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78 | BoatU.S. Magazine FEBRUARY | MARCH 2015
FLAPPING FREE: Flapper-type bilge-pump float switches must be securely mounted and
installed clear of wires, hoses, and other obstructions that can impede operation of the floating
arm or flapper switch. They should also be oriented with the switch aligned fore and aft, and the
flapper pointing toward the stern. This is especially important on powerboats; during jackrabbit
takeoffs, surging bilge water can damage the flapper mechanism, even ripping it apart in some
cases. Installing them close to a bulkhead or frame also helps protect the switch from a torrent of
water. Enclosed switches eliminate this worry, but can also be more difficult to inspect and test.
BEARING ON THE OUTCOME: This is one of two cutlass bearings from a twin-
engine power vessel that were so severely worn, both shafts were damaged and
had to be replaced. A cutlass bearing is a short metal tube (usually of brass) with
an inner grooved, rubber lining. The bearing holds the shaft steady as it turns,
while the grooves allow water to enter, providing lubrication. Cutlass-bearing
replacement is a routine maintenance item; they all eventually wear to the point
of looseness, which if left unaddressed can result in a number of problems, from
excessive shaft vibration to drive train alignment issues. In cases of severe wear
(such as this), the grooved channels are completely worn away, meaning the shaft
receives no lubrication from the surrounding water, leading to scoring of the shaft
(due to friction) and a reduction in diameter where it
passes through the cutlass bearings. The seller had
replaced both cutlass bearings the day before the
survey, but even with new bearings of the proper
size installed, both shafts still had significant play.
When removed, it was discovered that the diameter
of both shafts had decreased by almost 1/4-inch
where they transited the cutlass bearings.
Can you feel the
frustration of the
tasked with troubleshooting an electrical problem in this
mess? Also note
the lack of chafe
wires penetrate the
bulkhead, as well
as the evil “
electrical tape joints,”
will fall off, leaving