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Fortuitous
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently became the owner of an '82 Catalina 27. I'd like to reseal my leaking portlights, but I'm not sure how. I know there are a gazillion leaky portlight threads, and I've read a lot of them, but there are so many types and so many approaches that I feel completely stupid about the whole thing. I've never even seen a portlight apart, and I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing.

These are not the best photos (they're all pulled from crappy cell phone video, which is all I have on me at the moment) but maybe this will give an idea of what I'm working with:







They're all fixed lights with aluminum rings. I'm guessing that if I unscrew those machine screws from the inside, the inner aluminum ring will come off, then then maybe if I run a putty knife around the outside aluminum ring, I'll be able to get the window out?

The Catalina Direct reseal kit comes with two kinds of replacement gaskets (38 feet of extruded "U" shaped vinyl glazing channel fits between the glass and frame and 38 feet of extruded vinyl window molding for the frame inside the boat) and a couple different types of sealant, including a "gray silicone" and a "white polyurethane."

I like the idea of using a kit, and am willing to pay the premium to get the right amount of the right stuff, but I used to do guitar repair work and I have a preternatural hatred of silicone. Additionally, all of my previous attempts at using the typical marine sealants have gone exceedingly poorly.

On the other hand, I have completely and joyfully immersed myself in the Cult of Butyl.

So I guess my question is something like: With these kinds of windows and gaskets, can I use butyl tape where I would have otherwise used the gray and/or white goos? Or should I just bite the bullet and do it using Catalina Direct's [presumably] time-tested technique?
 

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Master Mariner
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We have just rebedded two of ours, one opening and the other fixed. Once apart, the toughest part of the job was removing the old silicone, ugh. Getting them apart (silicone is adhesive, so it makes it tough), we used a combination of putty knives, sharp knives and small, wooden wedges.
We rebedded them with bedding compound, THE product developed expressly for the purpose of bedding things on boats! It is very easy to work with, very easy to clean up after the job, long lasting and fairly inexpensive. If we ever have to redo the work (unlikely in my lifetime), the bedding compound is NOT adhesive (isn't that what the fasteners are for?) so the job will be easy. I have seen 20 year old bedding compound in fine shape, by the way.
 

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I did EXACTLY the job you're about to do on my Pearson 26. The aluminum extrusions have the same channels and I used the kit from Catalina that you're referring to. It worked great, and I see no reason to do anything else.

It's not a difficult, meaning "hard to figure out," job, but there's a good bit of elbow grease involved in cleaning up all of the goop and hardened adhesives and sealants from the previous installation prior to putting your newly renovated portlights back in.

Basically, here's what you'll have to do. PLEASE feel free to pm me if you'd like more detail, or if you'd like to call me so I can talk you through it and answer any quetion.

1. As you said, remove the screws that hold on the interior trim ring.
2. Use a putty knife or other thin-bladed implement to chip away or otherwise loosen whatever unpleasant adhesive you find exposed between the frame and the hull from the inside.
3. You'll probably find that most of the adhesion is between the flange of the frame and the hull on the OUTSIDE of the boat. You'll have to go around there carefully, again with a putty knife or other thin blade, and carefully work the blade between the window and your gel coat. Just make sure you don't scratch the gel coat anywhere that the frame doesn't cover. It's not a big deal if you make a chip or two underneath the frame; pretty much unavoidable if the adhesive is really hard. Just try do to as little damage as possible.
4. Carefully remove the portlight. It helps to have a second pair of hands, but I did it myself. You'll be able to tell once it's loose enough. It may take a little... umm... "persuasion."
5. Get as much adhesive and silicone and whatever else you find off the metal portlight frame. Good luck. It's fun. Plan about 10 hours and very sore finger and forearms.
6. Remove the wide rubber molding strip. It just pulls out.
7. The frame is in two sections around the glass. The sections are joined by a small aluminum strap and two screws at each of the junction points. Remove the screws and those straps.
8. The glass itself is sealed into a vinyl glazing strip with silicone, which in turn is also sealed into the aluminum frame with the same stuff, so pulling the frame off the glass isn't as easy as it looks, but it does come off. Just keep working at it; I pulled mine apart by hand but it tool a LOT of force. If necessary, you could put an Xacto knife to good use around the glass and glazing.
9. Clean EVERYTHING up... no trace of any previous sealant or adhesive. Again, plan on using anything you can think of. Widgets, razor blades, fingernails, sandpaper, solvents... throw anything at it you can. It seems like everything I tried worked pretty good... for a while.. then the silicone adapted to it! There's specific strippers for silicone, but I was too lazy to go to the store and find some, so I just used whatever I had here; Goof-off, WD40, mineral spirits, big erasers, steel wool, sandpaper, but I found that, at least on the glass, razor blades and my fingers worked as good as anything. I used a wire wheel brush attached to my drill to clean out the channels of the frame, and that worked very well once I got most of the silicone out by hand. I used fine wet/dry sandpaper on the outside of the frame, and it came out with a very nice "brushed aluminum" look finish.

For reassembly, I just followed the instructions that came with the Catalina kit. Basically, put a bead of the grey silicone in the vinyl glazing and put it around the glass. Then, a nice bead of the same silicone in the frame channel where the glass goes, force it together, put in the straps and screws, and clean up all the ooze. Another pair of hands is pretty much necessary for this part. Messy, and again, it takes a good bit of pressure to get the glass and glazing embedded in the frames enough to get the straps and screws back on. My portlights are curved; on top of all of the above, you also have to carefully bend the glass itself into the curved frames. THAT wasn't fun.... but nothing broke.

After you've reassembled the portlights, clean up the openings. Sandpaper, chisels (the old adhesive on my boat was ROCK hard.... harder than the gel goat), and maybe solvents are your friend. It's most important to get the outside surface of the hull smooth and clean where the frame flange covers it; that's where the bulk of the watertight seal is.

Put a nice, THICK bead (rope, actually) of the white sealant (they include 3M 4000 in the kit.. good idea... good adhesion, but a little less adhesive than 4200, and good flexibility) all around the flange of the portlight. Keep a whole mess of rags handy and some mineral spirits. Having a friend helps a LOT here, because you're going to make a mess and the faster you can clean it up, the easier it is to clean it up.

Put the portlight in place, and press it in from the outside. Go inside and install the trim ring and screws, but don't tighten it down super tight... just lightly snug. Go back outside and MAKE SURE you've got squeeze out ALL around the flange. Take the solvent-soaked rags, and start cleaning up all the squeeze. Keep turning the rags; when one gets full, go to the next one... don't be stingy. It'll come out looking great.. better than if you had used the masking tape that Catalina recommended and included. The sealant joint comes out looking like it came from the factory.. or better. The friend who helped me with the part showed me that trick, and he'd been shown it by his friend who does the most AMAZING work I've ever seen; flawless craftsmanship in fiberglass, painting, woodwork, cabinetry.. incredible stuff. I digress. I was skeptical about not using the masking tape, but I'm glad my friend talked me into it. Looks WAY better than the results I got from using masking tape when installing the glass into the frames.

Let it cure for 24 hours, then tighten down the trim screws and install the wide rubber molding. SMILE! They'll look great, and won't leak at ALL. I wish I had taken pictures of our portlights and the hideous cobjob repair the previous owner had done before I fixed ours. Folks asked me if I got a new boat or new portlights.. that's how dramatic a difference it was. AND... I have a locker that DOESN'T fill up with a few quarts of water every time it rains!

Enjoy. Parts of it the job are tedious, but there's no real trick or "technical" difficulty involved. I'd get the Catalina kit... you get the right molding, the right glazing, good sealants, masking tape, and printed directions. You could probably save a few bucks buy shopping around and getting the stuff separately. I'm far from rich, but I'm increasingly leaning towards the "time is money" way of thinking these days so saving $10 isn't worth several hours to me.

MaineSail and maybe some others may chime in here.. I hope they do if I say something inaccurate... but I believe I've read that butyl tape is better used for horizontal deck fittings, and may not be the best stuff for nearly vertical mountings like portlights. I've never used butyl, but I sure like the tutorial on MaineSail's site and will be using it when rebedding all of our deck hardware next year.

I hope that helps a bit. I'm far from an expert and I'm hoping if I'm made any BAD suggestions that other more experienced folks will jump in and catch'em, but I've described exactly what I did and it's worked great so far.

Best wishes,

Barry
 
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I meant to include something else. A VERY helpful person here on the board forwarded me an article he had written about a similar job that was published in one of the major sailing mags a while ago. The article described how to fix an issue that can cause leaking. Quite a few boats have a gap between the hull and the liner and, as things flex, that gap can change in width and create voids in the sealant, leading to leaks. The solution was to strategically place clamps and filler strips in and around the openings, then fill that gap with body filler or epoxy so that it's solid and a uniform thickness around the opening. That's how it was in my boat, so I took the advice; it was GOOD advice. Thankfully, I only did one opening at a time. Turns out, on my boat, the trim ring and screws pull the liner right up against the hull, leaving no gap at all between the two. The filler I had put in there made the cutout too thick, and the portlight wouldn't seat properly. SOOOoo.. I cut out all the fiberglass filler I had added, cleaned the opening up again, and then installed the portlight.

I only bring that up in case you read that tip elsewhere. It's a great idea.. but make sure that you check how your portlight is intended to be installed before making that gap solid. If your Catalina is made like my Pearson, the screws and trim ring will bring the liner and hull together. I suppose you could glue and clamp them together prior to reinstalling the portlight; that may add some stiffness and help the seal. I didn't try that.

Barry
 

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Once apart, the toughest part of the job was removing the old silicone, ugh.
3M Caulk Remover from a local hardware store. You spread it out on the frame, couple hours latter coat it again, then let it sit for a day or two.
The stuff works really good.

Hardest part I had was getting the ports out of the boat. Used something called unadhesive?? from Defender. Spray it so it soaks between the frame & hull & wait, takes a ton patience.
 

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Learning the HARD way...
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MEK will remove silicone.
 

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I've re seated some portlites In my day and it's one of the worst projects one can take on, if one is leaking then all need to be re seated. Ever heard of "captain tulleys creeping Crack cure"? I will never re seat anything as long as that stuff is in my locker.
 

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Fortuitous
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ever heard of "captain tulleys creeping Crack cure"? I will never re seat anything as long as that stuff is in my locker.
Given the state of the three I've done so far and the evidence of previous failed quick fixes, I think I'll feel better knowing it's just done correctly. I'm hoping to do this right and to not need any Marvel Mystery Oil for a long time.
 
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