Friday, April 19, 2019

Old windows walk the plank

Rich just completed one of our biggest boat projects to-date.  Leopard catamarans have a well-known problem with leaking salon windows.  The original factory installation
You are so outta here!

had a strip of cosmetic paint on the plexiglass to hide the caulk.  Over time the paint comes loose - breaking the seal.  There is a 100% failure rate.  On our first open ocean passage after buying Pogeyan we had beach towels on the window sills soaking up the seawater.

Since we had to remove the windows and re-bed them we decided to install new plexiglass.  The existing windows were scratched and crazed so badly we couldn't see out of them on passage.  We also decided to replace the corroded, leaky, hard-to-use portholes in the forward windows.  We put in a much sturdier single porthole with easier latches.
Rich really hated the leaky old portholes.  He caulked them shut last year.

One porthole to rule them all!

Looking out the old window.
Looking out the new window!

There are 6 large windows in the salon. We brought 30 tubes of the recommended caulk and a case of blue painters tape back from the USA.  Rich used every bit of it on this job. The first step was to remove the old windows then scrape out the old caulk and foam tape using a vibrating multi tool.  Two of the side windows were distressingly easy to pull out!  He then sanded the entire opening smooth so the new caulk would adhere well.  The new window had to be painted black around the edges with a solution of caulk and mineral spirits.

Lots of caulk
I held the vacuum while he sanded to catch all the old black caulk and foam.  He was able to remove 2 windows in an afternoon and get the new ones installed the next day.  It went quicker than I expected.

Foam tape was applied around the internal opening and in the corners.  Next the new glass was put in with a thick bead of caulk - 3 tubes of caulk for each window.  He let the initial caulk dry for a week holding the window in with fender washers and screws.  Then he went back and filled it in the rest of the way with two more tubes of caulk on each and smoothed the caulk bead. 

Man, what a difference.  It is so much brighter in the boat and we can see outside!!!  

Looking out from the salon it feels like a new boat!

First remove the old window.

Next use multi tool to remove old caulk and foam tape.

Prepped and ready for the new glass to be installed.
Foam tape applied.

Glass installed with a bead of caulk and fender washers to snug it in.
To view all the photos visit Here.


  1. Hi Michelle, do you guys have any plans to come to Town Basin? A few of us are still here.

    1. We launch on the 29th and plan to finish our provisioning/prepping at Town Basin. We hope to run into you there. We'll clear out of Marsden again this year.

  2. What an overhaul! The new windows look fantastic and the difference in clarity is astounding. Immersive photos to boot.

    1. Wait til you see our new stickers and graphics! They are really cool!

    2. I'm looking forward to it. I bet with all of the modifications you've made to date it feels like a different boat.

  3. Love the shot of dad attacking to the old windows. 👍

    1. Yeah that is funny. Did you see the huge smile on his face as he toss's the front window overboard!

    2. I sure did, lol. Good riddance! Hoping he didn't actually throw them overboard though! Might've crushed a few eels chilling on the bottom.

    3. He threw them overboard onto the dirt! It was fun to watch!! No animals were harmed. I would never allow that.

  4. Your new windows and hatches look great. We are going to do the same (at least the front windows) when we reach NZ.

    1. Thanks John. You are welcome to borrow our harbor freight multi-tool. It worked wonderfully for the bulk caulk removal.

  5. Our problems with the Lewmar "Standard" portlights started with their finicky "quick-close" latches. You have to simultaneously shove the port closed while snapping the latch. These same latches are also on the Lewmar "Atlantic" portlights installed on the side of our Leopard. My petite wife can juuuust get the side ports closed since she can reach them well enough to give them a good shove. She didn't stand a chance on the reverse-angle ports in the front windows. I've seen her struggling to get them shut in a tropical downpour and it's not a pretty sight. If you don't remember to snap the middle latch first, the two side latches often misalign and you have to start over again. I chartered older Leopards in Belize and BVI prior to purchasing this one. Each time the pre-charter orientation included a "front port latch lesson". I remember thinking at the time: "well that's a bad design". Our new Vetus ports are easily secured by any crew...even those without "latch training".

    The latches on our Vetus ports can be dogged-down to any degree we desire. At anchor we close them lightly - just enough to seal out rain. Before passage we can crank them down enough to keep out the ocean. Since this is the only time the seal is fully compressed, it performs it's role consistently. The Lewmar design fully compresses the seal each and every time. The reverse-angle of the front ports prevents them from shedding water completely. A few ounces is retained at the lower edge and this will dry out - leaving a dirt ring at the line where acrylic meets seal. Since the seal is compressed the same every time this dirt ring builds up at the same place every time. Unless the seals are frequently cleaned, the grime degrades the seal and leads to leaks. This seal cleaning is easy but I'm certain my ex-charter cat received no such love. We found we could keep the rain out by regularly cleaning the seals and lubricating them with chapstick. Eventually we followed the lead of the PO and stopped using them altogether. Later on I caulked them shut while I planned an upgrade.

    The seals on my Vetus ports are also twice as thick and twice as wide as those on the Lewmar ports. The reverse mounting angle still leads to a small amount of water retained at the lower edge. But since the seal is so much larger, it doesn't dry out at the point where the seal meets acrylic. I occasionally clean the seals on my Vetus ports but I don't have to.

    When I was in Fiji I settled down to examine how to dis-assemble the ports, re-bed them, and inspect the seals. I was astounded at the huge straight blade screw heads and corrosion hiding under the trim ring. It took a week for me to find a large enough screwdriver. Why on earth wouldn't they use a hex head screw? It took a further two days to get the first one apart without stripping the screws. I used a butane jewelers torch to heat the screws and cranked on the huge screwdriver with a pair of channel locks. When I finally got it apart I remember sitting out on the front of the boat looking at the pinholes in the frames, wondering what I'd got myself into. The cost to replace the seals and frames was about $200 per hatch and complete replacement was about $350. The Vetus portlights I eventually selected cost me $200 each.

    For some reason the Lewmar Standard portlights have the same fragile plastic trim rings found on Lewmar hatches. The light-colored plastic seems to attract mold and they are almost sturdy enough to withstand cleaning. Our new port lights are all-metal and look like a marine product.

    We find a single opening port supplies all the ventilation we need in the salon. Last week we were moving between island groups here in Tonga shouldering into 9 foot seas running against us. Occasionally we'd take several tons of water across the front with a large WHUMP. I'm glad my front windows no longer have those two big cutouts.