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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 08-27-2006
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Stuffing Box

Posted - 08/27/2006 : 05:21:42
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I recently purchased a '86 Catalina 25 with wheel steering and a diesel inboard. She was hauled back in the water this past week after a 3 yr dry and I made the 6 hour voyage (successfully) yesterday.

One item I did notice was that the stuffing box was dripping too often: more than the water cooler recommendation of 2 drops per 60 seconds (??). Mine is dripping about 1 every second. I tried to slightly tighten the rings, but to no avail the dripping didnít slow. How bad is this, is the boat still safe to sail/motor, and should I haul her NOW to fix? The condition of the box and fittings look good (no corrosion) and reading through other posts might suggests it may not be extremely necessary to fix right away. Can I leave in for another 2 months before I haul?

Thank you!!!
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Old 08-27-2006
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not a big deal, but did you loosen the lock nut before you tightened the packing nut? The inner nut is just a lock nut.
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Old 08-27-2006
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Repack .... maybe?

The packing hardens over time and at that point extra tightening can put so much pressure on the hardened packing and the shaft that a grove wears in the shaft and the leaks hardly slows. This is NOT a subtle thing but is a real HAM FISTED TRICK. It is not to difficult or expensive to repack assuming (1)Tools 'big wrenches', (2) Proper packing in hand .. pull old and measure or get on the catalina forum and ask, (3) Access to the stuffing gland.

Cost of packing will be under $10.
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Old 08-27-2006
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It is not a big deal IF you are at a dock and have 2 bilge pumps wired directly to the batteries (fused) and you have a battery charger. If you only have one pump and the flipper switch clogs or the wiring shorts, then you could come back to a very wet boat if you are not there daily to manually pump her out. If there is someone there that can look at the boat daily and insure she is "on her lines" , so much the better.
Unusual that you got no improvement after tightening which is unlikely...per Gene T's note...are you sure you took up fully on the threads and didn't just stop at the stopper nut?
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Old 08-27-2006
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Yeah, not a big thing as long as you can pump faster than she leaks. Honestly, it is a good thing to be paranoid about leaks but also a fine line not to be TOO paranoid about them. Like, folks who won't pull the knotmeter impeller because water gushes in when they do that. (OK, it's a pint or two of water, but only for five or ten seconds.)

Ideally you'd repack the shaft when the boat was on dry land. Bowing to paranoia, you can also ask the yard for an overnight haul, where they'll sometimes just lift you out of the water and let it hang in the lift overnight, so you can pack the shaft and drop it back in. (Or a "lunch lift" for an hour, which is all it needs if you have an experienced guide with you.)

But you can also do this in the water: Just take a toilet seal, which is a very large bees-wax donut placed under a toilet to seal it to the waste pipe, and pack that around the outside of the shaft under the boat. Water pressure will keep it in place and plug any leak while you are working, and the wax is a lubricant so you don't have to clean it up afterwards, just recover the excess wax for future use.

You can repack with GoreTex packing instead of the cheap stuff, and you'll have a better seal that also is less abrasive--well worth the extra $10 for it.

The gamble is that all you need is repacking or tightening the packing. If the shaft is scored, you can repack it and "make do" for a while but really should pull the shaft for repair/replacement if that's the problem. Odds are it is not, and you just have a seal that is worn/dried out and only needs some tightening. But by repacking it, you are also inspected and updating something that's important on the boat, and then you can RELY on it instead of just guessing what shape it is in.

Packing isn't complicated--just needs to be done carefully, neatly, in a place that isn't easy to reach or see on most boats.
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Old 08-27-2006
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I'd agree that the packing for the shaft seal should probably be replaced. This should also give you a chance to inspect the shaft, at the point where corrosion and wear are most likely.

The Gore-Tex packing material rocks—we installed it on a boat earlier this past April... probably lasts a good deal longer than the flax packing material too.

Hellosailor's trick with the bowl wax sounds pretty good, but I haven't tried it...as we did the work before dropping the boat in the water for the season.

Even if your bilge pumps were up to handling this leak, and your batteries were too...why put the wear and tear on the bilge pumps and make it more likely that they'll fail when you really need them. Besides, if the bilge pumps are always working to catch up to the leaking stuffing box, they won't be able to give you a good indicator of any other problems that may occur. Other leaks may occur, and you may not find out about them until too late, if the bilge pumps are masking them because you've left them on to deal with this.

Also, a drier boat is a healthier boat... you'll have less in the way of mold, mildew and other problems if you get rid of the leak.
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Old 08-29-2006
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I can strongly recommend the "dripless" packing sold by Westmarine (sorry - forgot the brand). It is not cheap but it works. "HelloSailor give good advice about making a temporary water-stop while working. The only other trick is to ensure you get all of the old packing out (special picking tools are sold for this purpose), then insert one ring of good flax packing before the dripless, then another ring of flax. Make sure it all goes in without gaps or twists or the will be trouble getting the nut back on. No need to overtighten, but keep an eye on it for the first few hours of running and don't be afraid to retighten as required.

For me, this virtually eliminated the water coming out of the stuffing box, without any hint of overheating.

Regards

AlanL, Sydney
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Old 08-29-2006
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The problem with the in-water re-pack is that you do need to know the size of the packing in advance...I would not want to un-do the gland and not have the right size on hand with only beeswax keeping the water out of the boat.
I agree with the Gore-Tex recommendation...just be sure to cut the ends at 45 degrees when you install or it won't stop leaking!
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Old 08-29-2006
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Dripless packing

We installed Goretex packing this season and have been totally happy with it.

http://www.e-marine-inc.com/products...g.html#measure

Not cheap but less than $20 to solve an annoying problem is a bargain.

Hugs,

SoK
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