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the dream of dawn

Yet another fixed port thread. Assembly

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I initially removed one of the small forward ports and took it to a local glass shop. They assured me that they could order-in replacement glass, and the total would be about $12 to maybe $40 for each port, depending on size and number of cuts. Well, when I took all the pieces in, they changed their tune. Turns out that they thought they were looking at 1/4" glass, but this stuff is actually something like 5mm, or 3/16". It would be possible to use 1/4" glass, but then the gaskets would not fit. One could just try to use liquid sealant instead of a gasket... but that has never worked out particularly well in applications where I've tried it. So, I bit the bullet and had them special order the OEM glass. It ended up taking a couple of months. Their excuse was that their supplier had to manufacture some. Because demand was so low, they didn't keep it in stock. Anyway, the bill was more like $300 or $400. Don't seem to have it around any longer.

This was the rabbit hole that I went down. First I was going to replace the glass with lexan, but the glass shop told me that the laminated glass would be fast and cheap. Tempered glass would have been even cheaper, but would have had a long lead time. So I bought into replacing the laminated glass with OEM-like material. But it turned out to be neither fast or cheap in the end. Somehow, there was never an obvious point to put the brakes on and go back to plan A.

On the other hand, replacing the seals was easy. A tip from another member suggested that the "aluminum window reseal kit" for the Catalina 27, available at Catalina-direct would work for our Ericson portlites. The kit came with plenty of gasket material for both the inner U-shaped gasket that wraps the glass edges and the outer filler gasket that snaps into the aluminum channel.

Dow 795 silicone sealant was supplied to glue the glass into the gasket and the gasket into the aluminum channel. Having just spent days removing old silicone from the channels, this seemed like a very bad idea to me. Something is needed to lubricate the gasket, but I don't think that it needs to be glued. So instead, I used a thin coat of Dow high-vacuum silicone grease, which I had on-hand. My reasoning was that if it didn't work, it would be relatively easy to wipe-off the grease and try it Catalina's way. My way seems to have worked just fine, almost two years down the road. I added the 795 to my workshop inventory, but haven't come across a use for it yet. One tube of the grease was more than enough for the project.
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The new U-shaped gasket fit perfectly with the new glass and the old aluminum channel. It did require lubrication to slide into place. And it did stretch a bit, in the course of squeezing the frames together, so I had to carefully re-trim the ends with a razor blade. The lips of the gasket popped up around the corners of the glass - especially the odd acute angle of the Ericson windows. I "relaxed" the corners with a few passes with a heat gun, and the gasket then laid down flat. However, the length has to be right at this stage, or the corners will end up in the wrong place.
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Reassembling the halves of the frame was relatively straightforward, as long as there was plenty of lube. The last few millimeters could be closed by carefully applying pressure with a woodworking clamp. This is where any imperfections in the shape of the replacement window become critical. It can be a little "shy" of the old shape, but it can't be at all "proud."
The inner gasket has a little detente in the edges, so it snaps right into the channel. Easy.
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Reinstalling the assembled ports back into the cabin top was just the reverse of removal. The Catalina kit included 3M4000 polyurethane sealant to make the seal between the cabin and the outer flange of the port channel. But by this time, winter had set in, and it was impossible to clean and dry the seal area. So I used butyl tape, as a temporary seal. When spring came, I cleaned and dried everything and used the 4000. Which worked fine up until the final two windows, at which point the tube burst and polyurethane sealant was squirting in every direction. I sacrificed a knife from the galley to act as a spatula and every paper towel on board to try to contain the exponentially-escalating mess.

So that's all done now. But...

I was rummaging around the new-used-consignment chandlery and saw a set of classic rectangular bronze opening ports for about the same amount of money that I spent on this long, escalating project. Now I sort of wish that I had just fiberglassed-over the odd-shaped fixed ports and replaced them with those "regular" ports. Oh, I'm sure that project would have entailed lots of hidden complications too. But if there is ever a "next time" I might go down that path.

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  1. toddster's Avatar
    In another forum, someone has advanced the theory that sealing the edges of the laminated glass with Dow 795, as per the directions from Catalina, would prevent future moisture intrusion into the laminate. Guess we'll have to wait another 20 or 30 years to see if mine fails because I didn't do this. D'Oh! No experimental control!