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 ….