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Old 30-01-2019, 17:07   #1
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Noisy Cutlass Bearing / Shaft Growth

Hi everyone,

Whenever I leave my boat for more than a week, there is a nasty noise that comes from the cutlass bearing at varying RPMs. Soon it will go away at the higher RPMs. But at lower RPM's, and also while sailing, if the boat speed falls to 5 knots, there is a horrendous noise and vibration. After using the boat for a few days, the shaft polishes smooth and the noise goes away. Also, last I hauled out, I uncoupled the shaft, polished it at the location of the cutlass bearing, and re-installed - the noise went away for a few months.

I should note that my bottom paint is non existent at the moment so I have to scrape every 2-3 weeks. My cutlass bearing is 2016 and only has about 200 hours on it. No play/wiggle at all. The problem is definitely growth on the shaft.

I am hauling out in about 2 weeks for new paint, and will polish the shaft smooth again, but was wondering if anyone else has the same issue, or could recommend a solution? I assume there is no anti-foul that would hold up on the shaft with the constant friction of the rubber cutlass? Grease?

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Old 30-01-2019, 18:32   #2
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Boat: US$4,550 of lead under a GRP hull with cutter rig
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Re: Noisy Cutlass Bearing / Shaft Growth


In most all shaft logs, chemical and biological conditions and processes lead to encrustations (both from chemical processes and living ones) on the shaft.

When you rotate the shaft, those lime encrustations are wiped off the shaft by the rubber staves of your shaft bearing. With consequent wear of your Cutless (TM) bearing or other shaft bearing.

And if you've a dripless shaft seal, the lime encrustation will cause some stiction between the rotor and the stator. So when the shaft turns, you're effectively testing the torsional strength of the rubber bellows.

The situation is environment dependant. Some locations are much more prone to precipitation of lime and biological processes than others.

A month or three back one CF member wrote about their intention to leave their cruiser in a wet berth in Indonesian waters for several months. I shuddered, knowing too well from experience that three months later they're going to find a good imitation of a chunk of coral in their shaft log. And no Cutless bearing survives that. Cruisers who have left boats in wet berths in Singapore and Malaysia have reported exactly that (good imitations of coral that have grown in their shaft logs, causing rapid and massive wear to their shaft bearings).

So water temperature, the local sea water chemistry, the ease with which a shaft bearing and the whole shaft log are flushed with water versus the tendency for the water in the shaft bearing to be stagnant are all factors.

The solutions?

Prevention is the big one.

Design a shaft log that is easily and readily flushed, that does not harbour stagnant water with biologicals, and is not friendly to encrusting life forms. No one seems to have achieved all of those contradictory goals, although some are better than others.

Everything else is just remediation.

The easy one is to turn your prop shaft once a week. Manually works. An engine run that turns and forces (such as if you have forced water injection into a dripless shaft seal) water lubrication and flushing is better. In other words, use the boat.

We had one shaft bearing/Cutless (TM) bearing last just over 10 years. That was when we were cruising non-stop. With less regular use, and in certain waters, shaft bearings might last only three years even in low turbidity water.

With a dripless shaft seal, the idea is to break the stiction manually (by burping the shaft seal) rather than spin the shaft to test whether the torsional strength of the rubber bellows is greater or less than the adhesion of the lime and biological encrustation.

There are shaft seals with newer, different rubber compounds making up the staves. At least one of those was hyped (or at least had media hype with generic hand gestures) as suggesting it resisted being cut by shaft encrustations. Remember that the original idea behind the Cutless (TM) brand name was that the stave bearing cut the shaft less - pointing to the contradiction between a hard seal (not cut by grit but then liable to wear the shaft) and a soft seal (cut by grit but not wearing the shaft much). In the long run, it may be better to replace shaft bearings than to replace prop shafts.
“Fools say that you can only gain experience at your own expense, but I have always contrived to gain my experience at the expense of others.” - Otto von Bismarck
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