Fitting bronze portlights
by Armand Stephens
Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 4, July/August 2001.
Swap your old plastic windows for salty new ports
After buying our old 1965 Alberg 30, Mary and I knew that part of the renovation program would be the replacement of the old fixed windows with operating bronze portlights. There were several reasons for this, and not the least was good evidence that the old windows leaked. The old Plexiglas was scratched, and someone had already replaced three of the small windows with bronze portlights. "Why only three?" we wondered. Mary and I also thought that the bronze portlights would give our old boat a "salty" look.
We ordered our portlights from Marine Depot in Chino, Calif. The small portlights cost $160 each, and the very large ones were $280 each. We had the portlights in hand before starting this project.
Removing the old fixed windows was easy and probably made easier because we were not trying to save any of the old window parts.
I have spent many hours working on my boat, and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute of it except for the grinding of old fiberglass. I don't care what kind of dust mask, cap, or goggles you put on, a certain amount of ground up fiberglass will find "home" under your armpit or down your underwear! Let the itching begin.
Grinding a 3-inch bevel around the old windows was a nasty job using a body grinder with 36-grit sandpaper. Plexiglas was coated with paste wax and attached to the outside of the window opening, wax side facing in. We used duct tape to secure the Plexiglas. Then we mixed up gelcoat and brushed it onto the wax-coated Plexiglas. Next were three layers of fiberglass cloth and resin. Fiberglass mat was then used in alternate layers with the cloth.
This process continued until the old window opening was flush with the surrounding cabin wall. We used 80-grit sandpaper to even out the surface. We removed the wax-coated Plexiglas and cut out new oval openings using a portable electric jigsaw.
We painted the inside of the cabin before installing the new portlights.
May you have good views and fresh air through your new portlights.
Armand is a retired schoolteacher (high school woodworking). Immediately after they retired, he and Mary bought a 1965 Alberg 30 and spent 10 months bringing Quest to a better-than-new state. The Stephens have been sailing on San Francisco Bay for more than 30 years.
Resources for ports
Beckson Marine, Plastic parts for ports
Bristol Bronze, Bronze port glass retainers (non-opening
New Found Metals, Bronze and stainless steel ports
Rostand RI, Inc., Bronze opening ports
Taylor Made Systems, Aluminum, stainless, and plastic
opening ports and replacement parts, flat and curved tempered