A question regarding Alden cockpits from a member!

I received the following from member Beau Vrolyk, Santa Cruz, CA:
 
Paul,
 
As the caretaker of MAYAN (John G. Alden design number 365-B) I really enjoyed your article on Alden cockpits. Well done!
 
I have a question for you and your readers. I have sailed aboard 8 Alden schooners so far in my life. Every one of them has a port hole in the cockpit that opens on the engine room. The port hole opens outward rather than inward, the way every other port hole in the boat opens. The question is: Why does this port hole open outward?
 
I have an opinion. When all of these boats were built, they were typically equipped with gasoline engines. I believe that Alden wanted a way to put a fire extinguisher into the engine room without opening a large hatch and making the fire worse with a greater air supply. Of course, it could be that Alden just wanted cool air for the engine. But if that second explanation were right, there are far better ways to do it than a shin-busting port hole in the cockpit.
 
Curious what you all think.
 
Beau Vrolyk

Alden Cockpits and Outward Opening Portlights

Hi Beau.  We wrote the article on the cockpit and my wife and I have pondered the same question you have posed on the round portlight.  Ours is not a shin buster due to its location and we always thought it was simply a way to get a fresh air supply to the original aspirated gasoline engine.  We use it in that manner, though it makes the engine a little louder in the cockpit.  In fact we were never convinced it was original but it is a Wilcox Critteneden and likely is original based on your comments about their prevalence on other boats.  Blackbird had, and I still have, a 1930 CO2 fire extinguisher, its HUGE, and had a nozzel located directly over the engine.  It could be activated by pushing a bronze plunger in the cockpit. The nob was lettered "for emergency use only".  The CO2 cylinder is still charged and was last certified in 1980.  There was bronze cap over the plunger in the cockpit to protect from accidental firing.  We don't need it now so I did not re-install it.  Do you need a free vintage extinguisher for Mayan?

Therefore since other safety measures were available, I would vote the portlight was for engine ventilation, though it would be safe place to point a fire extinguisher from.   If the engine room gets real hot we open the portlight to let hot air out, since the dorade in the stern also lets cool air in.

ps Great that you were able to aquire Mayan, she is a treasure that has been well loved and cared for.

Peter

my cockpit portlight location

the portlight facing my cockpit is actually in the cabin side rear and opens inward, just to port of my engine control panel.  I have no portlight, nor any other openings, other than drains,  lower than the seating bench tops in the cockpit...hmm...#275b

cockpit portlight

the portlight facing my cockpit is actually in the cabin side rear and opens inward, just to port of my engine control panel.  I have no portlight, nor any other openings, other than drains,  lower than the seating bench tops in the cockpit...hmm...#275b