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Old 06-29-2014, 06:30 PM   #1
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Leaking stuffing boxes.

Trying to decide if I need to stop for maintenance on our trip north or if I can take care of this myself. The stuffing boxes on our DF 44 are leaking pretty badly at rest or underway. Until now, the bilge pump system the PO rigged up had been handling the 1 gallon or so of leakage we were seeing every 2 hours. But the pump, or it's circuit, has failed. (I posted about this in the electrical section). Now we're having to empty the collection basin every 3 hours or so with a bucket. I tightened the port stuffing box (they're the kind with two bolts that draw one section into the other) and it slowed the leak a bit, but I was leery of going too tight. I took the temps on both boxes underway today and both were in the 114 -119 range.

Should I tighten them further to try to stop the leakage and continue to monitor the temps or take a day off our trip and take it to a pro?
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Old 06-29-2014, 06:34 PM   #2
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. . . take a day off our trip and take it to a pro?
I can just say that if it were me, that is the route I would take. Water coming in and bilge pump has problems? A no-brainer, in my humble opinion.
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Old 06-29-2014, 08:16 PM   #3
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It's a convoluted, almost bizarre, system. See if you can envision: The stuffing boxes drip into pans beneath the shafts at the rear of the engine room. Hoses carry the collected water forward to the sump in the front of the ER where bilge water would normally collect. Two bilge pumps are in this forward bilge sump. The smaller of the two is a sensor type that comes on with a half inch of water or so and sends it AFT (!) to a 3-gallon tub. This tub collects drippings from other areas of the boat and a bilge pump inside it pumps it all overboard. This last pump is what has failed in this Rube Goldberg system--which has actually worked beautifully up to now.

Two updates: If I shut down the small sensor-triggered pump forward, it will stop sending water to the tub aft where the out-of-commission pump is located. The large forward pump is still there and could easily handle and water that collects in the sump. it just triggers at a higher level.

Secondly, my son reports that the drips from the stuffing boxes may be slowing on their own. Only an inch of water last time we checked!
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Old 06-29-2014, 08:25 PM   #4
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Angus, it does not sound like you are too familiar with stuffing boxes or packing. Just randomly tightening to stop excessive leaking could cost you a shaft and potentially a boat. I strongly suggest you bite the bullet and have a pro examine and probably re-pack the boxes.
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Old 06-29-2014, 09:23 PM   #5
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As long as it is just warm to the touch, you should be able to continue to tighten it till you get a couple of drips/minute.
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Old 06-29-2014, 09:33 PM   #6
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As long as it is just warm to the touch, you should be able to continue to tighten it till you get a couple of drips/minute.
Thanks, guys. That's how I did it on my sailboat. Now I'm using an IR thermometer to test out the temps. There was no change in the temp when I tightened them previously. But these are larger and have a different tightening system. I think I'll let them weep and continue to monitor.
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Old 06-29-2014, 09:36 PM   #7
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Tighten it a little at a time while monitoring it's temp.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:13 PM   #8
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Angus99' I have a boat very similar to yours.

You can call and discuss your shaft seals and pump system if you want to.

336-710-2188
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:29 AM   #9
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I'd guess you probably have enough room in the stuffing box to add a couple rounds of new material to help you get by for a while...I'd use Gore. And if you have good access, a complete in-water repack isn't exactly rocket science. You'll need the "cork screw" tool to pull the old segments, and would want the new pieces cut to size and ready to slap in place. Knowing how many wraps are currently in there would be useful info...
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Old 06-30-2014, 09:07 AM   #10
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sounds like the PO wanted a dry bilge so he added small sumps. I wish boat makers would design bilges with small sumps.

At this point you sound over your head. I strongly suggest stopping at a good yard and getting them packed correctly before you mess up the shaft. Once they start leaking to that level tightening usually doesn't doo much. Adding a ring might help but why not do it right?

You probably will pay to have it done at home so why wait?
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Old 06-30-2014, 09:18 AM   #11
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I think if it was me and I was in your situation I'd stop at the nearest yard that can check and repack your shafts as needed. I wouldn't wait too long a scored shaft will cause you long term problems. Too much water intake could potentially sink the boat.
I know I'm talking extremes but why wait until you have an extreme situation?
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Old 07-01-2014, 03:44 AM   #12
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Time to repack the shafts.
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Old 07-01-2014, 08:55 AM   #13
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Angus: I just went through the stuffing box issue, see "Stuffing Box Re-packed" in the General Maintenance section which has recent posts. I suggest that you get some help from a pro if you have never done this job. The guys here were a big help and it's not all that complicated once you see how it's done, plus an extra set of professional hands is well worth the cost.
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:10 AM   #14
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I appreciate all the advice, guys (Shay, thanks for the number; I'll definitely give you a call).

When we started feeling a little vibration yesterday, we stopped at the Hinkley yard in Thunderbolt, GA. They found a couple of microscopic dents in the starboard prop but, more significantly, the line cutter was damaged and part of it was free-wheeling around the shaft. While it's out of the water, they'll do the stuffing boxes.

For the record, I repacked the stuffing box on our sailboat a few times over the years, and understand their function. But these are designed differently and I'm extremely cautious when confronted with anything new.
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Old 07-02-2014, 10:48 AM   #15
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The source of the starboard stuffing box leak has been found. The large bronze casting at the shaft log, through which the shaft passes, is misaligned. The misalignment means that the gap around the shaft is very visibly asymmetrical and packing can't possibly keep the water out. Now, the question is why is it asymmetrical. One possible reason: on our first night out, we fouled the starboard prop with a mooring pennant. (I'll post more on that eventually) Had to get a diver to get us off the next morning. That for sure broke the line cutter and may have been the source of the misalignment.
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:07 AM   #16
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The shaft may be bent. Rotate it and see what's up. The brass part is usually soft mounted to the hull so it may be the engine is misaligned. Even engine mounts can be broken. Wrapping the rode can cause some bad stuff.

IMO you need a yards help.
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:13 AM   #17
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The shaft may be bent. Rotate it and see what's up. Even engine mounts can be broken. Wrapping the rode can cause some bad stuff.
Thanks. The shaft is fine, luckily. It's in a very competent yard and they're checking it with a dial indicator. I was at idle speed when it was wrapped, thank goodness.
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:44 AM   #18
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Jay Leonard posted a warning last year about catching lines and breaking motor mounts...I don't remember much more than that as I'm familiar with the pieces and parts and damage....

Might take a better look around the engine room and or PM Jay for any specifics.
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Old 07-02-2014, 02:29 PM   #19
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The source of the starboard stuffing box leak has been found. The large bronze casting at the shaft log, through which the shaft passes, is misaligned. The misalignment means that the gap around the shaft is very visibly asymmetrical and packing can't possibly keep the water out. Now, the question is why is it asymmetrical. One possible reason: on our first night out, we fouled the starboard prop with a mooring pennant. (I'll post more on that eventually) Had to get a diver to get us off the next morning. That for sure broke the line cutter and may have been the source of the misalignment.

Hmmm...the stuffing box floats on a rubber hose that is normally attached to the hull. If the hose has come askew you should be able to line it up easily. Since the box floats around the shaft the alignment doesn't have to be perfect.

Or are you saying the shaft is misaligned at the bearing in the shaft log?
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:31 PM   #20
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Hmmm...the stuffing box floats on a rubber hose that is normally attached to the hull. If the hose has come askew you should be able to line it up easily. Since the box floats around the shaft the alignment doesn't have to be perfect.

Or are you saying the shaft is misaligned at the bearing in the shaft log?
I'm saying it looks like this . . .



. . . very unlike the conventional stuffing box/shaft log with hose and collar I'm used to. (this photo is not my stuffing box.)

The misalignment is between the shaft and the large bronze housing that is bolted to the hull. Neither piece appears to be able to float in any direction.
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