It had been a long, brutal day, heading bow on into driving southwest winds, spray, then thunderheads ahead and astern. So we duck into a sheltered harbor and tied up, soaked, cold, miserable and questioning our reasoning on many levels. No sooner than we tied up the sky began to clear… everywhere but directly above us. It was like something from a cartoon; there was a single black cloud hovering over Annabel Lee, pouring down, and Frank remarked that it pretty much summed up the way things were going at that point. As we plodded up to the marina office to pay for the dock this lovely craft caught my eye and I snapped a quick picture. Around us I noticed several people stopping and staring back from where we’d just come and Frank said, “I wonder if the boat’s sinking.” We turn to see this…
And suddenly everything didn’t seem so bad.
Quote of the day: If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. – Lewis Carroll
So much for our theory about the stuffing box being pressed in. The come-along did nothing of the sort, and we decided to see what several rotations would do to budge the stuffing box. Despite being secured down to a gasket with four massive bolts and an abundance of Phillybond, which I’d best describe as day-glo orange MarineTex on steroids, it turns out the stuffing box was actually threaded onto the shaft tube! It took a massive custom-welded wrench, liberal application of WD-40 and 25 full rotations, each involving four repositions of said wrench, within the confines of the engine room to ultimately remove the stuffing box.
And it’s OUT!
And why, you might ask, would we even embark on such a disturbing undertaking to begin with? To replace the inner cutlass bearing, buried deep within this stuffing box. An inner cutlass bearing? Yes. Never heard of that? You’re not alone. And while perhaps it may have been possible to access this particular bearing without removing the stuffing box, no one we spoke with could venture a guess as to how it was installed.
One very worn stern bearing…
The next step is to determine how this bearing is set in, removed and replaced, not to mention finding that replacement. The fun never ends!
The previous stuffing box struggles…
At first we were pretty much alone.
Then others arrived. First there was Fair Winds, a lovely wood 36′ 1973 Grand Banks.
And now, looking astern, more trawlers!
We’re surrounded by Grand Banks!
The leaves are just starting to turn. The nights have begun to grow cooler, the days shorter, and my thoughts turn to…. yet more work aboard Annabel Lee. And strange as it seems, I’m looking forward to the prospect. Not the expense or the inevitable exhaustion, but actually doing things Frank and I spent the summer discussing, considering and planning. Things we couldn’t do last year, cocooned beneath the winter cover, and not afloat this summer, exposed to almost endless rain and occasional baking sun. No, this winter we’re biting the bullet and going with INDOOR shed storage. That way we’ll be sheltered enough to overhaul the decks, re-bed the salon windows, and several other random repairs Annabel Lee’s 32 years are necessitating. When temps get to low for resin-related work, we’ll shift our attention to the diesel, replacing motor mounts, the damper plate, heat exchangers, hoses, and whatever else calls for attention. There’ll be some carpentry work; we’ve decided to extend the bridge to cover a portion of the cockpit as well as provide a spot for cradling the dinghy. That, of course, will in turn require we also add the mast and steadying sail, providing means to lift said dinghy to the cradle via the boom. And while it’s out, I wouldn’t mind seeing if that forward center salon window could be changed to one that opens, allowing breezes to flow through the cabin. Oh, yeah, and while the windows are out, that would be the time to replace the water-damaged wood inside the salon. Am I forgetting anything? Most likely.
The forecast for the coming winter… busy, with extended stretches of sleep-deprivation through the weekends. There will be a chance of passing frustration before clearing to hopeful satisfaction.
…to repack the stuffing box WITHOUT sinking, despite Frank’s dire predictions. In fact, I didn’t see it as nearly as dramatic as he did, then again, I suppose critical is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, we had repacked it earlier this spring, and it seems I was right, it was a bit too snug the first time, warmed up more than I liked, and the choice was made to switch from flax to synthetic with teflon. I was convince we could do this without short-hauling, and only a small bucket of water came through in the process. The bilge pump could have easily kept up, no sweat.
And now both rebuilt helm pumps and the ram have been swapped out for their new replacements, and all the hydraulics work perfectly, BUT the rudder still seems to hang up at one point, which, we suspect, is that bolt where the rudder sets into the skeg binding up. At the time of the Great Keel Ordeal, nowhere around here had the correct style bolt for the purpose, and Frank voiced concern that the one we did use could cause problems. Only one way to be sure… high tide tomorrow we short haul. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that’s all it is, because if it isn’t we have no idea what it could be, and we won’t be moving much for the rest of the summer. Ironically, had we realized we’d be short-hauling, we could have repacked the stuffing box then, and spared Frank some anxiety.
At last! The keel is solid once again, structurally reinforced in every direction and built back out to (almost) proper dimensions. I didn’t take many pictures in the sticky, messy, itchy process, not until we neared the end. And I’m not going into details now, I’m still too tired. It turned into a 12 hour marathon, and that after getting home at midnight the night before after stuffing the entire contents of one dorm room into one brown station wagon. Coherency is low at present. I need more caffeine.
Next step, sand the cure glass, fair it, Pettit Protect, and THEN we can start putting working parts like the shaft, prop and rudder back in place.
1977 to 2009. 32 years of Annabel Lee’s maintenance log, transcribed to computer. Over three decades of oil changes, injectors drained, impellers changed, heat exchangers cleaned, zincs replaced, stuffing box repackings, countless filters, and other standard maintenance. Then the not so day-to-day, the Racor fuel filter installed (2/85), a new water heater (7/88), rebuilt alternator,(7/95), oil cooler replaced (6/97), and a new propeller (4/03). There’s the major changes and upgrades, like enlarging the rudder (4/85) new radar and gps (7/98) and a new windlass (8/98), just to name a few. And then there’s the curious, head-scratching, why-did-they-do-(or need to do)- that-stuff, like the replacement cutlass bearing caulked in place with 5200 (why?) (11/97) and the Morse dual lever (WHY??) helm controls (8/98).
The world may never know.