Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Expanding Stuffing Box Project!

About two weeks ago, Ken removed the packing from the stuffing box.  It was no surprise when replacing the packing in Nirvana's stuffing box turned out to be another big project ... that's a boat for ya, right?!  Since we'd never replaced the packing on our boat, we figured it was in bad shape and should be replaced while on the hard.  The first challenge of the project is getting to the stuffing box ... who decided to place it directly under the galley cabinet?!  This would have been a lot easier if placed a little further up or down.

After a few cuts & scrapes on Ken's hands, he was able to separate the stuffing box with some PB Blaster and two wrenches ... each turning in the opposite direction.  Ken was then able to pick away the old packing with a tiny tool that reminded me of the dentist.  The packing came apart in pieces (first pic above) ... it was definitely overdue for a replacement.  

We were hoping that we'd find a smooth shaft after removing the packing, as we'd like to use the GFO dripless packing.  While we half-expected the brass shaft to have grooves, we didn't expect to see what can only be described as some sort of delamination?  I didn't wanna risk my life by asking Ken to move over so I could take a picture, but I was able to take a quick pic ...

We quickly decided that the shaft needed to be removed, so Ken tried to separate the shaft from the transmission coupling ... not so easy.  PB Blaster and some tools weren't gonna do it.  After doing some research, Ken went back to the boatyard the next day with some bolts to try and pry the shaft free ... nope, that didn't work either.  After more research, Ken ordered a coupler puller from Catalina Direct.  Between moving out of our condo and stressing about the paint job on Nirvana's deck, we were really hoping that the $50 tool would do the trick.  About a week later, we had the tool and Ken was back at the boatyard ... still no luck!  Would you believe that the part sold by Catalina Direct for the Catalina 30's didn't fit?!  

Luckily, all hope had not been lost.  We still had one option that we probably should have done from the beginning ... cut that thing off!  We'd already decided that we were going to bring the shaft to a local machinist to have a new one made, and a new coupling isn't as expensive as we had feared (less than $100) .. so why waste any more time trying to fight this old shaft and coupling?

After spending Halloween weekend getting settled in our new place, Ken went back to the boatyard last week .. with a grinder.  In no time he had the shaft cut and removed .. Hallelujah!  Ken was able to speak with a local machinist, who came highly recommended and sounded like he knew exactly what we needed.  Unfortunately, he was out of town for the week but at least we have a plan ... and plenty of things to keep us busy in the meantime.  We needed to catch up on our jobs, and we ordered some more Interlux paint.  The paint just arrived, so hopefully we can meet with the machinist this week and do some touch-ups on Nirvana's deck soon.

Looking at the coupling and shaft confirmed that we made the right choice in deciding to cut the shaft and replace them both.  The shaft is bent and pretty beat up.

Ken was able to remove the propeller with a prop puller pretty easily, and the stuffing box can be cleaned instead of buying a new one ... about $100 saved.

Look at the shaft in the coupling ... nothing was gonna get that out!  It looks like it's molded in there.

Things like shafts and stuffing boxes aren't where you wanna take a shortcut.  After all, if it's gonna happen ... it's gonna happen out there!

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!


S/V Two Can said...

Me LOVES me some dripless packing. The stuff is the Bee's Knees!

Rodger said...

So good to see you making progress on the boat. Not a fun project but so much better to deal with it now than later! We have a PSS dripless seal on our boat and aside from a leak one night when the shaft got way out of alignment and the coupling slipped it has worked flawlessly.

Neophyte Cruiser said...

I'd second the recommendation by Roger. The PSS dripless seal is the way to go. Now that Nirvana is out of the water and you're replacing the shaft (and likely the cutlass bearing) now is the time to install a dripless seal. It's a no-brainer when it comes to being virtually maintenance free.

Peter said...

I went through the same thing with an original bronze shaft where I needed to cut it out to remove after having bad wear in the stuffing box. Replaced with new aquamet 22 stainless shaft, split coupler and a PSS. No bargain project but very nice upgrade.

Good luck

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