Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We Have to Move What?

When you read articles about re-packing a stuffing box they never include the words, "then tie a rope around your engine and yank it forward 3". But, that is what we were faced with as last weekend's project inched forward.

A stuffing box is located on the shaft that goes thru a boat, connecting to your propeller on one end and your engine's transmission on the other. This gland it packed with a kind of flax material so that when the motor is running and the shaft is spinning it can be lubricated by sea water, but when it is at rest it prevents a waterfall of salt water from coming into the boat. When that material gets old it leaks and leaks and leaks and your bilge pump has to go off every 35 minutes to keep your boat from sinking.

Removing the old packing material and replacing it with new should be a simple job, but what fun would that be? Here on S/V Malabar our engine is much larger than the original one and it takes up so much space that there is not enough room to unscrew the stuffing box without a LOT more work.

So, we began by disconnecting the transmission from the shaft. We then had to un-bolt the engine from its mounts and employ our friend Jonathan to come over and pull our engine out of its compartment. At this point we could very carful slide the propeller shaft into the boat an extra two inches, making sure not to pull too far and damage the propeller on the other end as it hits the underside of the boat.

We were finally prepped for the actual re-stuffing. So, I unscrewed the box and scraped out all of the old packing material. As I prepared to install the new packing material it became very apparent that we had purchased packing material that was about three sizes too big. Not a huge deal except at this point we have a very steady stream of water coming into the boat and it was not draining into the bilge fast enough. So, I grab a cup and start scooping while Keegan runs to find new packing material. Luckily for us, Tradewinds Sailing School and Club had a box of packing material and were kind enough to let us frantically pillage their supplies! Thanks for saving the day, again, Tradewinds!

With new packing material in place we were just left with the task of moving the engine back into the exact same location as it started using the largest crowbar you've ever seen, lining up the transmission and bolting everything down. The moment of truth came when we fired up the engine and pushed up the throttle. Patience, persistence and a little bit of luck helped us with this job and we are so relieved to have it complete. It's a great feeling to know that your boat is no longer sinking.

As luck would have it, while I was in the engine compartment for the better part of two days we noticed a small leak coming from the hot water exchanger, so we added an extra hose clamp. It turns out that small leak was the reason our water pump recycles so frequently and why our Starboard water tank has never had as good of water pressure as our Port tank. I love it when we accidentally fix problems!

Engine compartment access is...a challenge.

Where propeller shaft meets transmission.

What our boat looks like when we have to unload the quarter berth.

Boat work = tight spaces.


Old packing material.

Where's Amanda?

YAY! Crow bar of victory!

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