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Old 27-05-2014, 13:22   #1
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Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

So I need to replace the packing in my stuffing box but I don't want to wait until the next scheduled haul out in the Spring.

So I was thinking that it should be possible to undo the coupling and slide it back up the shaft and then use some plumbers putty to seal the through-hull around the shaft to stop the boat from sinking. Then I'll take out the old and replace with new packing and then re-connect the coupling. Sure I'll get a few gallons of water in the bilge but I won't have to pay for a haul out. And if I see that the plumbers putty is not sealing adequately I could always abort and re-attached the coupling.

Has anyone ever tried this or something similar before? Even though it sounds possible, I still don't like creating a situation where my boat is temporarily sinking!

My other option is to use our yacht club tidal grid. However, this means having an hour or two job take all day/night depending on tides. Plus I've never used a tidal grid and I'm not too comfortable having my catalina 27 resting on its fin keel, eventhough I've seen other people do it and know that it's possible.

Thanks for any feedback.

Steve
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Old 27-05-2014, 13:34   #2
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

Steve, don't over complicate a simple issue. You do NOT have to take the boat out of the water. The small amount of water that will enter thru your stern tube is easily taken care of by the bilge pump. You could atek an hour for a fifteen minute job and still not have any issues.

We ALWAYS get questions that ask: "Can I do it with the boat in the water? Will it sink my boat? Answer: NO your boat won't sink. You CAN and actually SHOULD do it in the water, 'cuz if you do it on the hard, you still have to readjust it once the boat gets in the water, since the water affects the flax. Why do it twice?
Ultra X, discussed in Maine Sail's article, is very good stuff, new in 2012 or thereabouts.

http://www.c34.org/wiki/index.php?ti...ng_box_packing
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Old 27-05-2014, 14:04   #3
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

If water is not to cold then I would do it just to de stress the situation a bit.. I carry tolit bowl wax rings for such a task. Never have used the wax but if you do let me know how it worked.
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Old 27-05-2014, 14:07   #4
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

I would strongly recommend against using plumbers putty or any other paste product in your stuffing box. I've changed out packing many times while the boat was in the water but done it more often on a tidal grid which is easy to use. I've worked on smaller sailboats down to 1" shafts and larger seineboats up to 4 " shafts and many in between and the process is much the same. In on a high tide and button your vessel up close to one side, well fendered (I used to hang an old blanket between the fenders and the boat to protect the gel coat or paint). If there is not planking on the side of the tide grid you are tying to, put a 15-20 foot 2X6 or 2X8 between the fenders and the tide grid dolphins. Don't try and match up your fenders with each dolphin.
As your vessel settles on the base of the grid, adjust your ties to keep your boat upright. Tie off the other side of your vessel snugly once she has settled if there dolphins on the other side to maintain an upright position.
Undo your stuffing box retaining nut completely and slide it up the shaft away from where you are going to be removing the old packing. Either purchase a packing removal tool or make one out of an old ice pick with the sharp end bent over past 90 degrees and begin hoeing out the old packing. Be absolutely certain you get all the old packing out. You will have to heat the end of the ice pick to bend it otherwise it will break off.
Take the shaft measurement and opening measurement between the shaft and the inside of the stuffing box. Marine stores have a variety of shaft packing in specific diameters... be sure to get the correct size. Be sure you get flaxed packing for longer wear, ease of insertion and correct weepage. You need a small bit of weepage to lubricate the shaft inside your gland assembly. No drip=burnt shaft.
Cut the length of packing strips end on the bias to fit the shaft and stuff it in with your packing tool ensuring that your bias cuts match up around the shaft inside the stuffing box. You need at least three rings of packing, each one staggered, so they don't terminate at the same spot on the shaft. Poke them all in tightly.
Slide your tightening nut down the shaft and make it fast 1/4 turn past hand tight. The knurl on the end of the tightening nut must contact the packing... if not, another round of packing is needed.
Open a beer and wait for the tide to come back in. If you haven't checked your zincs for a while and you still have access beneath you boat, now is a good time to replace them as well.
Open another beer and when the tide rises sufficiently to cover the shaft, inspect your stuffing box and adjust tightness to allow 2-4 drips a minute. That will provide perfect lubrication. After you have run the engine in gear for about 1/2 hour, check again then run her for 3-4 hours and check again. you will probably have to fine tune the tightness at least once once after running in.
Don't loosen your tie-up until you feel the boat floating freely.
If you choose to repack in the water, you will take on some water and may find it difficult to place the new packing in the gland but it is certainly doable.
Hope this helps... it is an easy process and there are pictures step by step available on the web to walk you through. This is a simple maintenance procedure and one that every boat owner/user should know and be able to handle in the dark! Cheeers, Phil
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Old 27-05-2014, 14:09   #5
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

I've always done it in the water. Not much water comes in but I wrap the shaft at the stern tube with a strip of rubber from a bicycle inner tube. Nothing at all comes in this way.
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Old 27-05-2014, 14:10   #6
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

Doing a tidal grid is an awful lot of work for a fifteen minute job. Now, if you had other things to do, like a bottom job, I could see justifying it.
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Old 27-05-2014, 16:49   #7
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

Thanks for all the quick responses and great advice. I've never heard of people changing the packing while in the water but it sounds like it's pretty common and easier to do.

I think in my mind I was over estimating the amount of water leaking in through the shaft tube. But since the shaft is still in there it is already partially plugged.

It seems plumbers putty should be avoided but I like Vasco's idea of wrapping the shaft with a rubber inner tube to minimize the leaks.

Thanks again and I'll have to give it a try.

Steve
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Old 27-05-2014, 17:07   #8
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

I've used toilet bowl wax before to stop a leak, worked a charm. Would be my first choice.
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Old 02-06-2014, 10:07   #9
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

So, I managed to change the packing in the stuffing box this weekend while the boat was in the water. Other than contorting myself into the engine compartment it was relatively painless. I was surprised how little water was pouring out when I disconnected the coupling. There was only maybe 1.5 gallons in the 20-30 minutes it took me to take the old stuffing out, clean the shaft and put the new stuffing in. No need to use anything to slow the water ingress.

Anyway, thanks to all for your advice and to easy my mind. It was definitely the best way to go about it.

Thanks again,

Steve
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Old 02-06-2014, 11:28   #10
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

Good thread!
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Old 03-06-2014, 12:40   #11
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buchido View Post
Thanks for all the quick responses and great advice. I've never heard of people changing the packing while in the water but it sounds like it's pretty common and easier to do.

I think in my mind I was over estimating the amount of water leaking in through the shaft tube. But since the shaft is still in there it is already partially plugged.

It seems plumbers putty should be avoided but I like Vasco's idea of wrapping the shaft with a rubber inner tube to minimize the leaks.

Thanks again and I'll have to give it a try.

Steve
Depends on how cold the water is! A related idea is changing a seacock in the water...far more exciting. I did it this way: I taped a bit of inner tube around a wooden plug (the inner tube was fully exposed at the top, pointy end). I dove on the boat and used a rubber mallet to "cork" the thru-hull. Then I changed the seacock (it was a 1 1/2 inch cockpit scupper as I recall); the mounting flange base did not require changing. There was ingress of the "tap running at 1/4 flow" type" because there's a nice bit of pressure at even three or four feet of depth. After Teflon tape and spinning on and dogging down, I took a length of wooden dowling and pounded out the tapered plug. THEN I saw a regular Tivoli Garden of water...but only for a second as I turned the seacock closed and replaced the hose, clamps, etc.

I got the tapered plug back...but the dowelling was a sacrifice to Neptune.

Something to consider, however, is the size of your boat and whether or not a boat yard crane (which you may have) can lift only the stern (you have to tie off the bow to the wall really well). Get it level with the water, and you have as long as you need to do the job with no fuss...until someone wants to launch a trailer boat. A guy did this with a 10,000 lb. 33 footer with his bow up in the air to replace a transducer the other day at my club: the crane's limit is 10,000 lbs, but to ease the bow free is less than half of that.
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Old 03-06-2014, 12:52   #12
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

To get the stern up we put a bunch of guys on the bow. Have done this a few times to clear a fouled prop without getting into the cold, cold water.
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Old 03-06-2014, 12:57   #13
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

I know what you mean. I think the water here got down to about 75 or so this winter and I was changing the packing on two shafts. Brrrrrr.
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Old 03-06-2014, 14:10   #14
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

75 F? You mean 24 C? Try 6C/42F. I stuck a thermometer in the drink here in Toronto on Sunday. That's what all the ice in Lake Erie going over the Falls does to a lake that should be 15C by now.
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Old 03-06-2014, 14:45   #15
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Re: Replacing stuffing box packing. Please tell me I'm crazy.

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75 F? You mean 24 C? Try 6C/42F. I stuck a thermometer in the drink here in Toronto on Sunday. That's what all the ice in Lake Erie going over the Falls does to a lake that should be 15C by now.
A friend from Chicago drove to visit his son in Boston, stopped in Niagara Falls. The boats weren't running yet because of the ICE coming over the falls. Bang!
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