Rebedding the Portlights

Like the look of those classic Alberg windows? Turns out they’re a pain in the ass to work with!

I’m not the biggest fan of the signature Alberg windows. They seem too large to be fit for sea. If I were preparing Vanupied, my Pearson Ariel 26, to cross an ocean I would definitely glass in those gigantic holes and put in smaller, opening port lights. I’m not preparing my boat to cross an ocean, but I am essentially preparing her for the sea and island hopping, so my windows needed some work.

rebedding portlights, rebedding windows pearson ariel, alberg design windows

I first discussed my window problem with my friend Russell who I met while on a delivery of an Endeavour 43. Russell and his wife have sailed the world on their Kelly Peterson 44, “Blue Highway.” I was telling Russell about some cracks in the aluminum window frame. The conversation went something like this:

“How structural is it?”

“Pretty structural.”

“Can I just put some epoxy onto the cracks?”

“I wouldn’t. You should really get it welded.”

“I don’t have any money to pay a welder!”

I put “properly fix windows” on the list. Plus, they were leaking pretty badly and it was time for rebedding. I met Oliver by chance at a party at the yacht club. He’s a welder, a sailor, and my exact age. He recently sold his small sailboat that he lived on and sailed extensively! Even if no one else wanted to go out, Oliver was down whatever the weather. Living on land now he recently quit working for the man and went for it with his own business. Because he does excellent work for majorly nice yachts to earn the majority of his income, Oliver was more than willing to help a sailor out for a very reasonable price!

But first I had to remove them. The frames were held together by bolts using the tap and die method. I didn’t have a big enough screw driver for the bolts, so I set out in search of one in the boatyard. Skip, a friend of a friend, came through. Later he came to check on how the job was going.

“They’re seized,” I said. “Got an impact driver?”

He did, in fact have an impact driver, but many of the bolt’s heads were stripped or quickly became so. The impact driver required someone to use the entire force of their body to get a single bolt to even budge! Even Skip who is six feet tall, 250 pounds, and has 40 years of experience with fixing things was having a hell of a time! It took a long time, and a lot of Skip’s sweat but we finally got the windows removed. One frame broke into three pieces! I was definitely glad to be getting these fixed up. Off to the welder it went.

What fun!

Because the aluminum was soft to begin with, and fifty years old, it turned out to be a hell of a job welding the windows as well. It’s a good thing Oliver loves a welding challenge. Meanwhile, I covered up the holes for the windows with heavy duty plastic wrap and duct tape. This turned out to be a pretty terrible idea because as soon as the sun hit the duct tape it basically became permanent. It took hours spanning two days with a sander and paint thinner on the deck in the hot Florida sun to get that off!

A job weld done! Thanks, Oliver!

Once I got the windows back, they continued to be a pain in the ass. Skip continued to help me with the reinstall. When removing the frames we had broken a few bolts that were now stuck inside the holes, so we decided to drill new holes and tap new threads for those bolts. But threading the old aluminum was basically impossible. We broke all of our taps. Then we decided to through bolt the frames, and wondered why we hadn’t thought of this all along! We continued to break things like bits, nuts, and bolts. There were three trips to the hardware store in one day.

We finally got the windows back in! Not only are they leak free now, but they are much stronger thanks to the welds and the through bolts. Windows are all through bolted these days on boats. Sometimes the modern way can be better and stronger!

If you are traveling on the ICW and need some welding done in and around northern Florida, contact Oliver Heckscher at Weld Done- Mobile Metalworks & Fabrication. Huge thanks to Skip & Oliver for makin’ it happen!