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  #1  
Old 04-05-2010
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Leaking Portholes...

I was gifted a 1977 Columbia 26T sailboat a few years ago. A few tunes up later and it's ship shape and fun to sail. One issue I can't seem to get resolved is all six of it's portal windows leak to some degree. Last spring I attempted a fixby caulking all the windows and frames with Boatlife, Life-Seal, clear caulk. I ran a generous bead of it along the seam where the window meets the frame and where the frame meets the hull, on the exterior of the boat. (you're right, you cant fix leaks with Caulking!) Today, I just uncovered the boat for the first time since the heavy rains this
past couple weeks. The boat didn't have much for water inside, just a small puddle on the bench on the downhill side. What I am finding is "drool" marks where the water has seeped in. It has also dragged along with it some dark brown residue, presumably from the interior of the window frame, which has
dried into a goo the conistency of tree sap. What is this stuff? I am
really hesitant do open these 32 year window frames up and attempt to
re-seal them. 1, I am a rookie boat owner and I don't want to create a
larger project than necesary. 2. I'm not sure I have the skills to
remove the windows and set the new seals. 3. Where do I get the window seals for these 32 year old windows? See attached pictures.

Any ideas for me before I
start a job bigger than I care for?

Thanks!

Mike McCarron
Plymouth MA
Attached Thumbnails
Leaking Portals...-img_9768.jpg   Leaking Portals...-img_9771.jpg   Leaking Portals...-img_9772.jpg   Leaking Portals...-img_9774.jpg   Leaking Portals...-img_9776.jpg  


Last edited by Flightsport; 05-25-2010 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 04-05-2010
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You really can't reseal windows by adding sealant to the outside. You have to remove them and reseal them against the hull/cabin side properly. I doubt you can get or need specific gaskets. Use a good sealant like butyl or one of the popular sealants. But not 5200. The brown could indicate rotted wet core material but it will require removal of the ports to be sure.
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Old 04-05-2010
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Mitiempo is correct. There really is no way to seal a leaking port without completely rebedding it... Anything else will generally fail very quickly and make doing a proper repair more difficult in the end. The brown stuff can be a lot of different things...but most likely is due to water rotting the core in the laminate. Without removing the ports, you will never be able to tell for sure.
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Old 04-05-2010
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As said above to fix the leaks you must remove the ports and clean away any old sealant or caulk. Butyl tape will make a good gasket but it is a pain to work with as it stretches so easy. Do not buy the black butyl tape as it will stain your boat. Try and buy the widest tape you can find as it will help seal the edges of the window frames. Good luck.
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Old 04-06-2010
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Hey thanks to all! But, seeing as I am a complete rookie at this, I need a bit more instruction. The interior of the windows have a have plastic rim that surround the window interior and it has probably 30 small stainless screws. (see picture). Once the screws are out, then what? I assume the screws seat in the exterior portion of the window frame and just pinch the window together, so once the screws are out the window comes apart? Then, I guess it would be clean out the bedding where the "butyl" tape will go, then fit the assembly back and screw it all back together. Which thickness and width Butyl tape? I guess I need to suck it up and not be so afraid of this project?

Thanks!

mike
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Old 04-06-2010
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As projects go it isn't hard nor is it easy. When you undo the screws the frame may not come free you may need to CAREFULLY pry it loose. I use a flexable paint scraper. The glass in your ports may not even be attached to the frame, some are and some aren't. The frame may just hold the glass in place. When you do get the frame off clean the frame well and if you notice that the fiberglass is coming apart a little where the frames were, you may want to epoxy the edges of the fiberglass within the port hole with thicken epoxy. If you do that be sure to tape the area around the port opening first with painters tape to help catch any drips from the epoxy. There will be drips ....

If the butyl tape you buy is 1 inch to 1.25 inches wide when you apply it to the outside face of the port hole opening leave a 1/4 inch hanging over the edge of the hole. You can also apply it to the outside piece of the porthole frame. Leave the paper backing on the butyl tape while you work with it as it can get like soft taffy. If you have any questions drop me a PM.
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Remove the inside trim first and that should free the outside frames. You will find out when you remove them. The other issue is where the brown liquid is coming from which may be rotten core material.
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Last edited by mitiempo; 04-06-2010 at 05:39 PM. Reason: cor
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Old 04-06-2010
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I had pretty much the exact same windows on my Islander. They leaked quite a lot and the plywood under them was pretty much dust. I have pictures on my blog about it if you want to see what you may be in for. Hopefully your boat is solid fiberglass.

The trim piece did not really do much to hold the window in place. My windows were held in place by the caulk that was slathered around them. It was something like 4200. I don't know that butyl would hold well enough but the interior trim ring might hold it well enough.

Be VERY VERY careful when you are breaking the seal on the outside of the windows. Use something very thin like a putty knife or a piece of wire. The plastic frame was very brittle on mine and broke easily after years of sunlight on it. A box cutter or something like that works well from the inside to cut around the window edge to get the adhesive broken there. Then its just a matter of pushing the window out. Once it gets started it comes out pretty easily just watch the plastic ring on the outside so it doesn't flex too much and break. A screwdriver is definitely too big and will break them. I know.

Its really not too bad of a job and once you do one the rest go quick. The hard part is not breaking the ancient plastic.

Contact paper and painters tape work well to seal the windows if it starts to rain. I had blue tape all around my windows and that did a decent job of sealing them from the rain before I got around to fixing them. It does not look too good but at least it kept the boat dry.
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Old 04-08-2010
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Thanks everyone for the how-to details. Last spring I attempted to fix the leaks by caulking the hell out of the exterior window along the glass and along the frame. All that did was make a mess. And I was so convinced that it was going to work! I used the right stuff too, Boat life, life caulk, for fiberglass. Now I feel like I need to come up with a plan in case part of the frame breaks like Freesail and Huguley3 suggest. Thanks guys! Mike
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Old 04-08-2010
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Looking at your first picture, your frames appear to be the same as on my 1973 Catalina 27. Catalina Direct sells the resealing kit for ~$100, including the seals which go inside the frame between the window and the aluminum frame, a rubber trim piece which sits on the inside of the frame, a couple of tubes of 4200 to seal the finished frame to the boat, a tube of polyurethane/silicone sealer to seal the glass to the frame, and masking tape. (And step by step instructions, which were pretty easy to follow after studying them a bit.)

It would be cool if there was a Catalina in your neck of the woods for you to look at and see if the frames are indeed the same.

After removing all the interior sheet metal screws, I used a mallet to insert a putty knife bit by bit all around between the aluminum frame and the fiberglass of the boat. Once loosened all around, the frame popped out easily.

Then it was a matter of disassembling the two piece aluminum frame, cleaning off all the old sealant, and reassembling.

Once I had some practice, it took ~2 hours deadlight/window.
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