I see a thread on almost every sailing forum that questions the safety or seaworthiness of a pilot house on a sailboat. Those "big windows" look so dangerous!
Consider this: most of the sailboats that sink each year were NOT pilot house boats!
Given that, one might assume that people would avoid the boats that don't have a pilot house!
So which is more likely to sink? If there were statistics that showed the ratio of sinkings of sailboats that had or did not have pilot houses, I suspect the pilot house designs would come out ahead.
My POV is that sailors should be more worried about other things. Like putting their hatch boards in place, and avoiding a knockdown or deploying a Jordan series drogue properly rather than lying a hull during a gale, or avoid trying to surf big waves with a fatigued or inexperienced crew that lets the boat yaw while running, etc.
But it is the Little Things that can sink you. For example, how many boats each year sink because some through hull fitting or faulty hose clamp allowed water to fill the boat? How many "sink at the dock?" I other words, boats sink even if they do not have pilot houses.
But what about during a gale? Everyone is worried about green water crashing through those "big windows."
For instance, just tonight I read a very experienced captains story of his voyage in the Southern Ocean off the Falklands. He had put aluminum plates/shutters over his cabin's port lights in preparation for heavy weather. The ports were totally covered in metal plates. Bolted them down. But later, in heavy seas and high winds, his boat began taking on water, quickly! In fact he writes it is likely his boat would have sunk if he had not found the source of leak as soon as he did! It was sloshing around and above the sole and the bow was getting lower. From where? From a thru hull pipe for the forward head that came off the fitting! On top of that, his steering failed! Why? Because a steering cable had jumped the sheave on the steering quadrant! This is a common reason for steering loss, and steering loss is a common reason for people abandoning their boats...but you don't see people questioning the seaworthiness of small yachts because they have wheel steering or heads!
Reading this account helps put things in perspective: Yacht Fiona Antarctica Circumnavigation 2013/14 - Newsletter 2
By the way, tillers rarely fail, but helmsmen often do.
Well designed pilot houses on well designed boats should not concern you as much as more likely things like failing through hulls and other sources of water ingress, or just plain poor navigation or poor seamanship or poor decisions (like entering a strange harbor at night).
Pilot house yachts made by Nauticat, Cheoy Lee, Perini Navi and many other makers have been successfully cruising and crossing oceans for many years. And some of them have large port lights. Here is one I would not mind having!
2006 Perini Navi Perini 45 mt Sail Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com
I will not be worried about the pilot house. Worry about the other things that are more likely to sink you or cause you harm. You know, those little things like thru hulls, swages on standing rigging, and seamanship, like knowing when to shorten sail and when to slow your hull speed in heavy seas, and keeping a real watch for large ship traffic, etc.
Full disclosure, I don't own a pilot house, but I wish I did and I plan to.
I can spell, but I blame my typos on my iPad!