The cutless bearing

I have been asked how I extracted the cutless bearing from Anne Marie and then put in a replacement. It was a long process of trial and error this is in summary how it worked.

The original

The cutless bearing holds the propeller shaft in place when it spins in the hull. Without a cutless bearing the shaft would flap about and break. It is water-lubricated so water can get past the bearing so it is not a seal. Propeller shafts need an internal seal to prevent the boat filling with water. In Anne Marie’s case this is a Volvo Penta drip-less shaft seal.

Image result for volvo shaft seal installation
Volvo seal installed

Some boats with long propeller shafts have more than one cutless bearing and some have a bearing in the ‘skeg’. Anne Marie has a long traditional style keel so the cutless bearing fits inside the stern tube which carries the propeller shaft.


Firstly I had not got the rudder fitted at this point. The arrangement I used would need to be tweaked if the rudder was present. I also withdrew the propeller shaft too so I had total access to the stern tube and the existing cutless bearing.

Importantly some bearings are secured in place with a grub screw so you need to grind away paint and filler to find out if one is fitted. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me there was not one. Skegs often use grub screws because they are a ‘loose’ fit and the grub screw holds the bearing in place. With Anne Marie it is held in place by friction.

I made up a small disk of plate metal just the right diameter to fit inside the stern tube. This took some time because I wanted to make certain that it would not jam and that the plate was strong enough – I used 6mm plate steel. The disk had to be small enough to just slide freely into the empty shaft but not too small so as to move past the existing bearing. A cutless bearing shell is about 3 mm thick so there is not much room for error.

I drilled a 12 mm diameter hole in the centre of this disk to take a 12 mm diameter threaded steel rod about 1m long. I bolted the disk at one end of the rod using four bolts to lock it in place (two either side) so it would not undo when under strain – and there was a lot of that!
I made up a U shaped wooden jig with 4″x 2″ (100×50) timber long enough to take the extracted bearing – it was about 6″ (150) long and 4″ (100) wide – and I drilled a 12 mm hole centrally through the bottom of the U. I then threaded the rod from the inside of the boat, through the stern tube, so that the disk was on the inside of the boat and the free end on the outside.
I then pushed the U-shaped jig down the free end of the rod so that the two ends of the jig pressed against the hull either side of the bearing. In that way I was able to pull the rod through the shaft by turning the nut on the outer (free) end. I had to place a large washer on the outer end to spread the load because the pressure created tended to pull the nut into the wood rather than the nut pulling the rod through the shaft.

It was then a case of using a 12mm ring spanner and just winding and winding – and winding. Every now and then I gave the bearing a light tap of encouragement with a hammer and it slowly pulled out. After about 30 minutes it was out.


This was a different story and took a while.

The original extracted

I read up about this but most videos and blogs were pretty unhelpful which just told me it was going to be difficult. None showed a cutless bearing on a long-keeled boat, they were all skeg type.

You are supposed to install the bearing in a specific orientation too but when writing this I can’t remember what that is so look it up.

I started by freezing the new bearing overnight and keeping it in a cool box until needed. I persuaded myself that this would shrink the bearing’s diameter so that it would be easily inserted. I’m not convinced.

I also cleaned out the stern tube to remove scratches, burrs or dirt/dust to reduce any friction. I also wetted the inside surface. Don’t be too fastidious here as you need to maintain the size of the stern tube as you want the bearing to sit tight once in.

Then I used the reverse principle to wind the bearing into place but this proved almost impossible. I got the bearing about one-third in and then it just locked solid. I had it aligned correctly but the friction was just too great. I took it out, cooled it down and tried again, probably half-a-dozen times.

Eventually I succumbed to the little devil on my shoulder which kept on saying “Hit it hard and if it doesn’t work use a bigger hammer”. My bigger hammer was a 7lb (3kg) sledge hammer and a colleague. You know the saying “When I nod my head, hit it”, well that was pretty much what we did.

We used a variety of ‘dollies’ to protect the shaft such as the 4×2 timber but the best proved to be a 3×2 piece of heavy duty, hard rubber which was lying around. I never found out whose it was and it’s probably still where I left it.

Putting the new bearing in was a significantly difficult job and I hated that I had to resort to brute force but there really was no other way for a simple soul like me to get it in. Good luck with yours!

Now I have done a video of the removal. I was too knackered to video the installation but there are some photos.

Flooded bilge

Oops. Who forgot to fully shut off the raw water sea cock and didn’t notice he hadn’t tightened a pipe clamp?

Three weeks of drip drip drip.

Happy Christmas Anne Marie.

Flooding in the engine bay.

Hatch cover leaks

I have been advised that to make my blog more interesting I should sex it up. We’ll see.

Hatch trim fitted.

I discovered lots of water in the bilges last week and my electric bilge pump pant took about five minutes to empty it. I had known there were leaks coming through in a small way but we haven’t had much rain over the summer and so I hadn’t really bothered. Now I’m really wet I thought I better do something about it.

I have therefore installed the hatch surround in the hope that that will enable the water leaks around the hatch to stay outside the boat and drain out through the hatch drains.

I have also fitted a new lock to the door so that we have a semblance of security on the boat.

I have now received a pull-off solenoid system to use as an engine cut-off. Written in Chinese I hope I can wire it up properly. That will be the last part of the engine wiring I think and so I can install the Control Panel in the cockpit.

I have also manufactured the Perspex cover for the Control Panel and bought some nice new hinges. All I need now is to buy a latch to keep it closed and it’ll be fully ready.

With winter on the way (not here yet Met Office), and time available to work on Anne-Marie short, I should be dabbling here and there on jobs. Mostly I will do work at home but I shall also try to get there as much as possible although I do have other things to do.

24 November

Autumn is coming to a close and winter is about to start and the weather is suitably cold and damp at Rye.

It looks like iroko is going to be the wood of choice for our seating in the cockpitbut we have to be careful about choosing the right material. It seems that you have to get the grain correct with iroko. No doubt I will get to understand why later.

Otherwise I have almost finished the engine cooling system. The raw water pipe work is now complete and all connected but when I tested it with a hose pipe water cascaded out of the primary filter. Fortunately a spare kit can be bought from Venus and that arrived in the post a couple of days ago. This has a new lid which was cracked and two new rubber seals. That should do the trick.

I’m going to extend the floor in the heads because you’ve got to be able to get your feet on the floor when you’re sitting on the loo. Then I have to reinforce the floor area and seal it with resin.

I have started fitting the hinges and catches to the bow anchor-

Raymarine Sea-Talk interface cable

well hatch cover. It’s looking pretty good however I made the mistake of putting fresh resin out in the weather and it’s gone a little cloudy. I will need to sand it down and then put some Coelan on it to match the rest.

I have received the link cable which goes between the new Raymarine axiom 7 navigation screen and the 4000 ST autopilot. I’ll be testing this out in the coming weeks. This will be done off the boat.

I have also been manufacturing a new Perspex cover for the engine controls and have now got that correctly fitting and I’ve just bought some new hinges for that to work. I now need a latch.

Also my alternator was not giving a reading for the rev counter. It did not have an AC outlet which acts as a sender for electronic rev counters. Fortunately I found ElectroGen in Bethersden local to us and they were able to solder a little wire in the back. Now the rev counter the work will too.

Alternator with new W wire for rev counter

Repair kit for primary raw water filter

First catch fitted to hatch. Note cloudy surface caused by fresh epoxy resin getting wet

Acetal bar ready for turning into a bearing

I have received a 60 mm diameter rod of acetal plastic which surveyor Chris is going to turn up into a top bearing for the steering pedestal.

The old bearing which took a lot of getting out appeared to be an old wheel bearing and had disintegrated completely over the years.

Once the bearing is manufactured and installed then painting the pedestal is the last bit for getting the steering ready for installation. Once installed we can go sailing. Well we can take the boat out and steer which is a big advantage over where we are at the moment. That will be a good chance to test the engine and use Anne Marie in earnest. However I will need change insurance and get the survey properly sorted to the satisfaction of the insurance company beforehand.

Fortunately we are halfway through with the survey because we asked Chris the surveyor to do the first part of it when the boat was on dry land. As he is helping with the fit out he’s in the best position to do the final survey and write reports.

Onwards and upwards.

Alternative to teak

We are refurbishing the cockpit seating area for Anne-Marie and trying to use the old teak planking from the main cabin roof. Unfortunately it is so full of nails and also splits too easily so we can’t use it.

Teak is now a rare come commodity and I need to find an alternative timber for marine use. I am looking for about 2 m² in total that can be made into strips 50 mm wide and 8 to 10 mm thick.

Has anyone got any thoughts about where I might find cheap-ish timber. I’m not particularly worried about lengths although it would be good to have timber in lengths more than 600 long.

Cutting of the larger planks and planing or shaping the timber is not going to be a problem so big planks would be okay as well.

I am in England so I need to be able to source it in the south of the country.

Any thoughts would be gratefully appreciated. I do after all want to look my best.


Anne-Marie (Mike)

Update 14 November 2018

So over the last fortnight we’ve been doing lots of things off the boat:

1.  Manufacturing a new Perspex cover for the engine controls.
2.  Tidying up the wiring and creating a new wiring loom in the engine bay.
3.  Fixing the new fuel sender into the panel that goes on the top of the fuel tank.
4.  Removing redundant fuel lines which we think served a diesel heater.
5.  Removed an old diesel fuel filter as there are already plenty there.
6.  Meeting Christian from IMP on board ( to discuss lighting needs and blinds for the windows and hatches.  He was very helpful and we are looking forward to doing business with him.
7.  Planning the electrical circuits.
8.  Building a new battery box.
9.  Cleaning out all our stored materials to see what we still need to keep. 10.  Digging out the old hot water tank and planning how that will refit into the engine compartment and be linked to the engine internal water cooling system.
11.  Looking at the alternator to see how I might retrofit a W cable – a W cable is the sender which gives the rev meter information to show the engine revs.
12.  Cleaning up and re-storing the engine hours counter which we found in the engine compartment. It still works so we will wire it into the navigation systems and have it on display properly.
13.  Making up new teak covers for the cockpit seating and hatches.

14.  Making and fitting the new hatch cover to the bow deck locker.

15.  Fitting the waste tank into the heads and putting the WC in place for dry-fitting the waste pipes.

Key start!

Well after three days of tracing wires in the old wiring loom and cross-matching them to the control panel guess what!  We have the engine starting from the key in the cockpit.

Note the shiny refurbished control panel.

Check out the video.  There are a few issues to sort out still so more updates to come