Rudder Post Stuffing Box R&R

We have noticed that since we got Zia (our Morgan 38) about a year ago, when we motor at or near hull speed, we get a couple gallons per hour of water in the bilge.

After reading up on the awesome Morgan 38 owners site (, we started suspecting the rudder stuffing box was leaking.  Going near hull speed, a wave is formed that goes above the normal waterline near the bow and at the stern.

The rudder post is at the stern and the stuffing box (which keeps water out of the boat) is barely above water line.  So when the wave is formed, if the stuffing box is leaking a little, water will flow into the bilge.  The stuffing box is located in the locker just abaft the wheel.

Below is a picture peering straight down into the locker.  The big aluminum circular thing (A) is the steering quadrant. Actually, I think it might technically be a ‘radial drive’, but everyone calls it a ‘quadrant’ so that’s what I’ll call it too.  Cables (C) coming from the steering wheel  go around this wheel, which provides leverage to turn the rudder post (B), which is the small circle in the center.

Steering Quadrant

The copper/bronze colored arm (E) attached to the top of the rudder post is the auto helm/auto pilot.

The steering gear is made by Edson and here is a picture from their manual on how the quadrant interacts with the wheel using cables.


The rudder stuffing box is beneath this equipment, so it all has to be removed.  I read on that one of the owners managed to change the packing with this quadrant in place, by reaching through those two holes.  This is quite amazing to me since this locker is very small, the holes are very small, you can’t see the stuffing box through the holes and they must have been hanging upside down while doing it.  I wasn’t designed for these kinds of contortions, so I removed the equipment, which only took about 30 minutes.

  • Be sure to mark/measure how far down the rudder post the assembly is bolted.  It slides up/down the post when loose.
  • 9/16″ socket wrench to remove 4 bolts on copper/bronze colored autopilot arm
  • 9/16″ socket wrench to remove 4 bolts holding the quadrant together near the collar on the rudder post
  • 1/2″ socket wrench to remove nuts on two bolts which tension the wires. These exit the top of the quadrant and are visible in the photo.
  • Quadrant then comes into two pieces and slides off the post

If you do this, be sure to mark (or measure) on the rudder post the location of this equipment because is slides up and down on the post when loosened and  you’ll probably want to replace it at the same location.

Here’s another photo of the assembly from an angle (oblique).

Oblique View of Steering Quadrant

Below is a picture of the rudder post after the quadrant and autopilot arms have been removed.  The packing nut (the object of our pursuit) is visible at the base, next to the blue paper towel.  That nut is about 4″ diameter and we used some monster sized channel grips to get it off.

Rudder Post with Packing Nut Attached

I have read rave reviews about Gore GFO packing.  It apparently lasts for many years without needing any service.  I also read that Morgan 38s typically use 3 rings of 1/2″ material.  So I ordered 30 inch length of 1/2″ packing from an online store called eMarine.  It cost around $54 with free shipping.

Next, with the help of my nimble and limber son Wyatt, we cut the 3 rings using the rudder post just above the nut as a guide.  The post is not tapered and since the boat is in the water I was afraid of taking the nut off and having water flowing into the locker.  I therefore wanted to minimize the time with the nut off by having the packing pre-cut.

We took off the packing nut … flow or no? to be continued ….


How to Bleed Fuel Line on a Perkins 4-108 Diesel Engine

Okay, in scouring the internet I couldn’t find a good reference on how to prime (bleed) the fuel line on a Perkins 4.108 diesel, which is the 50 HP diesel engine on Zia (our Morgan 38 sailboat).

In fact, I found in some forums that owners admitted to being so afraid of bleeding the system that they have never changed their fuel filters (!).

I didn’t want to live in fear, nor did I want a dirty or plugged fuel filter, so here is how I bled the system.  The Perkins manual is pretty good, but I had problems finding the gizmos they mentioned because the pictures didn’t look like my engine and some of the gizmos were hidden on the back (port) side of the engine which I couldn’t see.  This was also the first diesel engine I’ve become intimate with, so my ignorance cannot be overstated.

If you are going to bleed the system anyway, you might as well change all of the fuel filters.  In my case, I have a primary Racor filter under the galley sink.  I changed that, then I also changed the secondary fuel filter, which is mounted on the starboard side of my engine.

The photo below is of the starboard side of our engine, via the access panel from the starboard quarter berth.  The secondary fuel filter is the white cylinder under the bolt marked with (A).

I used a 5/8″ box wrench to loosen the bolt on top of the fuel filter (A), then use the manual lift pump lever (B) to pump until clean fuel with no bubbles comes out from under the bolt.  You just raise the little lever up and down until something happens.

Then tighten bolt (A).

Next, using the forward access for the engine (removing the stairs), reach around to the port side of the engine, where the injector pump is located.  The photo below shows a red box with the location of the detailed photo that follows.


Detailed area on engine port side. This is the area shown by the red box in the previous photo.Referring to the photo above, loosen small bolt (5/16″ box wrench) on side of injector pump (A).  Facing the engine, with left hand, reach around to the starboard side of the engine and pump the manual lever on the fuel lift pump (that you pumped in previous step) until fuel with no bubbles comes out from around the bolt, then tighten bolt (A).

Next, loosen bleed bolt on top of the governor (B) with 5/16″ box wrench and again manually pump the lift pump until fuel with no bubbles issues from bolt.  I think it was draining down the back of the bolt, so I applied a little pressure to the bolt from the front to tilt it a little so I could see the fuel coming out the front.  Then tighten bolt (B).

I then cranked the engine a few times to see if it would start.  It wouldn’t start.  I’m cautious about cranking the engine for more than 10 seconds because it can pull water into the cylinders (don’t ask why I know that, it’s a little embarrassing).

Then I loosened one of the injector compression fittings (C) and cranked the engine. After a few seconds it started up and ran fine after that.  Be sure to tighten the injector compression fitting back up.

I didn’t have to loosen the other injector compression fittings, although some of the instructions I’ve seen say you might need to do that.

Note also that our engine seems to be sensitive to the cold. If it’s below 45 degrees F air temperature, I need to spray a small amount of starter fluid into the air intake.