First Cruise of the Season

Sunday was a beautiful day – and we took our first cruise of the season.  A relaxing 4 hour ride out into Mount Hope bay, over to Swansea, and back to our mooring in Dighton.

Autumn Dream performed flawlessly, running happily at 5-6 knots.

Scenery was lovely.  Lots of folks out enjoying the water, or just the day.  Fish were jumping.  We saw our local Ospreys out fishing, and also sighted a bald eagle with a fish in its talons flying overhead.  Plus the armadas of swans, Canada geese, and ducks.  Lots of fluffy gray goslings out with their parents.

Everything was wonderful until after we were back at our mooring, shut the engine off, and then Kevin did his round of checks.

I mentioned the other day that the stuffing box is always a concern.  For the non-boaters, I didn’t describe what this was in the other post… The Shaft has to exit the boat… and you don’t want water to leak in through the hole in the bottom where the shaft goes through.  To prevent the water from leaking, there is a stuffing box.  This ‘box’ includes a bunch of fittings, and most importantly (for most boats) a packing gland- this is a fitting with packing inside that allows the shaft to spin (if it doesn’t spin, you don’t go anywhere) but stops MOST of the water from getting into the boat.

You want a LITTLE bit of water to go through the packing, because this keeps it lubricated and prevents it from getting too hot from friction.  Typically you expect a few drips per hour.

Autumn Dream has a bilge for the stuffing box, and a bilge pump that is “always powered’ so that even with the main panel turned off, if the float sensor tells it to pump, it will run.

Well…. after our cruise the bilge was filling more rapidly than we like, and the pump was running every 20 minutes or so (for about 30 seconds).  In the past we have NEVER heard the pump running – and would occasionally put some water in the bilge to make sure it was working (and it always did).  Kevin fought and swore with the locking nut for an hour, trying to loosen it up so he could tighten up the packing gland, with no luck.  The flow did not increase, but it didn’t decrease either.

As much as we hated to, we packed up, closed up the boat after making sure the batteries were fully charged, and went home.  We did replace one of the batteries in the last two years, but there is always a worry about enough charge to keep the pump going.  We do have the solar panels to recharge, but of course it was dark and raining all day Monday.

Monday morning much research was done on how to free up the lock nut and tighten the packing gland.  I picked up some penetrating oil for Kevin at El Walmarto.  In the afternoon the weather cleared a bit and Kevin rowed out…  Still couldn’t loosen the locking nut but the drip had slowed down considerably… and the pump was running about once an hour instead of 3x per hour.  Charge was good on the batteries.

Today much more internet research was done on packing glands, stuffing boxes, etc.  We will watch and wait to see what happens, hopefully we can make it through the season without issues.  In the fall, it looks like we may have to pull it all apart and replace the packing.  We have no idea when it was last done.

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