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.