Monday, June 04, 2012

Replacing fixed ports on a Starwind 27 sailboat

I'd been thinking about it for three years. I'd had the supplies yet hesitated for two months. This weekend I finally set aside the time and replaced the fixed ports on the Seahorse.

The original windows were so crazed it was like looking through a frosted shower door.

Crazed plexiglass

Two of them had cracked in half from top to bottom and were just being held together with silicone in a desperate attempt to keep the water out.

Cracked and crazed starboard window

Then I had to deal with the issue that many of the screws had rusted off in the screw holes.

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When I called Beckson to inquire about replacement ports, here is the quote I received.


PF555-BSWINDOW 90/90,blk/smk,PRPR305.00




PF525-BSWINDOW 90/45,blk/smk,PRPR305.00









Yes, $610 + tax + shipping for four windows seemed a bit much.

That's when I turned to this DIY article for help: http://www.thecoastalpassage.com/windows.html

If you can stand Bob's braggadocio regarding his skills with a scalpel, it's a great article. I decided I was going to use this method to replace my ports and purchased the following supplies:

1 36" x 48" x 1/4" sheet of smoked plexiglass: $109
1 tube Dow Corning 791: $12
4 5' rolls 3M heavy Duty Mounting Tape: $24
1 really nice scraper: $8 (because scraping with a screwdriver sucks)
1 roll Frog Tape Masking Tape: $4
1 super cheap caulking gun: $3

Project total: $160

I used my dremel to cut the plexiglass. It would have probably been faster and easier with the jig saw, but I was nervous the jig saw would shatter the acrylic.

I started on Saturday around 9 a.m. and nervously removed the first window. That was the easy part. Scraping all the silicone off the cabin was the hard part. I had estimated the project would take about an hour per window. It actually took closer to four hours per window.

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Around 2 p.m. Saturday I had the two starboard ports cut and mounted. I had been nervous the 3M tape wouldn't hold the acrylic down because the cabin curves, and the acrylic would have to flex, but it worked like a charm.

Fixed ports mounted

I took a break to cool off and to find a better scraper. Then I started cutting the port-side ports. The first one shattered, and I was thankful I'd bought more acrylic than I needed. The next two cut out with no problem, so I removed the old windows, started scraping and had all of them mounted by dinner time.

As soon as the dew evaporated Sunday morning, I started masking the windows for sealant. I forgot to take a photo of any of the windows with masking tape on them. I had thought the masking was tedious. Then I opened the Dow Corning 791.

I don't know if I had a really bad caulking gun or if the Dow 791 is just THAT thick, but I had a terrible time getting it out of the tube. I'd have to press the plunger into the deck and lean all my weight on the trigger to get it moving. It made for a very long caulking process.

Once I'd get a bead around the window, I'd work it into the crack and smooth it out with my finger, then I'd pull the tape to leave a nice clean seal.

New fixed ports


Beware, on The Coastal Passage DIY, the Dow Corning 791 is black. Mine was not black. It was a light grey color. I was not thrilled that it was light grey, but it still looks ok. Anything looks better than my old windows.

Someone more skilled than myself could probably rout a 1/4" lip into the hull and make the windows sit flush with the cabin. That would look very nice and modern. I don't own a router or care enough to attempt it.

With no screws in the acrylic, I've hopefully eliminated all the weak points that caused the previous windows to crack. The boat also looks 20 years younger.

The Seahorse with new windows

The only question left is how long will the 3M mounting tape and Dow Corning 791 hold up against hull flex? Hopefully a very long time.
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