Technical

Catamaran basics Fitting new portlights

Published on 01 december 2015 at 0h00

Create a notification for "Technical"

We all know that the average life expectancy of a sailing boat is 40 years... A lot longer than that of its portlights! What slowly but surely destroys your ‘little windows’ is of course the sun. Not the winter sun, which is low on the horizon, but the scorching midday sun... Under the combined action of the phenomena of expansion and ultraviolet, the portlight deteriorates, crazes and sometimes breaks. As for the watertight joint, it more often than not ends up by letting in a few drops. The portlights most affected are the biggest ones, oriented at an angle close to the horizontal. The darker the panel, the more it is sensitive to ageing. The material generally used is polymethyl methacrylate, often abbreviated to PMMA. This polymer – also called Perspex, its first commercial name, is particularly resistant to UV, more transparent and above all, lighter than glass. On the other hand, it is sensitive to scratching, hydrocarbons and certain glues. Allow 100 euros for 1m² of 8mm thick Perspex. We also use polycarbonate – Lexan, for example. It is more scratch-resistant, but doesn’t take kindly to being screwed down tightly.
So, are you ready to fit your new portlights?

Fitting new portlights

You can remove the old portlight for use as a template...as long as your boat is under shelter! On our Aventura 23, the starboard portlight disappeared, following a capsize when it ran aground. We transfer the measurements using wooden battens and clamps.

Fitting new portlights

Ready for cutting! The film protecting both sides of the Perspex remains in place. We preferably use a circular saw for long lengths: the blade is adjusted to exactly the right thickness, here 8mm. No need to move the Perspex!

Fitting new portlights

The front part of the portlight has a very tight curve: it is cut out with the help of a jigsaw, as are the rounded angles at the rear. Remember to immobilize your Perspex well.

Fitting new portlights

The upper edge of the portlight is rounded off with the help of an orbital sander. We use four different disks for an optimum finish: the grains used here are 80, 120, 220 and finally 500.

Fitting new portlights

To obtain a good finish on the angles, we use a polishing paste. Products intended for cars are perfectly suitable. Polish well for a faultless shine

Fitting new portlights

From now on, it’s best if there are two of you working! Equipped with portlight nuts (preferably in stainless – around 1 euro each; aluminum often proves impossible to dismantle), position the portlight, drill four holes from inside and fix it.

Fitting new portlights

From inside, drill the Perspex, using the holes in the fiberglass as a guide. From outside, it's useful for your helper to press hard on the Perspex to make drilling it easier...but be careful of his or her hands!

Fitting new portlights

Before dismantling the portlight, run a Stanley knife along the interior angles: it will thus be easy to remove the protection from the joint contact area. The other parts will remain protected by the film.

Fitting new portlights

On the outside of the portlight, countersink each hole with a drill bit of the same diameter as the bolt ...

Log in

Password forgotten ?

Become a member

Become a Multihulls World Community Member for free and get exclusive benefits

Become a member

Share this article