Repacking the Stuffing Box

Labeled photo of stuffing box People ask about repacking the stuffing box. It's easy enough, once you've done it (and if you can reach it), but it's a bit scary to thing about if you've never done it before. And, since it's in an awkward position, you probably want to know ahead of time what you're facing.

You'll also need a set of wrenches that fits the stuffing box and can turn in the space available. Many Alberg 30s measure 1-7/8" across the packing nut and 2" across the lock nut, and use 3/16" flax, but measure yours to be sure. On the newer boats, there is another stuffing box on the rudder shaft. These tend to measure 2-1/8" on both the packing nut and the lock nut, and take 5/16" packing. (If your Alberg 30 varies from these measurements, please let me know.)

Unscrew the stuffing box nut. Dig out the old flax that's inside it. Wrap the new flax around the shaft three times, and cut it (without cutting the shaft) at a slight angle acroll all the turns. This will give you three rings of flas that just fit around the shaft. Arrange these between the stuffing box and the stuffing box nut, with the cut part of the rings rotated to different places. Push the nut back to the stuffing box such that the flax rings go inside. Screw the nut back on, hand tight. Adjust in the water so that the stuffing box just quits dripping. Re-adjust with the engine running and in gear so that it drips slowly. Tighten the lock nut agains the stuffing box nut to prevent it from vibrating loose. Re-check periodically.

Here are some links (in no particular order) to articles on the subject:

diagram of drip free packing As an alternative to flax packing, you can use Drip Less® Moldable Packing. This product is a high-tech clay-like material. You use two rings of ordinary flax (or teflon) packing and one ring of this stuff in the middle, and coat everything with the provided packing lubricant. With this product, you can adjust your packing until it just barely does not drip when then engine is running. There will still be enough lubrication to protect the shaft (though the packing will feel a little warmer).

This product is available from

Western Pacific Trading, Inc.
3305 Spring Mountain Rd.
Suite 60
Las Vegas, NV 82102
phone 1-800-944-3501

This product is also available from West Marine
Offshore Sailing book cover Offshore Sailing by Bill Seifert with Daniel Spurr

We went to a Windjammers lecture to hear Bill Seifert and I was impressed enough to buy the book on the spot. I've heard a lot of people talk about ways to improve a boat, but I've never heard one person suggest so many good ideas that I hadn't considered. Part of the charm is the specificity of the suggestions. Everyone says you should secure your floorboards, hatchboards and batteries. Bill shows good suggestions on how to do so.

The suggestions are very practical for the do-it-yourselfer, too. Many show how to make or adapt inexpensive solutions. Tip #12 on closing the deck blower vents is one that will pay off for me without ever going offshore. I'll implement that one to stop the wintertime storms from finding their way belowdecks.

Besides modifications, the book also includes advice for operating offshore, cooking, boat selection, dealing with bureaucracy, and more.

Bill Seifert has worked at Tartan, TPI, and Alden Yachts. He's a veteran of many Marion-Bermuda races and now runs his own yacht management company. His tips are born of experience--not of book-learning--and it shows. He obviously knows his stuff.


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