Near the end of July, I decided to have one more beer, a Bud in a bottle. Impatient to find a bottle opener, I leveraged the cap on a sharp countertop ledge and smacked down hard 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 bunk of an abandoned power boat. The beer was a twist off cap.
Several weeks later crew and I sailed to a VA hospital in Port Royal Sound for an MRI on my right 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 area 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 on 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 creaed 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 made a purchase to a jib sheet winch and cranked the motor forward, off the shaft/coupling. Next I got a ratchet winch and a 4 by 4 beam and jacked the motor up and pulled it into my main salon.
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.
I went to Harbor Freight and bought the biggest three pronged puller I could find then removed the shaft coupling. 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 I about four minutes as the bilge pump came to life. The old composite shaft seal tube had broken in half and melted itself arround the shaft. I wet sanded the prop shaft, then we slipped on the pre packed bronze Buck Algonquin, using a one inch aluminum short bar I had found beneath the yacht club to slip it onto the shaft without distorting the three staggered strands of packing.
The moment we slipped the thick rubber shaft hose over the shaft seal the water stopped coming in the boat, and I knew it was good. Total cost of parts was about $150. The next day I reinstalled the engine and systems, and 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.
I like it, and I also have a new loose footed mainsail I had made last spring. The boat will sail soon after I return from Oregon (again) on family business.
Back on the boat I’m just hanging out, contemplating my next move. The larger sloop I’ve been working on for the last few seasons is finally launched, and we relocated it to Savannah, 24 miles south. Here’s a pic of the custom cork deck we installed.
I’m going their with Sedna soon to anchor out and get off my butt (back to work)! There’s still tons to do on Brian’s boat and I have no idea why I’ve been doing next to nothing lately, but I did upgrade my exhaust system for cheap.
The Yanmar we installed in Marblehead has a two inch exhaust elbow, and that two inches should follow into a two inch muffler, through two inch hose, and out a two inch thru hull fitting. Instead I coupled the hoses down to about inch and three eights to match the existing muffler, hose, and thru hull. I’ve since acquired some scrap lengths of two inch hose, an elbow, and a two inch muffler, so all I had to do was order a matching thru hull and install it all. I ‘ported’ my exhaust and it likes it.
I’m going to a physical therapist once a week for my thumb-too much scar tissue built up and I partially tore the tendon. It’s working better already. I can still play the guitar.