SOME six months ago, narrowboatworld revealed that Canal & River Trust (CaRT) Waterways Ombudsman Committee had been scrapped (Waterways Ombudsman Committee scrapped), writes Allan Richards.
Again for doubters of Vetus sterngear. My name is Mick, not Steve as Tony Brooks claims. I have 45 years experience working on canal boats, even building 220 boats. In early years I came across sterngear made with wooden bearings progressing through white metal, brass / bronze and latterly polyurethane rubber. Shafts have been cast iron, bronze, mild steel and other varying types of steel leading to duplex stainless. Gland seals have been made from rags, string, various fibre with grease, carbon, PTFE eventually leading to rubber. All have in their own time worked in sterngear, but it must be mentioned none were designed specifically for inland waterways.
It's purely development of materials that have made it possible to produce an acceptably hard working and long lasting solution for most types of boat. At this point, I must say, after supplying over 2300 customers, we have owners achieving massive amounts of boating time without changing any components supplied by Vetus and ourselves. A multi-user boat has at last replaced the lip seal after 10700 hours of operation. Hire fleets that we supply achieve over 5500 hours, equivalent to 2.5 times the life of greased sterngear without the cost of grease and damage to the environment.
It appears some people are not able to accept new material developments thus giving misleading advice to individuals seeking help. The instructions supplied by Vetus for sterngear maintenance are extremely precautionary. Most people would understand this. The Vetus and Volvo Penta sterngear is used world wide. Sea going craft with low hours can have corrosion problems - like scale in a kettle - it needs to be cleaned, especially around seals and bearings. In the case of inland waterways, corrosion is not as prevalent and the maintenance period can be prolonged. My own experience with users of Vetus and Volvo Penta stern glands is to advise about 300 hours as in my previous posting.
If necessary a gland can be changed without dry docking by greasing a piece of rag and winding it onto the shaft outside the boat and pressing the rag against the stern tube to stop ingress of water.
Volvo Penta's development in Sweden has to cope with conditions at sea plus rivers / canals. Sweden has not only water but ice, which many would agree are harsh conditions. Vetus have their roots in Holland and have to cope with conditions at sea and a large percentage of inland waterways e.g. canals. Their development has had to cope with the same conditions as Great Britain.
This is why we advocate Vetus or Volvo Penta seals for canal boat use. I would like to invite any doubters including Tony Brooks or anyone that has had a bad experience with the lip seal type of sterngear to come to Kings Lock Boatyard to inspect for themselves the quality of the above manufacturers equipment, a discussion would be welcome.
Again, most problems that customers have with leaks all come from either poor installation, incorrect material or broken parts not associted with the sterngear, for example, broken engine mounts.
As a footnote - if customers fill our phone lines with sterngear problems, every one would be investigated and resolved as this company relies on quality to exist.
I am sorry Steve but this post is exactly the thing I find unacceptable. I quote the relevant section of the Vetus on-line manual below.
I see a difference in hours between the post and what Vetus say, I see Vetus expect more than simply injecting grease AND they specify the boat be removed from the water maybe two or three times a year for long distance inland boaters.
I am also concerned about the attitude of an insurance company in a boat sank on its moorings and it was found that the Vetus maintenance instructions had not been carried out to the letter.
I still believe the gland is not fit for purpose in inland use and say let the readers makeup their own minds once they have the information. I also believe it is probably an excellent solution for a yacht that will use its engine far less and probably be lifted every year or so for the winter.
The following maintenance must be performed after every 200 hours of operation or once a year while the ship is on dry dock:
- Loosen the bolts which attach the shaft seal to the inner bearing.
- Clean the surface of the deal rims where it touches the shaft so that it is free of grease, dirt and residue.
- Check whether the rim of the seal is not visibly damaged, and replace the shaft seal if it is.
Article code for replacement:
- ‘ZWB25RES’ for ø 25 mm propeller shaft
- ‘ZWB30RES’ for ø 30 mm propeller shaft
- ‘ZWB35RES’ for ø 35 mm propeller shaft
- ‘ZWB40RES’ for ø 40 mm propeller shaft
- Lubricate the shaft and the exposed seal rim .
- Reattach the shaft seal onto the inner bearing, tightening the bolts to about 10 Nm.
- Fill the seal with clean grease, refer to Installation, point 11 B.
- Check the shaft seal and all connections for leakage immediately after launching
For doubters of the Vetus sterngear, we have now sold 2360 systems into naroowboats and to date have had only one manufacturing failure. Some customers have complained about the odd leak but every leak has been attributed to incorrect installation or a broken engine foot. Surely this means we have an excellent record.
The same sterngear system is also employed by Volvo Penta. Both Vetus and Volvo Penta use a dual lip seal together with an extremely hard Duplex stainless steel shaft.
Some boat builders have used a softer 316 stainless shaft which allows the seals to cut grooves into the shaft surface, causing a leak.
The only maintenance for both Vetus and Volvo is for the seals to have a small amount of silicone grease inserted about every 300 hours. When dry docking a narrowboat, it's always policy to have sterngear checked for wear.
Professionals, customers and critics are always welcome to our boatyard* to see the system working, to totally understand how simple and effective it can be. Environmentally friendly is an important factor, as is a lack of bilge water. Not having to use tins of grease, which end up in the canal is the added cost saving.
We have a Volvo Penta seal which is still performing well at 4000 hours. Just force a bit of new grease into it every so often. Doesn't help with your Vetus.
I concur with your view about fitness for purpose and think it may well extend to other things in the range. I feel they have no real idea about UK canal boating.
Their statements to me over the telephone about the warranted on one of the gearboxes they fit and the engines in general in respect of ticking over out of gear for more than 20 minutes horrified me. May be they have altered their policy but from your tale I suspect not.
If I got saddled with one of their glands I know what I would do as soon as it started to leak. If you do not like the idea of a greased gland and stern bearing have a look at PSS seals as fitted by Sea Otter.
Thanks, Tony for your input. The maintainance schedule leaflet is clear.... " every 200 hours "or once a year when the boat is out of water!!" ..... the instructions then go on to explain how to remove the seal, clean and repack with silicon grease... tighten bolts to set tension then says ".... when the boat is relaunched, check for leaks"..
I've been told by Vetus agent that all that's needed is to inject grease when/if a leak occurs. This doesn't stop the leak! My purpose in asking via the blog for the experiences of others is purely to learn if my experience is common. I've had the alignment checked three times by 1/ vetus engineer, 2/RCR MD at time of engine service, 3/ Pennine cruisers engineer when our boat came out for blacking. All three say Beta engine is installed A1 ok. The vetus engineer replaced the seal but that began to leak again after 200 hours dispite repeated attemps to top up the grease.
Word on the block is that older version are trouble free but in recent times Vetus changed the design of the unit's seal and it's these that are prone to leaking.
Vetus defend their position. I'm advise that the unit isn't fit for purpose for narrow boats in shallow waters because the lubriaction method is prone to suck in grit. (I have photo of shaft scoring after 200 hours but don't know how to attach to the blog so cant display).
Taking the boat out of water every year or less to service the unit is also nonsense. Who can do this either because of cost or ready access to dry dock facilities?
As I say" who else has trouble with their Vetus gland?"
Cheers. Bob NB Jam Pudd
by NB Jam Pudd » Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:27 pm