Refinishing Yacht Windows

Winter holidays delay projects on the _David B,_but family members step in to help the crew refinish the boat's windows.

Refinishing windows
Refinishing windows on the David BChristine Smith

Lately I'd been worried that time had been slipping away during the holidays. Our routine of working on David B projects in the late afternoons and early evenings was disrupted by holiday parties and social obligations. While we enjoyed making time to see friends and family, in the back of my mind, I kept worrying how long it had been since I'd been able to do anything on the boat.

In November I started working refinishing the skylight on the foredeck while Jeffrey removed a section of old wood from the pilothouse. His big project for this winter is to build in a custom refrigerator and freezer just in front of the pilothouse. Our routine was good. In the mornings we’d work on marketing our cruises or on freelance contracts we have for winter income. Sometime around three or four in the afternoon we’d drive to the boat and spend a few hours there. It felt good, then December rolled around and suddenly those hours set aside for projects evaporated. Instead of working on the boat, we were working on a glass of wine or beer with friends we’d not seen in a long time. Most days during December we had just enough time to check on the boat -- a habit we’ve happily maintained since we first bought the boat in 1998.

At some point in mid-December my mom emailed me asking if we wanted help with anything on the boat. She works for the school district where I grew up and had some free time between Christmas and New Years. We agreed that she and my dad would come help for five days.

By the time my parents arrived, Jeffrey and I had decided that we’d take the skylights and all the windows from around the settee to the shop where Mom and I would sand them. The settee area has seven windows and the skylights each have two. I was so excited to get started. I set out both of the random orbit sanders and the triangle sander. It had been a while since Mom had used them. She was cautious to make sure every window she worked on was sanded perfectly. It took us four days to take all the windows down to bare wood. The outside faces took a lot of work. We had let the teak gray while we attended to other projects over the last seven winters. This was the first time they had been refinished since our friend Aaron built them.

On New Years Eve we finished sanding. There was dust everywhere. Mom went inside (our shop is in our backyard) for a nap so she could stay awake for midnight festivities. I began to clean the shop. I took the air hose and dusted off the high areas and then swept the floor. I dusted everything so that we’d be ready for varnish the next day.

It was noon on New Years Day when Mom and I made it into the shop. I opened the big garage door and sunlight filled the shop. The windows all seemed to glow. I did a little more dusting with the air hose while Mom prepared each window for finish. This included wiping them down with rubbing alcohol and taping foam blocks to the glass so we could work on both sides of the panes. By four o’clock we were ready to apply our first coat of finish.

The afternoon went by fast. For the first time in five days we were able to work without hearing protectors and dust masks and chat as we worked. It grew dark and I closed the overhead door to the cold. Jeffrey and I use Deks Olje for our brightwork. It’s a two part oil based product which has a nice color tint and is easy to fix in the middle of a busy summer when we’re full with passengers. We got started and immediately felt the sense of accomplishment as the oil soaked in to the wood. The color change gave us a preview of what the end product would look like. It was so satisfying to see the transformation.

By six o’clock we’d finished a couple coats and it was time for my parents to leave. I was so grateful to them for spending their vacation time with us and for doing so much work. As their car disappeared into the night, I couldn’t help but think how nice it was to be able to ring in a new year with a renewed feeling of optimism. Having Mom help reset my routine. With the craziness of December over and with Mom’s labor I’m a little ahead of where I planned to be. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks of applying layers of Deks 2 to build up gloss. With the holidays over, Jeffrey and I will settle back into our routine, and if I’m lucky, my mom will want to come back for her spring break. I’ve still got eight more pilothouse windows, the trunk cabin, cap rail, and guard on her to-do list.