Replacing Portlights

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I was poking about onboard Andrea Lynn one night after a heavy rain as I sometimes do, looking for leaks. Sure enough I found several, mostly in the back of the boat. Water was dripping on the cushions from the corner of the cabin. I looked around and eventually traced it to the bottom of the portlights. Water was coming in between the portlight and the plywood of the cabin side.

These pages illustrate the subsequent repair and replacement of the portlights. First I discuss the problem that precipitated all this. Then I talk about how I selected the new portlights. Next I go over the repairs to the cabin side. Finally I wrap up with the actual portlight installation. The whole project took from October 2006 to January 2007.

The problem

The first thing is I unscrew and carefully pry out the portlight. It is glued in with aging 4200 or 5200 so it isn't really that difficult to remove.

I poke around the edges and find that the wood is soft below the bottom of the portlight. I grabbed a chunk in my hand and pulled it out. Oh boy do I have a problem.

I had been thinking for a while about getting some sort of bronze portlights. I think they'd be really cool for this boat. This little repair quickly morphed into a project to replace the portlights.

Selecting new portlights

First I had to decide on which brand to get. I looked at some boats in the marina. This Seaward Fox has some nice portlights. I don't know the brand but I think they are Atkin Hoyle.

Pictured above is the bronze portlight of a Flicka 20. This is sort of what I am looking for.

Here's a portlight on a Victoria 14.

I did a lot of searching online. I looked at all the brands I could find advertised in various boating magazines. My requirements evolved somewhat as I searched and pondered. Over a two month period I realized that ...

  1. They had to be bronze.
  2. Sand casting texture, not polished, to better match the character of the boat.
  3. A proper alloy of bronze - not leaded bronze or brass.
  4. A combination of matching fixed and opening portlights.
  5. A good fit to the cabin sides without major mods or reconstruction. The rectangular 5x12 or oval 5x14 would work well.
  6. Work well with the existing wood trim inside.
  7. They had to let the same amount of light that the existing portlights do.
  8. A reasonable price.

I found what I was looking for at Spartan Marine. They have a good reputation with the cruising crowd and have been around for a long time. I selected their P610 and P560.

I used the dimensions in the catalog and the dimensions of the existing Beckson portlights and drew this diagram on the computer to see how the new portlights would fit in the openings and what cuts I would have to make. The existing Beckson 5x12 is in black and the new Spartan Marine P560/P610 is in red.

Here is some of the wood trim that the portlight would have to sit next to.

I then called these folks up and placed the order.