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. Alberg 30 with new ports 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.

Remove old lights Attach Plexiglas to outside with tape Fiberglass in old opening

Left: Remove old fixed lights and grind a large bevel. The sharp edge of the bevel should be paper thin. Middle: Cover Plexiglas with mold release and attach to outside of boat with tape. Paint gelcoat onto inside surface. Right: fiberglass in old opening.

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.

Cut new opening with jigsaw Paint interior and drill bold holes Look like they've always been there

Left: Fill in low spots with epoxy filler. Cut new opening with portable electric jigsaw. Center: Paint interior and drill bolt holes to secure new portlight. Caulk around the portlight and install portlight with bolts. Right: Go sailing and enjoy your new ports, which look as if they've always been there.

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
203-333-1412, http://www.beckson.com

Bristol Bronze, Bronze port glass retainers (non-opening ports)
401-625-5224, http://www.bristolbronze.com

New Found Metals, Bronze and stainless steel ports
888-437-5512, http://www.newfoundmetals.com

Rostand RI, Inc., Bronze opening ports
401-949-4268

Taylor Made Systems, Aluminum, stainless, and plastic opening ports and replacement parts, flat and curved tempered safety glass
518-773-0636 http://www.taylormarine.com

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