Wrapping up our stay in Cambridge.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here for six weeks already.  It’s even harder to believe that in another week we’ll start slowly moving south.  Our travel plans have been a bit topsy-turvey since Isaias messed up our timing, but we think we have a rough outline now.

Originally we were going to drive up to Connecticut for medical appointments while we were docked in Cambridge, but we had to reschedule everything when it was clear that Isaias was going to show up while we were away.  With appointments moved to mid-September, the next plan was to leave the marina a few days early and park the boat on a mooring ball in Annapolis while we were gone.  Then we had the bottom of the boat cleaned last week and based on the report from the diver, our hopes of getting another year out of our existing bottom paint were squashed.

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Jim the Wizard Mechanic.

The anchorage in Calabash Creek is not a place you want to spend multiple days.  Deep sea fishing charters speed by all day throwing a large wake.  It’s tolerable for an evening, and that’s about it.  Unfortunately, the forecast for the next five days called for heavy rain and thunderstorms.  We stuck it out for one day and then called an audible.

Perhaps more important than waiting out the heavy rain was the fact that we also wanted a better wind direction for our trip up the Cape Fear River.  Our first trip south we learned that high wind against the current on the Cape Fear equals 3.5 knots of speed at wide open throttle in a washing machine. Well, we can learn.

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Finally making some tracks!

We’ve been making some decent progress since leaving Coecles Harbor one week ago.  First we went to Mattituck, and then we stopped in Port Jefferson where we spent the afternoon doing a few boat projects.

Almost full moon in the shrouds on the way to Port Jefferson.

 Our initial plan was simply to install the cockpit VHF microphone which we wanted to have available before going down the East River.  However, earlier that day while we were enroute I went down below and saw some water on the floor in the head.  Hmmm.  That’s not good.  A quick taste confirmed that it was saltwater.  That’s really not good.  We prefer to keep seawater on the outside of the boat.  

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I feel like bustin’ loose, bustin’ loose!

As our final weekend before splash approached we compared our to-do list with the available hours in a weekend, and braced ourselves for a Very.  Long.  Weekend.  Fortunately we got off to a flying start when we received a call from John Bayreuther on Thursday letting us know that the rudder stuffing box was finished!

John told Jeff that it took a 10 ton hydraulic puller to break it free (apparently it made quite the loud pop when it came loose) but all was well now.  After hearing that, we felt a lot better about not being able to free it ourselves.  It’s funny – our boat neighbors at Shenny asked us that weekend if we were all set, and when they heard what Bayreuther had to do to free the box every single one of them commented on how we must not have felt inadequate after that.  I guess we’ve all been there at some point!

As we drove down bright and early on Saturday, we were excited to see how the rudder post and new hose looked.  What a difference:

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That sucker is stuck.

After taking care of our propeller shaft stuffing box last fall, it was time to turn our attention to the rudder shaft stuffing box.  Jeff had noticed during last season that the hose surrounding the stuffing box was very old with many signs of serious cracks.  Given that a rupture of the hose would result in a significant amount of ocean water coming into the boat, we knew we needed to take care of it this offseason.

Unable to find anything online about servicing the rudder shaft stuffing box, we were essentially going to have to go in blind for this project.  Not surprisingly with a 40 year old boat, its been a challenge, and unfortunately we’re not finished yet.

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Now we know why it’s called a stuffing box.

Since buying Little Bristol four years ago, we’ve heard boaters refer to a mysterious “stuffing box.”  Tom, who we bought Little Bristol from, told us when we were first looking at her that he had recently done the stuffing box, making a face that indicated it was a real pain so we should be glad that he had taken care of it.  We nodded sympathetically like we knew what he was talking about, all the while thinking “Stuffing box??” to ourselves.

When we bought Pegu Club we didn’t know when the stuffing box had last been taken care of, and frankly, we still didn’t know what it was.  We just knew that water dripped from it when the propeller shaft turned.  Apparently you want it to drip, but not too much.  This season there was plenty of evidence that it was dripping, so we tucked it away in the back of our minds as a possible off-season project.  Then Jeff noticed that the hose that clamps around the stern tube and keeps the ocean out of our boat had definitely seen better days, judging by the number of cracks in it.  Now replacing the hose was definitely on the to-do list for this off-season.  Since we needed to remove the stuffing box in order to access the hose, we figured we might as well take care of both of the stuffing boxes while we were at it.

Our various books told us that there is a stuffing box for the propeller shaft and another one for the rudder stock.  The stuffing box is a threaded sleeve and a hollow nut through which the propeller shaft (and rudder stock) passes through.  The sleeve (or sometimes the nut) is filled with a material that forms a watertight seal but still allows the propeller shaft to turn.  Water is required to lubricate the material, so the stuffing box needs to drip when the shaft it turning (unless you have a dripless system).  Great.  Now that we knew what it was (and what it looked like), it was time to have at it.

Continue reading “Now we know why it’s called a stuffing box.”