Near the end of July, I decided to have one more beer, a Bud in a bottle. I was impatient to find a bottle opener, so I leveraged the cap on a sharp countertop ledge and smacked down on the cap. It always worked, only this time the bottle broke and slashed deep into my right thumb, severing my flexor tendon. I wrapped the gash with gauze and passed out in a bloody bed in the back of an abandoned power boat. The beer had a twist off cap.
I went to Oregon and swam in the clear waters of the Elk River with salamanders and family.
Several weeks later crew and I sailed to a VA hospital in Port Royal Sound for an MRI on my thumb. The cut had healed well but I could no longer bend my second joint, and it felt broken when I tried. The next day, as we motor sailed back to Broad Creek, I heard a squealing sound in my engine compartment. After accessing the engine I traced the sound to the dripless stuffing box where the prop shaft exits the boat.
A year and a half previous an old cohort and I had reused (my bad) the old shaft seal while installing a rehabbed Yanmar. We also added a gate valve routed from the raw water exhaust that was meant to lube the shaft’s O ring lip seal and flush out the shaft tube.
I opened the gate valve a bit more and ‘POW’, something broke somewhere and water started gushing in, flinging all over. I idled the boat back and tied to the local dock, then stretched a wrap of electrical tape around the wound. The bilge pump first ran every 30 seconds, then every minute, then, after about a week slowed to a trickle. It had silted in from the dense, brackish waters that we lived in. I believe the heavy silt also helped propagate the old shaft seal to loose its cool and fail.
During this time I made arrangements to haul the sloop and wedge it in the adjacent yacht club’s parking lot, where I could keep it for a month free if I was a member. I joined the club, secured some jack stands, then promptly got the runaround within unavoidable, local politics. A week later, and still leaking in the water, I towed Sedna back to my mooring/anchor area with my dinghy. One day I rotated the prop shaft just a bit and it started leaking more again. I couldn’t completely investigate the leak without making it worse, possible catastrophic. Humm. What to do?
Three weeks passed, more silt slowed the leak, and I learned that the boat yard and yacht club were having a tuss, and that I somehow got dragged into the drama with my broken thumb and boat. I was being used for the prisoner I had become amidst the inmates of the expensive shore. I sat before the warden’s door. For over a month Sedna and I steamed through the ebb and flood of a cyclic current while tethered to the seabed. We went nowhere.
Then if figured it out; I would replace the seal myself in the water while at anchor. No yacht club, no boat yard machine, no marina, nutten.
I poured through as many threads as I could the subject, and I still wasn’t sure what was broken, but I knew I had to replace the leaking shaft seal device. A restricted distance between the transmission coupling and the shaft tube limited options; I couldn’t get rid of the flexible shaft seal and install a longer prop shaft to add length for a PSS shaft seal while in the water. I was unsure about the Volvo shaft seal because of my Yanmar’s low RPM vibration and some spotty shaft pitting.
Careful measurements revealed I could just fit a traditional bronze stuffing box shaft seal that housed strands of compressed, graphite packing flax that created a bearing seal.
I carefully unbolted the flexible coupling from the shaft coupling, unhooked the exhaust, electrical, and mechanical devices, then unbolted the eight motor mount bolts that were threaded into the steel plates below the raised engine beds.
I got some toilet base wax and a hack saw blade, then dove below the boat where the prop shaft exits the hull on it’s way the the strut/cutlass bearing. I used the hack saw blade to clear out the space between/around the shaft and shaft tube, which was full of silt, sea monkeys, and barnacles, then I packed the area with the base wax.
The next day I enlisted my friend Brian to assist with the transfer; to remove the old composite seal unit and replace it with the bronze one. We removed the hose clamp around the shaft tube and tried to pull off the old seal, but it was stuck on the shaft. Water started to come in.
I took the three prong puller and cranked off the old seal in about four minutes as the sea gushed in my lap and the bilge pump came to life.
I wet sanded the prop shaft, then we promptly slipped on the pre packed bronze Buck Algonquin stuffing box, using a one inch aluminum short bar I had found beneath the yacht club to smoothly transfer it onto the shaft without distorting the three carefully staggered strands of packing.
The next day my left knee, back, and thumb hurt. A few days later I scrapped Sedna’s bottom and replaced the missing shaft zinc. I still needed to haul the boat and do a bottom job but it could wait. And now when the engine idled it shook much less due to the robust bronze stuffing box and thick packing hose firmly clamped to shaft tube.
The boat will sail soon after I return from Oregon (again) on family business. Seeking Creuuuuuuuyuuuuuouuuuuw!