Stuffing Box


Art Fowler, 4/10/08

Islander Skippers,

My 1978 Islander 36 with a Perkins 4-108 is currently hauled out and I thought I might repack the stuffing box, in lieu of purchasing and installing the drip less shaft sealing system sold by PYI for $250 and then incurring the indeterminate yard fee for their contribution to the installation.

My understanding is that of the various thicknesses available I should use 5/16 inch packing material. I understand that once the old material is removed, (a task I believe I can accomplish fairly easily by using a sharp probe with a 90 degree bend at the tip) the new material is placed around the shaft in three bands with the seams alternately placed at the 12, 4, and 8 o'clock positions.

My question is which material to install? There is the traditional flax packing which I believe the yard installed 3 or 4 years ago. My objection is that it is a real pain getting the adjustment of the packing nut just right so it leaks about one drop every 30 seconds underway and none at rest. In fact I'm not sure we ever got there during that time frame.

Prior to the flax packing installation, I believe, but I'm not sure (thus the reason for this inquiry) that there was a combination of teflon and flax (one teflon ring in the center and one flax ring at both ends). Could I be mistaken? Is that a Don't Do (mix materials)? Whatever was in there sure worked nicely and hardly dripped any water at all, while the stuffing box did not seem to heat up. (Not that anything in contact with sea water could ever get hot operating in the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay)

So I'm interested in what material, should it be all the same or is a mix OK, what thickness, the durability and any problems you might have experienced in relation to the stuffing box on your boat.

Art Fowler


Kit Wiegman, 4/10/08

Hi Art:

I would stick with the old stuffing box and put in the new Graphite packing. It has no friction and therefore does not need any water to cool it. It comes in a package with enough to do all three bands and then some, so I would not use anything but it. I have it in my boat and I put it in another with no leaking in either. It also last longer.



Art Fowler, 4/10/08


I got the following response from Brian Jacobs and it follows in part:

"I used, in both my sailboat and the Trawler we are on now, the "Dripless Packing" that West Marine sells. It has worked flawlessly for us. It is this green stuff, sorta like clay, with some gooey blue lubricant you put it in . Basically, you use 2 instead of 3 rings of packing, and sandwich the green stuff between the 2 rings. I have been using the all teflon packing for the rings, but I hear there is an even better one now, and you don't need the green stuff.. GFO is what it is called, some sort of gortex. I hear nothing but praise for this material."

Smokey gave me a pretty thorough brief on how and what to do with that stuffing box, but I was so completely lost when he started talking about the new technology, that I thought it would be interesting to learn as much as I could about what is being used throughout the fleet. So far I've had a couple endorsements for the drip less shaft sealing system, even from Skipper who had one give him a problem 15 years ago, but been ok since. But I would say that this new Graphite material you describe sounds like the simplest, least expensive for a "drip less" claim, and probably the safest.

Is this GFO the graphite packing you wrote about? Perhaps I can stop at Svend's and they'll know about this stuff. It sounds to me that it is different than the "blue goo.". Do you use three wraps of the packing. Brian speaks of two with "goop" in between. I had never heard of any of that stuff. Man who would have thought: "green stuff, sorta like clay, and gooey blue lubricant" and to think that would be the only stuff between my boat and the bottom of the bay.



Tim Shea, 4/10/08


FYI Lean Times has had a dripless system in place since 1999 when I replaced the old stuffing contraption. It has performed flawlessly. The install was no big deal. I just pulled the shaft back, cleaned it up and installed the dripless collar and bellows.

I always perform a visual check on the dripless whenever I fire up the fuel injected, supercharged, blown, ported and polished 650 hp Pathfinder Diesel and to this date have not discovered any problems with the system.

Like many guys as the age, I prefer to be dripless. I like the dripless much better than a stuffing box ( I prefer Squeeze boxes myself ) and given the fact that mysterious water always seems to be in the bilge, it's nice to know that at least the dripless is not a contributing factor.

Go modern, go topless.. er Dripless.


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