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Old 08-12-2014
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Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

All right you boat repair geniuses, put on your head scratching caps. I got one for you.

The strut for my prop shaft got bent by a rude mooring line and now has a little banana curve, and my cutless bearing has been long overdue for replacement. I was able to realign my engine cockeyed to meet my new shaft angle, but this is more a triage repair than something I want to trust for the 4,000 mile journey home from Panama.

My mission: to detach the strut and slide it off the back end of my prop shaft, hammer/press it back straight, replace the cutless bearing, reinstall the strut, and realign the engine.

The complication: The nearest place to haul out is 500 miles in the wrong direction, and I'm just poor folk anyway so I'm trying to save my haulout money for surveying and reinsuring the boat when we get home. I want to do this project in the water. I have previously removed our rudder and replaced our propeller in the water, so I have some experience going in.

The real rub: The strut is bolted through the chine of the boat using soft metal carriage bolts embedded (as far as I can see) in an epoxy plug. For reference, the boat is cold-molded and the chine is wood with a glass skin. Because they're carriage bolts, there's nothing to grab a wrench onto on the outside of the boat, and on the inside I've already sheared two of the bolts at the chine level because the nuts were more stubborn than the bolts.

At first I attempted to pop the carriage bolt out from the inside with a hammer and a punch, with my wife underwater outside to jam a bung in the hole (eat your hearts out ), but the threads are interlaced with epoxy and wouldn't budge. I was concerned that if I hit too hard, I might crack the epoxy or break out a fun new hole in the bottom of my boat, so we gave up for the time being. Now I'm looking to climb that hill again.

Let's set aside the point that I am reckless and/or stupid. For the moment I'm entertaining the notion that I'm stupid like a fox. Where I do need help, though, is with inspiration! How do I get these damn bolts out?

So far I've thought of a few things to try:

-- Heat the bolts with a soldering iron in hopes that the expansion/contraction of the bolt will break the epoxy bond, then hammer or twist the bolt out. The ocean temperature is in the 80's - would it dissipate the heat too rapidly?

-- Drill a 3/8" bit through the center of the bolts from the inside, essentially destroying the bolt entirely. Obviously I don't want to electrocute myself by drilling into the ocean, so I'd stop after 1/2" to an inch and try again with the hammer/punch strategy.

-- Carve out a bowl in the epoxy around the bolts on the inside to allow grabbing with a wrench or drilling a perpendicular hole + adding a makeshift T-wrench bar. My fear is that a T-wrench would bend, but at least it'd give me something to grip with a wrench if that turns out to be the case.

What am I not thinking of? What cleverness would you bring to bear on this problem? Help me sailors, please! You're my only hope.
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Old 08-12-2014
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

pull the boat or beach it!
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Old 08-12-2014
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

Can I beach a cold molded fin keel boat without causing structural damage? It doesn't help me get the bolts out, but I wouldn't be opposed to it necessarily.
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Old 08-12-2014
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

The laminates are going to be wet and have to be dry again to not rot when you put the new strut on. the epoxy seals the end grain of the holes. No option, the boat needs to be dry for any kind of through hull fastenings or valves.

lay her over.. on air bags or lots of inner tubes? I don't know anything about your boat. you don't even say what size it is so it's all guessing at this end.
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Old 08-12-2014
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

or not do anything and slap on an outboard till you get to a correct and appropriate yard

you can also simply hip tow out of ports and anchorages with your dinghy and outboard and simply sail the boat as is

think about it...

also do you have access to a machine shop or anything? cause if you dont the chances of you realigning and unbend the strut arent really likely to happen without some chances of still having a badly aligned shaft after all is said and done

good luck man

wish you the best

ps. as a last ditch effort with the bolt issue do you have hole saw bits? if you have enough of them you can hole saw the bolt completely but then you would need bungs big enough for the holes while you try to fix the strut...then you can insert new bolts that are bigger with a qiuick setting epoxy, but through bolting them if you can though since you say its in the centerline...

if thats not possible I would not risk it and simply sail the boat, and hip tow out of places...

nothing wrong with that...

x2 on what boat you have and pics go a long ways in helping for sure...
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Last edited by christian.hess; 08-12-2014 at 06:06 PM.
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Old 08-12-2014
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

If you've realigned and the vibration is bearable, go gently and sail hard. Then find the bigger hammer on the hard.
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Old 08-12-2014
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

Having just replaced my strut in June I know what your up against. No way this can be done in the water. You are flirting w/ disaster.
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

im going to have to say the same...even if you do get it off you are simply going to destroy yous shaft again no matter how well you think you have realigned the engine

basically your option is to hip tow and sail...untill you get to a proper yard to haul out or beach or grid tie, or whatever...

hop on over to rio dulce or go all the way back to the states...

etc...

ps. I can see my strut bolts too from the inside, they are easy to access and take off, but all it takes is one that wont budge and thats the end of trying to take off or adjust the strut for me!
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

Beach Legs! The British are very up on this type of beaching because the huge swing in tides
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Old 08-12-2014
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Re: Remove embedded carriage bolts, then my strut, on the water?

sure you could do that...

james baldwin has some nice designs for them too

my issue is I dont see what beaching would help with unless he has access to machine shops or tools for the job
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