Chris Craft cruisers in the late 1960s came with cast aluminum portholes that open. The ones on my 1969 Roamer 46 came with built-in screens, which is a neat option my 1967 Constellation 52 didn’t have. Unfortunately, modern epoxy coatings were decades off in the 1960s, and the coatings Chris Craft used on their portholes were never intended to last more than a decade. The fasteners used to hold the portholes together and connect them to the boat were also an unfortunate choice: aluminum. The end result is that the OE portholes are hateful things, with layers of failed paint covered by whatever coatings previous owners slathered on top (usually without sanding) and failed fasteners that have mostly turned to white powder.
Oh…and then there’s that damned sticky gray butyl(?) tape with fibers running through it that they used to seal the portholes to the interior paneling (sort of). Don’t even get me started on that!
Anyway, these things desperately need refurbishing. The process starts with disassembly.
Autumn has arrived and the sun was heading into the west, but I thought I’d try to get these three disassembled in the two hours before dark.
I’ve found the best way to remove the aluminum screws is to first use a slotted screwdriver and a light hammer to knock all of the old paint out of the screwhead slot. Pressing down firmly while twisting smoothly, I found the screws along the sides and at the top of the portholes tended to come out cleanly. The ones along the bottom edge of the portholes are evil things though, with the heads crumbling to white powder upon contact.
It’s funny though…when I managed to get a screw out whole, it made me very happy. 😉
One screw came out cleanly. But the head of the one in the corner turned to dust, while only half of the head of the second bottom screw transformed to powder on contact. I think I know how early Egyptologists must have felt when they opened ancient tombs and found delicate fabrics and papyrus that turned to dust shortly after being exposed to air. lol
With all of the screws removed and uncooperative screw heads knocked off, very gentle application of a thin scraper pops the window retention ring off. Be careful though…these are all cast aluminum pieces and they can break very easily if you push too hard. For some strange reason, aluminum screws that turn to powder when you try to turn them with a screwdriver can have a tenacious grip on these cast retainers. My guess is that the goddess of the seas has a sense of humor and enjoys a bit of irony every once in a while.
Many of the hateful, headless screws simply turn to powder when you give them a twist with the pliers. This leaves aluminum in the threaded holes in the portholes that will need to be drilled out later.
Oh, and is it just me or are Irwin brand Vice Grips just not what they used to be? The jaws on the new set i bought last year are very sloppy. The rivets just don’t seem to fit like they do on one very old set I bought at an estate sale.
The sealant they used on these windows looks identical to what they used on the original bow seat windows. Actually, it looks like DAP window sealant for old fashioned wooden framed house windows. It’s very easy to work with at first and seals very well. But exposure to the elements makes it dry out, turning it into either a rock-like substance that cracks easily or powder, neither one of which have any sealing capacity. This is why water can leak past the glass and cause havoc with the aluminum screws and wooden paneling inside.
For some reason, the window sealant in the corners of these portholes is hateful, rock-hard stuff that needs a chisel to convince it to come out. Right next to the corners where it sticks so tenaciously though, there’s evidence of black mildew on the aluminum frame. Clearly, these areas were perpetually damp. It’s odd that the sealant stuck so well in the corners.
The latch dogs come out by first loosening the stainless lock nut then giving the big stainless screw a twist with a XXL slotted screwdriver.
I was able to remove the panes of glass, glass retainer rings, the latch dogs and gaskets from two of the three frames. Roughly 40% of the original aluminum screws were hateful things that turned to powder. The latch dogs on the remaining frame will soak in a mixture of ATF and diesel for a day before I give them another go. On the fancy screen option, 100% of the screws that hold the screen retainer to the porthole frame refuse to budge. I stopped trying after six broke off in a row, and it took ten minutes to get to that conclusion. I plan to just drill them out in one go after I’ve removed all of the cooperative bits from the other portholes.
There are ten portholes in total and each one has 40 screws. Roughly half of those need to be drilled out, then all of the holes tapped before I can start prepping for paint. This could take a while.
Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Glass!