this side and thus did not know for sure how I needed to space everything.
I continued this duct-tape work on the top side.

Satisfied with the appearance of the layout, I removed all of the pieces. If you could see the picture below in great enough detail, you would see the lines that I traced around all of the pieces that had been duct-taped into place.
With the patterns clearly marked on the hull liner, the installation of the four corner trim pieces and the two center pieces was relatively easy.
Likewise, the installation of the long, mahogany strips was relatively easy. Notice, that just as was the case with the trim on the port side of the main salon, I postponed the installment of the two vertical strips of trim.
Looking back to the portside, I had to make a decision on how I would complete the trimwork. I finally decided that I did not like the frame completely filled with mahogany. I did, though, think that I needed something to accent the ends of the frame.
Therefore, I cut two strips of cardboard and taped them into place, one on each end. I liked the way this made the design more substantial looking, yet not too busy.
On the starboard side, I experimented with leaving the design free of the small, vertical trim pieces. This I did not like as much.
In the end, therefore, I decided to finish this trimwork off exactly as you see it below.
I really liked it, and I thought that it would add an attractive touch to the main salon, whenever the curtains were rolled up and tucked away in one of the lockers.
This trim around the portlights, just like the trim on the overhead, was not only pleasing to the eye, but also it served an important practical purpose. For this reason, I considered this project a success.
This ends this posting on how I created the mahogany trimwork for the portlights in the main salon of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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