I've used clear plastic (Lexan, polycarbonate, don't remember which), plywood, and aluminum storm shutters on a variety of boats well offshore and crossing the pond.
We mounted the storm shutters to external studs placed around the frames. The aluminum panels were bulletproof and expensive. The plexi/poly panels were cheaper but not much. The plywood (1/2" sealed and painted) were very good and cheapest. The biggest problems with the aluminum and plywood were they made the cabin look like a cave and didn't give you a good look outside.
I far preferred the external clear panels. The mounting system allowed for some movement of the outer layer of protection, took most of the force, brought light to the cabin, and protected the inner ports from damage. We installed the shutters before leaving the dock and didn't remove them until we got to safe harbor.
My plans call for using the external stud system for my boat and I'll go with the polycarbonate as it seems the best value. I'm rebedding every port light and hatch so adding some backing and studs isn't that much more work but if I were further along or the ports didn't need that kind of attention, I might have to rethink my strategy.
I'm thinking that with a proper thickness, a flexible gasket that matches the port frame, and some careful tweaking I can bring light to the cabin, add some protection to a potentially weak part of the boat, and do it economically. Even if I had to replace the port light panels, I'd still go with the external, separate, storm shutter.
Capt. Douglas Abbott
USCG/MCA IV/C.I./M.I. 500-ton Oceans
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