It was finally time to start preparing the portlights for installation. To see how the cabin sides were installed and he cutouts were made for the portlights click here. They have been sitting under a table on the floor of the SRF for a long time. Today, I removed the old, hard as a rock, gaskets. The gaskets were initially difficult to separate from the portlight, even with a heat gun. As I pulled on the gasket it would tear and large chunks would remain fiercely stuck to the portlight. It was frustrating and annoying. Then, I stumbled on the idea of using my wire splicing marlinspike which is really a Snap-On #7 scratch awl that has the point filed to "duck bill" shape. Sliding the point under the gasket worked like a charm. They lifted right up without using any heat whatsoever. Next, I used a little wire brush with my Dremel (actually it took four wire brushes as they wear right out) to clean up any residue in the gasket trough. Then, I wiped the trough down with some acetone and a 3M maroon scrub pad. Finally, I washed all the portlights, dried them with paper towel, and laid them out in the shop to dry completely. Tomorrow, I plan to install the new gaskets.
16 Mar 12
I bought replacement gaskets from Spartan Marine. I could have bought the round closed cell foam from McMaster Carr for less than half the cost. But, I think sometimes we need to support our specialty chandlers. Spartan Marine still has many of the original hardware for our boats. I try to buy from then when I can otherwise they will not be able to stay in business and that would be a big loss for the owners of Cape Dory boats. Anyway, I talked to Paul at Spartan Marine about installing the gaskets. He told me to use "Devcon Rubber Cement" that comes in a tube (It is a type of contact cement). You buy it from ACE hardware. One three dollar tube was enough for all 10 gaskets. He told me to only put it on the trough in the portlight frame and to apply it with an acid brush. He also told me not to put the seam where it is joint at 12 o'clock but slightly off-set. So I did. However, with the cement only applied to the frame the gasket was not in very tight and tried to lift off. So I did the first three over and applied the cement to both parts. After that, they stayed secure. As soon as you install it you close the glass hatch and dog it down as tight as you can and leave it overnight.
The next step was to drill holes through the cabin sides to mount the portlight frame. This is a good time to mention that it became obvious to me when I installed the mahogany cabin sides last year that the original cut outs for the portlights were not done properly by CapeDory. Some of them were too large. The problem that occurs when that happens is there is not enough glass left around the cut-out for the trim ring screws to sink into—they are a little closer to the spigot than the flange on the inside of the boat. So, some of the screws were actually just hanging in the air. There is no way to hold the bedding compound in place if the trim ring is not installed properly. Why were the holes cut too big? It seems to be a problem more on the port side than the starboard side. Maybe the “new guy” cut the holes on the port side. Maybe they were cut out later in the day after the installer “drank” his lunch. Regardless, it was sloppy work and I was paying for it all these years later.
When I installed the mahogany cabin side I very carefully scribed and made the cut-outs to fit the portlights with a little bit of slop vice mirror the existing too large cut outs. So, now there is a bit of a lip that still needs to be addressed. More on that tomorrow.
I clamped the portlights in place with two twist clamps. I then viewed the spigots from the outside making sure they were centered. I used a small bubble level to make sure they were level. I drilled through the portlight frame about 3/16” deep for all the holes. This made sure they were in the right place. I then removed the portlight then used a small home made drill guide to insure I was drilling perpendicular to the cabin side. The guide is a small 90 triangle about 1 ½” long on each side. Once angle is 90 degrees. I placed it on the cabin side and matched up the 90 degree angle to the bit and started drilling. I moved this little triangle around to keep the drill going in straight and plumb all the way through the cabin side. Then I inserted all the bolts to check for fit. It took all day to fit the10 portlights.
The next thing was to over-bore the holes to reduce the likelihood that water can migrate along the bolt threads into the exposed grain of the plywood. So, I drilled out the 3/16” holes for the #10 machine screws with a 5/16” bit. I would have preferred to use a 3/8” but it would put the edge of the hole very close the edge of the cut-out and the 3/8” bit I have just tears through fiberglass in an ugly uncontrolled manner. After drilling the holes I covered the hole on the inside of the boat with tape. Then, I filled a syringe with West Systems epoxy thickened with colloidal silica and carefully filled the holes till they were flush on the outside. I had to refill the syringe about five times. Last, I smoothed the uncovered end with a plastic stir stick and cleaned up any spill over with paper towels wetted with acetone. A few hours later I removed the tape covering the holes on the inside of the boat and the epoxy “plugs” looked good.
Tomorrow, I will drill through the epoxy “plugs” with the 3/16” bit and if I do it right I will have an epoxy sleeve that surround the bolts and keeps any water that get to the bolt from migrating to the wood grain.
17 Mar 12
Today, I faired the mismatched edge between the too-large original portlight cut-outs and the slightly ones we made when we installed the new mahogany plywood on the interior of the cabin sides. First, I used a chisel, 80 grit paper, and acetone to clean the edges to be filled with West Systems Gflex epoxy (later on why I used Gflex). There were little bits of residual 5200 "squeeze-out" from when I installed the plywood cabin sides--I used the 5200 as the adhesive to glue the plywood to the inside of the cabin side. With the edges clean, I taped the outside of the cabin off to protect the Awlgrip paint and the inside edge of the plywood around the porthole cut-out. Next, I took an old plastic fairing trowel and cut a 90 degree notch on one side. I mixed up the Gflex 1:1 in a 8oz plastic cup. I used Gflex because is less brittle than 105/205 resin/hardner--you can drive a nail through Gflex and it won't crack. Since the screws for the trim ring will pass through and grab on to the epoxy fairing it is less likely Gflex will crack. Anyway, Gflex does not require a meter. You can mix it by sight, equal parts of A and B. After mixing it thoroughly, I added some colloidal silica until it was thick like peanut butter. I used a smaller wooden stir stick to squish it into a 14cc syringe (one batched I added in some 407 but after thinking about it I decided it was not necessary so after that I only used colloidal silica). Then, I used the syringe to made a bead of epoxy along the edge to be faired. I then slowly pulled the notched trowel along the edge to fair the epoxy flush with the two edges. The epoxy was creamy yellow and took the shape of the notch without difficulty. It took four to five reloads of the syringe to complete all the portlights. So far I am please with the results. I'll know more when I drill the holes for the portlight trim ring.
20 Mar 12
To the right is a picture of the new portlight chain stops. I found these after a long search. They hold the portlight up when you want them to stay open. The chain is 8" long but I won't need any of it. The brass anchors will be secured to the mounting bracket which will be screwed into the overhead panels. They will be positioned such that when the portlights are open the anchor fluke fits into the slotted flange on the bottom of the portlight. That will keep the portlight in the up and open position. I think they look a million times better than the chintzy little chain with the twisted wire "keeper" that came with the boat. Note, the original chain was just screwed into the fiberglass headliner with a single SS self taping screw.
Yesterday I redrilled the 5/16" holes that I previously filled with epoxy. I drilled through the plugs with 3/16" bit that will allow the #10-24 bronze oval head bolts to pass through the portlight flange from the inside to the outside of the cabin. I used my little right angle wood triangle as a guide. I was pleased how well it worked. The holes now have a nice epoxy sleeve separating the bolt from the grain of the plywood (see pictures below).
Today, I needed to perform the same task for the wood screws that secure the bronze trim rings to the cabin side. These screws don't pass through to the inside of the boat but terminated in the plywood on the inside of the cabin. Must we drill 20 holes into the boat for each portlight? That's 200 holes and 200 opportunities for water to penetrate the fiberglass skin. The Newfound Metals portlights seem to be a better option. But, this is what I have and they are heavy duty. They look good. Perhaps, when installed correctly, they will not leak.
The original screws were 5/8" long. The new ones are 3/4" long #10 oval head slotted bronze wood screws. I used some of the old bolts and original PM nuts to secure the portlights in position-three or four per portlight. I used a Dremel with a metal cutting disk to cut the bolt heads off so the trim ring would fit over the spigot. I inserted some wood wedges to center the trim ring on the spigot and marked the center of each of the 10 holes with fine tipped sharpie. I then removed the trim ring and drilled pilot holes through the fiberglass skin of the cabin side. Next, I used a counter sink to flare the holes (the countersink helps to keep the fiberglass from cracking when the larger drill cuts through it). Next, I used a 5/16" bit with a stop ring on it to limit the depth of the hole. I drilled into the cabin side and into the plywood. Then, I set the trim ring over the spigot and moved on to the next portlight till I completed five. I ran out of time. Tomorrow I will do the same for the five portlights on the port side. Then I will swab the enlarged screw holes with epoxy and fill them with Gflex epoxy thickened with colloidal silica. Once they are cured I will drill pilot holes for the wood screws. Then we should be set to install the portlights. All this drilling and filling with epoxy is designed to provide a barrier between the bolt and or screw and the vulnerable plywood. Hopefully, if I do everything right and bed them properly there will be no leaks . . . but if there are I want to protect the wood. This is the way it should be done vice the way most production builder so it. To keep the purchase price down they pass the problem on to a future owner.
21 Mar 12
I got a slow start today but was able to get a fair amount accomplished. Yesterday, I drilled the over-bored holes for the trim ring wood screws. Today, I marked and drilled the holes for the port side. Then, I wet out the inside of the holes with unthickend gflex epoxy. Next, using a syringed filled with thickened Gflex epoxy I filled all 100 trim ring holes. Tomorrow, I will polish up the inside flange of the portlight and the underside of the trim ring to remove all the patina so the bedding compound and butyl rubber will compress against the metal and not the gritty patina. I will leave the patina in place on the outside of the trim rings and portlights spigots.
In the photo to the left you can see 20 holes per portlight. That seems like a lot to me. That's 200 holes in the cabin sides for 10 portlights. I have looked at the New Found Metal portlights and they look pretty good to me. Also, they only have 8 total holes. The portlight through-bolts to the trim ring. That makes sense. However, the Spartan portlights have been around a long time. I know soon enough if they can be caulked well enough not to leak. If I were ever to replace them I would look real hard at the New Found Metal bronze portlights.
20 holes to install a portlights. Crazy. The epoxy plug for the trim ring screw holes are the yellowish colored ones.
23 Mar 12
Today and yesterday saw more work on the portlights. Yesterday, I polished the spigot and flange of the portlight so the bedding compound would have a clean surface to stick to. I used a brass wire brush on an electric drill to remove the patina. Then I buffed the surfaces with a clean high-speed buffing pad. Last, I wiped the surfaces down with acetone. I had to remove all the patina from the outside of the spigot as I was not sure where the trim ring would end. It will eventually turn green anyway to match the rest of the portlight. Today, I drilled "stepped" pilot holes for the wood screws that secure the trim rings. I drilled the holes in the Gflex plugs I made the other day. This will keep the screws from ever cutting into the plywood cabin sides. The Gflex is very interesting. It feels hard but it is not brittle . . . almost like a super hard rubber, though it is harder than any rubber I have ever seen. Rubber is not an accurate description but it is the only one I can think of at the moment. Anyway, after I drilled the holes I installed all the trim rings to test for fit . . . all 100 screws to make sure everything was lined up. The Gflex really gripped the screw threads well. I think this should be a very good technique. The portlights and trim-rings looked great. Afterwards, I taped off the exposed part of the spigot to help reduce the mess when the bedding compound squeezes out. Then, I removed the screws, trim-rings and portlights. I then made a very small 45 degree bevel on the outside edge of the portlight cut-out to better allow the bedding compound to be forced between the portlight and the cabin sides. Tomorrow, I will wiped the areas clean with some acetone and start the process of installing the portlights. It should be interesting.
25 Mar 2012
Over the last two days we installed five of the 10 portlights. It takes about two hours to install one. We are not in a hurry but there are a lot of steps with the Spartan portlights.
We started the actual installation by vacuuming then wiping down the area around the portlight cut-out with acetone to make sure there was no residue. We also wiped down the portlight spigot as well. Except for the first portlight, we wrapped the spigot with butyl tape before we inserted it into the cut-out. We wrapped just enough butyl to allow us to slide the portlight into the cutout (for the first portlight, we inserted all the butyl into the gap from the outside after we had cut the nuts off. Wrapping first was much easier). Once the portlight was in position we installed the bolts. We made little balls of butyl rubber and formed them around the bolts on top of the chamfered exit holes. Then we tightened down on the "pm" nuts slowly getting some butyl squeeze-out and forcing butyl into the chamfer under the nut itself. Next, we masked off the entire area to keep the bronze "dust," that would occur from the cutting off of the long bolts, from contaminating the butyl and the portlight work area. We cut the bolts off with a Dremel and a right angle adapter and a metal cut off wheel. After cutting off the bolts, we unmasked the work area and wiped it down with acetone again. Next, we peeled off 6"-12" strips of butyl rubber from the paper backing and rolled it between our fingers and palms to make it into a round tube. We doubled it over when we needed it to be thicker. It was fairly easy to work with. Then we proceed to "jam" it in the gap between the portlight and the cabin side. The gap is important to allow the bronze metal to expand and contract with temp changes while having enough butyl to move along with the expansion and contraction. We used plastic West Epoxy squeegees and a silicon kitchen spatula to force the butyl in the gaps. After a while the butyl would stick to the plastic squeegee but not to the silicon spatula. This part of the installation was difficult and time consuming. It took a long time to fill the gap till it was good and proud of the cabin side as we wanted butyl to squeeze out on the inside of the trim ring next to the spigot. Next we added a little "smear" of Teff-Gel" anti seize cream to the underside of the head of the bronze wood screws and positioned them in the trim ring along with a little donut wrap of butyl. Then, we flipped the trim ring over and added bigger donuts of butyl around the shaft of the screw where it comes through the trim ring so the butyl could be forced into the slightly chamfered predrilled screw holes. Next, we filled the trim ring with Life Caulk polysulfide and positioned it around the spigot. We tightened the screws down slowly getting good squeeze out all around. We wiped up the squeeze-out with paper towels wetted out with paint thinner. We waited awhile and then tightened down a little later as the butyl continued to compress.
We bought the butyl rubber from Compass Marine. We incorporated some of his techniques which he describes in detail on his website was well as some of the techniques provided by New Found Metals. We could not follow their techniques exactly but adapted them as best we could to the Spartan Portlights which are a different system. As I previously posted, all the portlights leaked when I acquired the Far Reach. The teak ply under the portholes was completely rotted. Not to get off on a tangent but the under the PO the trim rings had been filled with silicone in an attempt to keep them from leaking. It did not work. We agree with Compass Marine and Tim Lackey that we should not apply bedding/caulking under the portlight flange inside the cabin. If the portlight trim ring is leaking we want to know so we can fix it right away. This is a better option than having the water migrate into or behind the plywood cabin sides without us knowing till it is too late. We have gone the extra mile installing the epoxy "bushings" to isolate the plywood cabin side from water intrusion from 200 holes associate with the 10 Spartan Portlights.
27 Mar 12
Finally, all 10 port light are installed. Tomorrow we take the day off and then we start installing the stanchion and bulwark brackets.