Stopping the leak

It’s been less than a month and our boat has already developed a leak. For landlubbers, it’s actually normal to have water in the bilge of the boat. There’s supposed to be a slow drip from where the propellor shafts exits through the hull into the water, about one drop per 10-20 seconds. This both lubricates and cools down the propeller shaft while the engine is on.

But ever since the delivery trip where we ran the motor for almost two days straight, the drip has increased to about 1+ drop per second. This means about 2-3 gallons collects in the bilge every day. And having a small boat with a small bilge and no automatic bilge pump, I’ve been checking on the boat at least every other day and manually pumping 3-5 gallons of water out.

An automatic electric bilge pump is on my to do list, but for now I want to slow down the leak. That’s where flax packing comes in. In the future I’d like a more mechanical seal called PSS (I don’t even know what it is yet, but I’ve heard it’s the best), but for now it’s the old school rope-based packing.

The flax packing is actually coated with Teflon, which makes a better seal (I think) and makes it go on easier. It’s a square rope that you place around the propellor shaft and stuff it in the hole so no or very little water enters. I forgot to measure the width for the packing, so when I went to the store I bought a pack of every size packing. Needless to say, I’ll be returning some. I only needed to add one coil, so I wrapped the packing on an exposed part of the prop shaft and marked where I needed to cut. Tip: use the sharpest knife you can. I had to cut a second piece because I felt the edge of the first piece was frayed too much.

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I then loosened the nuts that hold the metal piece that holds the packing in place (sorry – don’t know the name), put on one ring of packing and then re-tightened the nuts evenly and voila. The drip is practically nonexistent. I know I should remove the old packing before putting the new one in, but this fix will do before next year’s planned haul-out where we’ll do a lot more work (and hopefully we will be a lot more knowledgeable).

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