I was contacted via a PM this morning by a forum member with a list of questions concerning repacking the stuffing boxes. After looking at his questions I thought there may be some value for others on the forum as well so I am replying to the thread instead of his PM.
MY initial disclaimer is this: If you choose to do as I did, replace the packing with the boat in the water you do so at your own risk! What worked for me may not work for you! DO NOT RISK SINKING OR DAMAGING YOUR BOAT!
Here is a copy of the PM the member sent:
I'm curious to hear the details of your repacking the rudder stuffing box. It's a chore that I also have to do, and I'm wondering if it's something I have the courage to tackle with the boat in the water. You mentioned it casually, as though it was no big deal. I imagine seeing water coming into the boat through a hole of unknown size, and my heart speeds up. At the same time, it's a chore I'd like to get done while the boat isn't doing anything.
Thanks for any lessons learned you can offer. What did you do to prepare? How quickly did you have to move to keep the flood to a minimum? You said the old packing didn't want to come out, what tools should you have had or how long did it take you to recover from that and how much water passed through during that time? What did you have handy to minimize the flow while you overcame unexpected obstacles? Anything else you can think of that you wished you'd have done beforehand to make the job easier, etc., etc.
The stuffing boxes used on my Hatteras are essentially a "cup" that holds the packing, with an insert that compresses the packing around the rudder shaft. When the packing material is removed, there is a gap around the rudder shaft of about a sixteenth of an inch. This is where water will enter the boat during this process.
1. What did you do to prepare?
I tested all of the bilge pumps and their related auto switches, next I laid out all the tools I thought I would need so they would be available at hand. I also pre-cut two packing rings (strips) and had them ready to go into the stuffing box as soon as the old packing was removed. I ultimately put in three as this is what is specified in the owners manual.
2. How quickly did you have to move to keep the flood to a minimum?
Fortunately there was not a flood, I never felt like I was going to "sink the boat". The water entry rate was certainly something that could be an issue if the boat was unattended but not so severe as to create a problem while working on the stuffing boxes.
3. You said the old packing didn't want to come out, what tools should you have had or how long did it take you to recover from that and how much water passed through during that time?
There are packing removal tools that I will purchase before doing this again such as these; Packing Extractors
It took about one to one and a half hours to clean out all the old packing, during that time the aft bilge pump cycled three or four times. I have no idea how much water passed through.
4. What did you have handy to minimize the flow while you overcame unexpected obstacles?
As stated above the pre-cut packing strips and a couple of old towels.
5. Anything else you can think of that you wished you'd have done beforehand to make the job easier, etc., etc.
This is hard to describe in text. The stuffing box insert is held in place with two all thread rods on each side of the stuffing box. There are nuts to tighten down on flanges on each side of and at the top of the insert and adjust the pressure on the packing. I am going to purchase additional nuts to go BELOW the flanges so they can be used to push the insert out of the cup when disassembling next time. This would have saved about an hour of time. I will post pictures when I complete that task. The other thing as already stated is purchasing tools to remove the old packing. I made a couple of picks using an old coat hanger and while they ultimately did the job, they would bend easily when applying any type of pressure to pull out the old packing.
Another thing I had going for me is that I have done this before on a different boat while it was out of the water. So this was not a completely foreign project to me.
Hopefully this will be of value to someone, either in deciding to do the project or deciding its too risky for their comfort level.