For the last several weeks our boat has been chillier than normal. This was partly due to the drop in temperature but mostly due the fact that we were missing 6 of our 10 portlights on the boat. Early November, we found a foundry in Victoria called Smith Bros Foundry & Machine Ltd. (877-900-5656) that works on bronze and portlights and is operated by Lorne (Father) and Paul (Son) who are a family 3-4 generation old foundry located in downtown Victoria BC; hopefully they could fix the problems with our portlight. They gave us a rough estimate of one week to clean the portlights, lathe out a larger groove for new gaskets (from 5/6″ to 3/8″), find or cut new gaskets for the larger grooves and any additional maintenance that may be required as they work on them. The timing to have them fixed did not seem to bad at the time especially for the rainy weather forecasted but as we are learning with things on boats we should have tripled the time it would have actually taken. After four weeks, the portlights were finally repaired and the new gaskets installed. The wait was worth it though as the portlights are bright and shiny and they don’t leak anymore!
The removal of the portlights were not too difficult and it took about 5- 10 minutes to remove each portlight which Rob found surprising We quickly discovered that not much was holding these portlights in except for a little bit of glue and/or caulking (some did not even have glue) and the bolts. The bolts were corroded from being exposed to the environment and really looked like they were in bad shape. The foundry was able to scrape most of the gunk of the bolts and get most of the green off. Once the portlights were removed, we cleaned the coach roof sides area by scraping the glue/caulking with a scraper, and a heat gun. We then cleaned the area with acetone and wiped it once more before we installed the portlights.
While we waited for the portlights to be fixed, we covered the holes with construction grade 6mm poly plastic and Tuck Tape (Rob loves Tuck Tape) to keep the rain out and as much heat in as possible.
We decided to use butyl tape (the grey stuff that should be used for marine conditions… see Sundowner Sails Again for a detailed discussion on the best butyl tape for sailboats/marine conditions) instead of caulking such as 3M’s 4200 to bed the portlights. Based on many articles that we have read and suggestions by other Westsail owners, butyl tape seems to be the best choice for this application and any other application where a pressure tight seal is needed. Butyl tape is also easier to work with than caulking and lasts a longer time (up to 30 years or more). We also got in contact with Sundowner Sails Again to see how they have fared with bedding their portlights with butyl tape and so far they have had no complaints (i.e., leaks). Bud Taplin (previous General Manager for Westsail Corp.) also recommended using butyl tape for bedding the portlights.
We made little circles around all the bolt holes and placed a lot of butyl tape into the gap between the portlight and the cabin top. We also placed a little bit of butyl tape under the flat side of each bolt head and then put everything back together. This process seems to have worked well. After the portlights were installed, we also covered each port hole with Lexan visors that we purchased from Seaworthy Goods for an extra measure of cover to prevent rain and water from accumulating at the base of the porthole.
The verdict: so far, so good! We have had several rain storms since we have reinstalled the portlights and visors, and haven’t had any leaks so far. ~Sophia & Rob