Repacking Rudder Stuffing Box

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Anyone ever re-done their rudder stuffing box packing? I had never seen one up close before last night, but since my rudder is off, I got a good look at mine.

20210112_200106.jpg 20210112_200206_HDR.jpg

The 3 rings of flax add up to about 7/8" of width so I'm guessing it's 3 layers of 5/16" or 3/8" wide flax that's been compressed from use. I never had leaks from my rudder gland and still had some room left to compress the existing flax. I'm wondering if I should re-pack it while it's out, or just reinstall as-is since it was working so well.

20161031_153543.jpg <----Stuffing box before removal.

Also, I only see flax sold in varying widths. Is the thickness standard on flax?

How would one ever repack the gland without dropping the rudder?
Last edited:


Member III
I removed and replaced our rudder back in October with a new one from Foss. We have an 1983 E381. Our rudder shaft was bent. I did not replace the packing because I had no leaks prior. I did remove the packing and apply packing grease to the packing and the rudder shaft and inside the rudder tube. I think the correct size is 5/16". The design for the Ericson 38 is the install the packing and tighten the packing gland all the way tight.

To replace the packing while the rudder is still installed requires removal of the steering quadrant, loosen and lift up the packing gland in order to have enough room to remove the packing.

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
On the 32-3 you can change packing with rudder in place by loosening and raising the steering disk/quadrant on the rudder post .

Maine Sail has useful remarks in this thread.

That's a great thread--very helpful. Thank you.

Follow up: I purchased a package of 5/16 Teflon packing flax and talked to the yard guy about it--he agreed that repacking while the rudder is out is a good idea. When I came back the next day to repack the gland, the yard had already done it, after pebble-blasting the fitting itself back to its clean bronze finish. This is the first time I've used a full-service yard, so I'm not used to things just magically getting done while I'm gone. I wonder who's paying for all this great service....

20210115_115620.jpg 20210115_115631.jpg 20210115_180042.jpg

From reading MaineSail's post, I would have slathered more grease around the flax, but then, they still have to slide 3 feet of greased rudder post past it, so maybe there is still time for that. Even with out being compressed (the bolts are just finger-tight) the flax sits slightly proud of the inner diameter of the gland. I suppose this is allows the flax to act as a "bearing" (as well as a seal) and preventing the rudder post from rubbing against the gland opening.

I learned that flax is not sold in varying widths and thickness, but rather it is square, so it's all 1/4-by-1/4 or 5/15-by-5/16, etc. Everywhere I looked, it was sold only in 2-foot long packages. As luck would have it, a 2-7/8" rudder tube needs about 27" of flax for three layers of packing. Wonder if I'll be able to find my leftover flax from the second package when I go repeat this chore in 2036?

Also, since the steering quadrant, that vertically supports the rudder, sits on top of the gland (separated by a plastic washer), a fully compressed gland would seem to allow more vertical play in the rudder post than a taller, semi-compressed gland.

Last edited: