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Barry's Blog #139 - Going quickly… Very slowly

Recently it's been a lesson in how to go quickly… Very slowly.

The hull, keel and rudder needed a lot of TLC and that meant applying various compounds to the surfaces. It all starts with sanding and/or grinding back the surfaces to ensure that any old flaky antifoul or primer are completely removed.

In the case of the keel it sometimes meant grinding it back to bare iron. Going back that far meant that the surface was now pockmarked with high spots and low spots, they needed filling in with a two-component epoxy filler, which had a drying time of 10 hours between coats. Some of the deeper pockmarks needed three layers of filler, so it was a question of apply and wait.

Then came the two-component epoxy primer, with a dry time of 24 hours and we needed to apply at least 3 coats of that to the keel and rudder.

Next was the actual antifoul paint, luckily it had a dry time between coats of only 6 hours and we'd bought enough to put 3 coats of that onto the hull, keel and rudder plus a fourth coat at the waterline and the leading edges. Hopefully with me cleaning the underside of A B Sea whenever possible we might get 2 years of time in the water before we need to haul out and reapply antifoul paint.

The cutlass bearing

Thankfully the courier managed to finally deliver the cutlass bearing to the boat yard and when we did a test fit it was the perfect size. We called the guy who pulled the old bearing out and he arrived within the hour. This time he didn’t need his custom tool to fit the bearing into the P-bracket but he did need to drill the set screw holes into the outer casing of the bearing and then take it back to his workshop to tap the correct thread into the holes.

Within the space of 25 minutes the new bearing was in place and we could finally move on with a heap of big jobs and edge ever closer to our departure day. But before we could hook into all that we still had to finish what we'd started in getting the underwater surfaces ready to go back into the water.

We were so happy to have the cutlass bearing in place that we decided to treat ourselves to a light lunch of octopus and beer at a seafront restaurant in Limni village.

The prop shaft

While waiting for the second layer of antifoul paint to dry we thought we could best use that time by reinstalling the prop shaft and getting everything inside the boat reconnected.

The stainless steel prop shaft combined with the huge bronze propeller weigh quite a bit so when we decided to reinsert the prop shaft through the cutlass bearing I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible and with minimum effort. The cutlass bearing had other plans.

There were two things we didn't take into consideration. First was that the prop shaft was now not a smooth steel finish as it was coated with antifoul paint and secondly the rubber inside the bearing was at its maximum thickness so the surface friction was immense as there was no wriggle room like there was with the old bearing.

It was quite the struggle to get just a fifth of the shaft through the bearing before we realised that we had to remove it and try again using washing up liquid as a lubricant.

On our second attempt we finally got the shaft all the way in with a lot assistance from copious amounts of washing up liquid.

In the engine bay

We like to film what we do as much as possible to really bring our audience into the moment, but sometimes doing the boat job and filming at the same time is not practical. Passing the end of the prop shaft through the stern gland, reattaching it to the flange and ultimately connecting the flange to the gearbox was one of those times.

The workspace was confined, the lighting was bad and there was simply not enough room for me to work and for Aannsha to film, plus we had 35C temperatures with no wind and the sweat was real.

To work around these 'no filming' moments, I explain upfront what I'm about to do and why, and then show the finished job. It's the best workable solution we've found. So when it came around to putting all of the pieces back together at the back of the engine the filming was minimal. On paper it's a relatively straight forward job, but in practice it's difficult and time consuming.

Passing the prop shaft through the stern gland (Volvo seal) was simple. Next came the fine art of fitting the small steel key into the key hole on the end of the shaft. It needed to be a tight fit to prevent wear and damage but as it was, I couldn't get it deep enough into the key hole to allow the corresponding key hole in the flange to meet up perfectly.

Expecting this to be an issue I'd bought a large metal file a couple of weeks before. Time for some filing. This turned out to be time consuming as I couldn't take the risk of filing the key too much that it became too loose. After around seven rounds of file and try the fit, I eventually got it just right and the key was finally a very snugly fit between the prop shaft and the flange.

Next I broke out the massive lump hammer to persuade the flange to fully engage with the shaft. there was very little space to swing the hammer, so that small task took some time too.

With the flange eventually in the correct position I fitted the holding pin and in a cross patch sequence began tightening up the 6 hex bolts, I made double sure everything was as tight as it could be and then bolted the flange to the back of the gearbox.

Finally, after 3 hours of sweat and swearing, I slid the stern gland into position and tightened up the collar clamp. In theory everything was back to how it should be in that work area. The ultimate test of course could only happen once we were back in the water to see if there were any leaks and that the prop shaft turned without any issues.

To find out how that goes you'll have to wait for a future blog, until then stay safe.

To watch the video that accompanies this blog click here.

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