Damn Port-lights

6 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It’s very strange to wake up in the morning without having to think about our next passage or the next anchorage.  We’ve been constantly on the move since October and have done nearly 3,000 miles since we left Trinidad.  We don’t even have to look at the weather forecast apart from finding out if it’s going to rain and possibly spoil our maintenance work.

We’ve been looking at flights back to the UK and have started to think about the logistics of finding a car and a house when we arrive back in England.  Our current thoughts are to live the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire area mostly because we should be able to find a house in the countryside at a reasonable price.  

Scraping off old sealant

Glenys borrowed one of the marina’s bikes and ran a few errands, sending off our autopilot display unit to have a small modification done to the LCD display that I fitted in Trinidad.  There was no sign of rain, so I removed six of the port-lights and started to scrape the old silicone sealant from them.  It’s a tedious job with each hatch taking 90 minutes to get clean.  After lunch, Glenys helped me with the hatches.

By three o’clock, we had five hatches cleaned and I set to the messy task of bedding the lenses into the frames.  My first attempt was a disaster because I left the backing paper on one side of the lens – I had to remove the lens, clean up and start again.  

On my second attempt, I masked off the lens and the frame and peeled off the masking tape before the sealant had skinned.  Unfortunately, the lens moved about when I was removing the tape, so I had to apply more sealant and will have to clean it up when dry.

For the remaining four port-lights, I didn’t bother masking anything off and will clean off the cured sealant in 2 days’ time.  Jameson at Maritime Plastics had suggested this method, but I thought that I’d try masking tape – I should have taken his advice from the beginning.  By the end of the day, we had 5 port-lights with lenses in – only 7 to go.

7 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We’ve made good progress with the port-lights and I’m expecting that we’ll have them all back in place by the 12th, so I arranged to haul out on the 22nd, which will give us 10 days to finish off the remaining jobs - mostly cleaning and varnishing.  We’re planning on having 7 days to do any jobs that arise after haul-out, so Glenys has booked our flights to the UK on the 29th May.  It’s good to have a deadline and a plan. 

Applying sealant to the aft window

I spent a few hours pulling out the remaining four port-lights and Glenys started the mind-numbing job of cleaning the old sealant from the frames.  I then tackled the aft port-light.  It’s a fixed window with a curved frame and lens.  The frame has been stuck in with some very strong adhesive and I’m unable to remove it from the hull, so I had to figure out some way of clamping the lens in place while holding the curve.

I decided to use the existing bolt holes in the frame and made a couple of flat “clamping” bars out of an old sail batten.  Using the bars, I was able to push the lens near the middle and hold the curve.  Unfortunately, with the bars in place, I’m unable to smooth off the surface of the sealant to make a nice finish, so I opted for a two- step approach - first stick the lens in place and then after three days when it is fully cured, I’ll apply a second bead of sealant to finish off the job.  I discussed this with Maritime Plastics and they say this will work fine and the sealant will bond well to cured sealant.

It was going to be a messy job, so I covered our bed with an old sheet and newspaper and then ran through four dry runs to make sure that I had a smooth method and all the tools to hand.  Everything went well and I didn’t make too much mess even when I scraped out the surface sealant to leave a 4mm deep groove to give a good bonding depth for the second application.  

With the aft window in place, I spent the rest of the afternoon helping Glenys with the last four port-lights.  These are the biggest on the boat at 27” long and it took us 2½ hours per frame.  We gave up at 17:30 and will have to finish the last two tomorrow.

8 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
Glenys had a brief respite from scraping hatches and spent an hour cleaning the front of the hull.  After spending 5 weeks in the ICW and the Chesapeake, we’ve picked up a horrible brown stain on the water line caused by the brown sediment in the water - commonly called the “Chesapeake Moustache”.  She washed it down with detergent and then applied some “On and Off”, which is basically Oxalic and Hydrochloric acid, which cleaned the gel coat up nicely. 

Another batch of port-lights

Meanwhile, the rest of our day was spent on the port-lights.  We cleaned the old sealant from the last two port-lights and I cleaned off the residue of the new sealant from the five port-lights that now have the lenses installed.  It wasn’t too difficult a job, but it was time consuming, taking about an hour a hatch.  I used plastic razor blades to carefully cut off the hardened sealant and any smears came off very easily.

In the afternoon, I fixed the lenses onto the remaining 6 port-lights.  We now have the lenses stuck into all of the port-lights, but we’re only half way through the job.  I’m going to leave the sealant to harden tomorrow and then over the following three days, I’ll finish off the aft port-light and fit the 11 opening port-lights into the hull.