Monday, December 15, 2008

Porthole Magic

Saturday morning, 0400 hours. With a storm approaching, the treasure hunters rise and eat breakfast before first light. Destination: Oakland. Mission: to acquire a porthole they had courted on Craigslist for the last three days.

We stopped only at Pigeon Point to stretch our legs. Mooka, staring at the beach down the short bluff, refused to return to the vehicle, but upon being urged, reluctantly cooperated.

Once in Oakland, we exited the freeway and passed by the Paramount theater, and Andrew reminisced about seeing Bob Marley and Boz Scaggs there (not together) when he was young.

When we reached the right street, we pulled into a parking lot of a Masonic temple. Apparently they were expecting the congregation, and a smartly-attired man wearing a distinctive cap was overseeing the lot. He smiled broadly and waved as we parked briefly and got our bearings.

The building was next door, around the corner from a car wash, and behind a black iron gate. In the courtyard an old Cushman was parked in one corner, a boat leaned up on end, and a travel trailer was piled with parts. A man appeared and escorted us inside the building, where computer stations shared space with a large heap of wood. I was mystified, but Andrew explained later they were obviously bohemian wood sculptors. Obviously!

The seller ambled out from a back room carrying the porthole. It was exactly what Andrew was looking for. It was missing a wingnut, and he noticed the screws were stripped, and they had not managed to get it apart. Perfect—no one else had messed it up.

On the ride back, going across the San Mateo bridge, the dappled light on the bay mimicked the spotty cloud cover. Andrew predicted we would experience a traffic slowdown on Hwy 92 because of the Christmas tree farms. He was partially right, but the traffic was also due to a slow truck on the ascent, and SUVs with small heads bobbing in the backseat turning into farms with signs advertising pony rides. But the traffic wasn't too bad, and we were home before lunch.

The rest of the day was spent installing the porthole.

A porthole works like a sandwich. The glass door is hinged on a bronze ring, which is attached to the hull with fasteners. Another bronze ring fits very closely on the inside of the hole. In this case, the thickness of the hull was approximately an inch and a half, which was an excellent match for our wall.

A salvaged porthole is usually removed from the boat by sawing the porthole out of the wall, rather than trying to detach the layers, which have been glued and caulked together in a way that was intended to be permanent. Therefore, it was Andrew's first task to detach the two layers.

Now the layers are separated, and he chips off any remaining glue, rubber, and wood down to a clean surface.

Then he cuts the hole where it will be installed, and attaches it into place.

There is some finish work to do, so I'll post more photos when it's done.


  1. Ok I'm confused, what is this porthole for?

  2. Maybe I should explain. Andrew is a big kid who likes to build forts, work on boats, and make houses that look like boats. He is a sailor who swallowed the anchor, who always dreams of being at sea.

    The porthole is now a window in our little house to spy on people on the front porch. If you squint your eyes, you can almost imagine the cabin is a boat, and the meadow is the water.

    Now he's looking for a ship's wheel to put in a prominent place.

  3. Got it! Like a BIG peephole. :)

  4. Cool, just like the one in the old shower. Nice new fence too. Looks pretty cold there, I hope the gas is on.

  5. Anonymous10:06 PM