Category Archives: Nuts and Bolts

Portlight Lens Replacement / Rennovation

I’ve been on hundreds of older boats and a common problem is the portlights (windows to landlubbers) have fogged up from many years of wear and sunlight damage.

Zia, our Morgan 38 (built in 1983) also had this problem.  All of our portlights are opening (versus fixed in place), none of them were leaking, but you couldn’t really see out of them.  The window material is a kind of plastic (Lexan), not glass.

Having clear (not clouded) portlights makes a huge difference with the amount of light that gets into the interior, and also makes the boat seem a lot less ‘worn out’.

The view from portlights before they were rehabilitated.  Good for privacy, but bad for viewing.
The view from portlights before they were rehabilitated. Good for privacy, but bad for viewing.

If they were leaky or had major issues, I would have considered replacing the entire portlight with something like Newfound Metals very nice stainless steel & glass portlights.  I have fondled them at boat shows and know some folks who installed them and love them.

In my case that probably would have been overkill and there were plenty of other places I needed to spend my limited boat refit funds (like new sails & radar).  So Zia will need to wait a few years for the nice stainless portlights.

I tried a couple of products which claimed to clear up cloudy Lexan windows, but wasn’t happy with the end results.  So I opted to replace the lens.

The same portlight after the lens had been replaced. BIG difference, and it looked pretty much new.
The same portlight after the lens had been replaced. BIG difference, and it looked pretty much new.

Zia has:

  • Two larger cast aluminum portlights (about 24-3/4″ wide) made by Bomar
  • Five smaller plastic portlights (about 14-7/8″ wide) made by Beckson

It was nice that even though they were 30 years old, both of these manufacturers still exist.  Had they not, I could have fabricated/cut the lenses from Lexan but this was easier.

The Bomar Portlights

I ordered replacements, and they were shipped with these instructions:

TOOLS:      replacement lens         
                        tube of silicone (GE Ultra Glaze)
                        old spoon
                        old butter knife or hanger
                        masking tape
                        blunt tool        

  1.  Cut away old silicone and remove old lens.
  2.  Place a two inch strip of masking tape around the top/outside of hatch lid in order to make the removal of excess silicone less difficult.If you have a cast hatch disregard this step.
  3. If you have an extruded hatch and wish to replace your gasket, do so now, making sure to place lip of the gasket on top of the flange (the underside of the lens will sit on this portion of the gasket).
  4. Peel off the paper on the underside of the lens.
  5. Place a moderate bead of silicone on the flange and any crossbars where the lens will set.
  6. Float the lens into the silicone bead.  If your replacement lens has holes in it for your latch dogs, place the holes away from the hinge.  Allow a 1/8” space between the front edge of lens and the frame so your handles will be properly aligned.  If  your replacement lens does not have holes in it simply center the lens in the silicone.)
  7. After the lens is floated, apply a generous bead of silicone in the gap between the edge of the lens and the frame.
  8. Using the back side of an old spoon, place the tip in the silicone at 45 degrees and trowel off any excess silicone.
  9. Check for air bubbles (swelling in the silicone).  To remove air bubbles; drag an old butter knife through the swollen area three inches before and after the swollen area.  Apply a new bead of silicone to the disturbed area and trowel off excess silicone with your spoon.
  10. Allow the hatch to sit for two days.
  11. Peel off the masking tape and lens paper carefully use a blunt tool to remove any silicone, being careful not to scratch the lens or the hatch frame.
  12. The silicone will be totally cured in 7 days.
To get the portlights off of the frame, I used a Bostitch 1/8" (3mm) punch to drive the hinge pin out.
To get the portlights off of the frame, I used a Bostitch 1/8″ (3mm) punch to drive the hinge pin out.

I took the portlights home and did most of the work there.  Getting the old gasket material out of the frame was probably the most time consuming part, and it only took about 30 minutes per portlight.

I used Goo Gone caulk remover and this scrapper to get all of the gasket material removed from the grooves you see here facing up.
I used Goo Gone caulk remover and this scrapper to get all of the gasket material removed from the grooves you see here facing up.
This is the frame all taped up with painter's tape and ready for the GE Ultra Glaze
This is the frame all taped up with blue painter’s tape and ready for the GE Ultra Glaze

GE Ultra Glaze is a silicon that comes in a caulking tube.  It’s specialized for window glazing, and while there are cheaper general-use silicon caulks available, I would not use those in this application.

GE Ultra Glaze (black stuff) in place and then the Lexan window material is smooshed into place. This all cleans up well for a tidy finish.
GE Ultra Glaze (black stuff) in place and then the Lexan window is smooshed into place. There is also a protective plastic sheet on the Lexan. This all cleans up well for a tidy finish.


Servicing Winches

Starboard jib sheet winch on Zia, a Lewmar 44ST self-tailing winch

Winches are quite important on sailboats, but they seem to be often neglected. <sniff>

When I ask around my sailing buddies & boat owners,  winch maintenance seems to be a mixed bag.  I had a couple of long-time boat owners tell me they didn’t realize they were supposed to service their winches, and at the other end of the spectrum there are OCD sailboat racers who do it before every race.

After taking our winches apart, I’m pretty sure Zia’s last previous owner fell into the former category.  I think it’s been at least 8 years since they were serviced.

There was either no lubrication or a thick, gritty, black goo that had no resemblance to the light grease recommended by Lewmar.  There were also two broken ‘prawls’, which are the little teeth that stop a winch from spinning in the wrong direction.

We’ve decided that we’ll be servicing the winches on Zia annually, probably in the winter.

On the Lewmar 44 ST, after removing the 4 hex bolts, you need to remove these circlips, then the outter drum lifts off
The only tricky part of taking apart  the Lewmar 44 ST:  after removing the 4 hex bolts on top, you need to remove these Colletts, then the outter drum lifts off

On Zia (Morgan 384) we have the following winches, all circa 1982:

  • 2 each, Lewmar 44ST for jib sheets
  • 1 each, Lewmar 16ST for main sheet
  • 1 each, Lewmar 8C single speed on starboard side of mast for halyards
  • 1 each, Lewmar 16C single speed on port side of mast for halyards
Lewmar 44ST partially disassembled. You can start to see the goo. After those hex bolts are removed the entire unit lifts off, leaving only the bottom plate with the big slotted screws.
Lewmar 44ST partially disassembled. You can start to see the goo. After those hex bolts are removed the entire unit lifts off, leaving only the bottom plate with the big slotted screws.


When the 44ST is fully disassembled, only the base plate remains.
When the 44ST is fully disassembled, only the base plate remains.
When the #8 and #16 winches are fully disassembled, the post is still on the plate.
When the #8 and #16 winches are fully disassembled, the post is still on the plate.

 It is pretty chilly out, so I put each of the disassembled winches in a bucket and brought them home to clean.

There was a thick black, gritty goo coating everything.  To remove it, I poured minieral spirits (from Lowes) in the bucket and let things soak to soften them up.

Then I used a nylon brush (from Lowes) and mineral spirits, and lots of those tough blue paper towels (from Lowes) to clean each part individually.


I bought Lewmar Gear Grease and RaceLube (oil).  In a nutshell,  after cleaning everything, you are supposed to lightly brush Gear Grease on the bearings and gears, and use only oil on the prawls.  No grease on the pawls.

Our port jib winch had two broken prawls, which I replaced with new ones.  I also replaced all of the springs on all of the prawls.  There appeared to be some old grease on the prawls, and I reckon this might have been a factor in the breaking of the prawls.

Here are some excellent videos about servicing winches made by Lewmar featuring the talented and fascinating Lia Ditton.   Oh yeah, Roland is probably fascinating too.

[youtube id=WZr_NuCmB64 width=”560″ height=”315″]

[youtube id= r3Co76KqF-4 ]


Rudder Post Stuffing Box R&R

We have noticed that since we got Zia (our Morgan 38) about a year ago, when we motor at or near hull speed, we get a couple gallons per hour of water in the bilge.

After reading up on the awesome Morgan 38 owners site (, we started suspecting the rudder stuffing box was leaking.  Going near hull speed, a wave is formed that goes above the normal waterline near the bow and at the stern.

The rudder post is at the stern and the stuffing box (which keeps water out of the boat) is barely above water line.  So when the wave is formed, if the stuffing box is leaking a little, water will flow into the bilge.  The stuffing box is located in the locker just abaft the wheel.

Below is a picture peering straight down into the locker.  The big aluminum circular thing (A) is the steering quadrant. Actually, I think it might technically be a ‘radial drive’, but everyone calls it a ‘quadrant’ so that’s what I’ll call it too.  Cables (C) coming from the steering wheel  go around this wheel, which provides leverage to turn the rudder post (B), which is the small circle in the center.

Steering Quadrant

The copper/bronze colored arm (E) attached to the top of the rudder post is the auto helm/auto pilot.

The steering gear is made by Edson and here is a picture from their manual on how the quadrant interacts with the wheel using cables.


The rudder stuffing box is beneath this equipment, so it all has to be removed.  I read on that one of the owners managed to change the packing with this quadrant in place, by reaching through those two holes.  This is quite amazing to me since this locker is very small, the holes are very small, you can’t see the stuffing box through the holes and they must have been hanging upside down while doing it.  I wasn’t designed for these kinds of contortions, so I removed the equipment, which only took about 30 minutes.

  • Be sure to mark/measure how far down the rudder post the assembly is bolted.  It slides up/down the post when loose.
  • 9/16″ socket wrench to remove 4 bolts on copper/bronze colored autopilot arm
  • 9/16″ socket wrench to remove 4 bolts holding the quadrant together near the collar on the rudder post
  • 1/2″ socket wrench to remove nuts on two bolts which tension the wires. These exit the top of the quadrant and are visible in the photo.
  • Quadrant then comes into two pieces and slides off the post

If you do this, be sure to mark (or measure) on the rudder post the location of this equipment because is slides up and down on the post when loosened and  you’ll probably want to replace it at the same location.

Here’s another photo of the assembly from an angle (oblique).

Oblique View of Steering Quadrant

Below is a picture of the rudder post after the quadrant and autopilot arms have been removed.  The packing nut (the object of our pursuit) is visible at the base, next to the blue paper towel.  That nut is about 4″ diameter and we used some monster sized channel grips to get it off.

Rudder Post with Packing Nut Attached

I have read rave reviews about Gore GFO packing.  It apparently lasts for many years without needing any service.  I also read that Morgan 38s typically use 3 rings of 1/2″ material.  So I ordered 30 inch length of 1/2″ packing from an online store called eMarine.  It cost around $54 with free shipping.

Next, with the help of my nimble and limber son Wyatt, we cut the 3 rings using the rudder post just above the nut as a guide.  The post is not tapered and since the boat is in the water I was afraid of taking the nut off and having water flowing into the locker.  I therefore wanted to minimize the time with the nut off by having the packing pre-cut.

We took off the packing nut … flow or no? to be continued ….


How to Bleed Fuel Line on a Perkins 4-108 Diesel Engine

Okay, in scouring the internet I couldn’t find a good reference on how to prime (bleed) the fuel line on a Perkins 4.108 diesel, which is the 50 HP diesel engine on Zia (our Morgan 38 sailboat).

In fact, I found in some forums that owners admitted to being so afraid of bleeding the system that they have never changed their fuel filters (!).

I didn’t want to live in fear, nor did I want a dirty or plugged fuel filter, so here is how I bled the system.  The Perkins manual is pretty good, but I had problems finding the gizmos they mentioned because the pictures didn’t look like my engine and some of the gizmos were hidden on the back (port) side of the engine which I couldn’t see.  This was also the first diesel engine I’ve become intimate with, so my ignorance cannot be overstated.

If you are going to bleed the system anyway, you might as well change all of the fuel filters.  In my case, I have a primary Racor filter under the galley sink.  I changed that, then I also changed the secondary fuel filter, which is mounted on the starboard side of my engine.

The photo below is of the starboard side of our engine, via the access panel from the starboard quarter berth.  The secondary fuel filter is the white cylinder under the bolt marked with (A).

I used a 5/8″ box wrench to loosen the bolt on top of the fuel filter (A), then use the manual lift pump lever (B) to pump until clean fuel with no bubbles comes out from under the bolt.  You just raise the little lever up and down until something happens.

Then tighten bolt (A).

Next, using the forward access for the engine (removing the stairs), reach around to the port side of the engine, where the injector pump is located.  The photo below shows a red box with the location of the detailed photo that follows.


Detailed area on engine port side. This is the area shown by the red box in the previous photo.Referring to the photo above, loosen small bolt (5/16″ box wrench) on side of injector pump (A).  Facing the engine, with left hand, reach around to the starboard side of the engine and pump the manual lever on the fuel lift pump (that you pumped in previous step) until fuel with no bubbles comes out from around the bolt, then tighten bolt (A).

Next, loosen bleed bolt on top of the governor (B) with 5/16″ box wrench and again manually pump the lift pump until fuel with no bubbles issues from bolt.  I think it was draining down the back of the bolt, so I applied a little pressure to the bolt from the front to tilt it a little so I could see the fuel coming out the front.  Then tighten bolt (B).

I then cranked the engine a few times to see if it would start.  It wouldn’t start.  I’m cautious about cranking the engine for more than 10 seconds because it can pull water into the cylinders (don’t ask why I know that, it’s a little embarrassing).

Then I loosened one of the injector compression fittings (C) and cranked the engine. After a few seconds it started up and ran fine after that.  Be sure to tighten the injector compression fitting back up.

I didn’t have to loosen the other injector compression fittings, although some of the instructions I’ve seen say you might need to do that.

Note also that our engine seems to be sensitive to the cold. If it’s below 45 degrees F air temperature, I need to spray a small amount of starter fluid into the air intake.


Propeller Replacement

Left is old propeller with crack to the left of the (A), Right is the new propeller

One of the things the surveyor noticed when we purchased Zia (our Morgan 38) was a crack on the hub of the propeller.  It looked like it had been there a long time and the previous owner said he was unaware of it.

While she was hauled out at Schooner Creek, we ordered and installed a new propeller.

Above is a photo of the old propeller (left) with a crack (A).  We were told by the propeller shop that if the previous installer lubricated the propeller shaft and tightened the nut too tight, you could see this kind of cracking.   Lesson: don’t lubricate the shaft and don’t over tighten.

We also replaced the old Zinc, which was in good shape still, with the newer style of Zinc (B) which is mounted at the end of the shaft.  The old Zinc is the collar-like thing bolted to the shaft just to the right of (A) in the photo above.

We were very happy with the propeller shop Sheffield Marine Propeller.  They know their stuff and were reasonably priced compared to the super cheap internet shops.  We wanted to use a local shop for support since we had near zero experience with propellers.

The new prop, like the old, was a bronze 3 blade fixed propeller, 16X11 RH, for a 1-1/4″ shaft.  It cost $583 and we picked it up at their shop in Portland.

If you are new to propellers, the ’16’ is the propellers overall diameter.  The ’11’ is the ‘pitch’ of the propeller.  Pitch is “the distance a propeller would move in one revolution if it were moving through a soft solid like a screw through wood”.


Graphical representation of propeller pitch



Finally, the ‘RH’ means it’s right handed, which has to do with the direction the shaft turns to go forward.

The optimal value for all of these factors can be determined by the boat’s hull shape, the engine, and the transmission.  Mix these variables in with a some voodoo, formulas and a bunch of experience and out pops a propeller specification.

In my case, I got on the excellent Morgan 38 owner’s site ( and found out that for my engine and transmission, this was the originally recommended propeller.

Our Engine:  Perkins 4-108

Our Transmission: Hurth HBW150-1.9R

Propeller sizes are usually stamped on the hub of the propeller.

Old Propeller with '16 RH 11' stamped onto the hub.  Notice crack under the lettering.
Old Propeller with ’16 RH 11′ stamped onto the hub. Notice crack under the lettering.