This was one of those times, in spite of how well you plan things
out, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
My plan was to paint the bottom and boot stripe, add a new depth finder, and remove the propeller shaft for the replacement of the cutlass bearing. For those who like to work with their hands, these tasks are not difficult ones.
With most sailboats you must remove the rudder before removing the propeller shaft. If you have tiller steering, the rudder is held fast with a bolt at the top of the rudder post where the tiller is connected. Additional bolts will have to be removed if you have wheel, stirring; these bolts are usually located in the stern where the steering arm assembly attaches to the rudder post. If youíre by yourself, place some blocks under the rudder or have a friend hold the rudder before removing the bolt. The rudder is usually not heavy, so one person can lift it. Once itís removed, you can inspect the post and rudder for cracks or damage. Also, itís easier to paint the rudder when itís out of the boat ó you can get to those hard to get at places on the rudder and the boat.
Now for the removal of the propeller shaft. The sequence is simple.
First remove the propeller (make sure the threads are cleaned with a wire brush before removing the propeller nut). Loosen the packing gland nut until it is completely off its threads. Loosen the set screw on the shaft coupler which is attached to the rear of the transmission (see figure 1). Some shaft couplers have two set screws, mine had one holding the shaft in place. I am now ready to remove the shaft. Most boatyards have a tool called a jack hammer shaft removal tool (see figure 2). Just remember this spot in the story, because this is where I should have gotten expert advice. The shaft removal tool attaches to the propeller shaft threads. The tool is a long shaft with a sliding donut-shaped weight. The idea is to slide the weight down the shaft to the end. The weight stops abruptly, thus forcing the propeller shaft out of the coupler. But if your shaft has not been removed in several years and is stuck to the coupler because of rust, the tool becomes lethal. And if you have a 200 pound friend behind it, you will realize your worst nightmares.
After a half an hour of trying to pound the shaft out, my strength gave out. This is when my big friend gave his all to the removal cause. Bang, bang, bang, slid the weight down the shaft. Suddenly the shaft moved. Again he banged and the shaft moved more. Finally we were getting somewhere.
With the excitement of the shaft moving, we both got renewed strength. One more time should do it. With a mighty bang of the sliding hammer the shaft moved a foot or more, ďbut what was that sound hitting the bottom of the boat?Ē ďAh itís probably the packing gland nut falling off the end of the shaft.Ē ďNo, it sounded larger than that,Ē I said to my friend. I hurried up the ladder to the cockpit, down the hatchway and into the engine compartment. The nightmare begins. My transmission was no longer connected to the engine. The transmission housing was broken, the transmission gear shaft was pulled completely out of the transmission and to make matters worse, the coupler, still attached to the shaft, was wedged between the subfloor and the bottom of the boat. Panic set in. Because it was on a weekend, there was no one with any experience at the yard to ask for advice, except for some other do-it-yourself boat owners. I got all kinds of suggestions. The one I went with was to cut the shaft. With a feeling of total defeat I pulled the shaft effortlessly from the boat. This nightmare cost me extra lay days in the yard, a new propeller shaft, new coupler, rebuilt transmission, and a dent in my ego.
Remember when I said remember this spot in the story? Well here is some advice from some experts I talked to. Before using the shaft removal tool, the shaft coupler should be removed from the transmission. Apply penetrating oil to the front and back side of the coupler. Also apply oil to the key way. Inspect for excess amounts of corrosion and rust. Tap with a hammer to try to loosen the rust between the coupler and the shaft. Add more penetrating oil, making sure you allow enough time for the oil to penetrate deep into the coupler. Connect the coupler back on the transmission and use the removal tool.
Remember the removal tool should only be used with light to moderate
action. If this does not work, remove the coupler again and attach a wheel
puller (see figure 3) to the rear of the coupler, this will force the shaft
out of the coupler. If you are not successful with any of the above operations,
the coupler should be cut for removal. The reason to cut the coupler instead
of the shaft is purely economical. For my size boat, a 1" x 57" shaft costs
$269, versus a coupler for $50.
The coupler is usually made of casts iron and can be removed easily by drilling several holes in line with the key way (see figure 4). Once this is done, use a hammer and chisel to split open the coupler. Be careful not to damage the shaft. Replace the new coupler on the shaft. Donít forget to use seizing wire on the set screw after tightening it, then put a generous amount of silicone on the rear and front where the coupler and shaft meet. This will help stop moisture from getting between the coupler and the shaft, which causes corrosion and rust. This will make it much easier for future removals and a satisfying day at the boat yard.
Tools, Hardware and Supplies
tools (Wrenches, Socket Set, Screwdrivers)
Chisel (steel cutting)