The Voyage of the Swan
Please note! This is how we do it on the Swan. These methods have worked for us, but they may not work for you. There is always risk that unexpected damage will occur that will escalate the job and the costs. Consider these risks before proceeding. READ THE ENTIRE WRITE UP BEFORE PROCEEDING. When we work on the Swan, we always work carefully and safely. We do not proceed if we are tired or frustrated. We never hurry. Patience is the order of the day. When in doubt, or the skill level required exceeds our own, we seek the help of experts. We recommend you do the same.
Using a propeller puller, remove the propeller. If the propeller does not immediately loosen when the puller is tightened firmly, give a sharp rap to the end of the shaft (as if to drive it into the boat). Before doing this, make sure to loosen the propeller nut back on the shaft to cover the threads so the threads aren’t damaged by the hammer (you actually hit the nut). If the prop doesn't come lose, don't hit the shaft anymore. Heat will be necessary. If not familiar with pre-heating metal, get expert help. Otherwise, with the puller good and tight, use a torch and uniformly heat the prop (not the shaft!) until it is good and hot. Then sharply rap the end of the shaft (nut on threads) as if to drive it into the boat. The propeller should come lose. If it doesn't, it was not hot enough or, less often, the puller was not tight enough. The mickey mouse propane torches sold at hardware stores are not usually hot enough to loosen a really sticky prop. Use a Mapp gas, Chemelene or acetylene torch, but don't melt the propeller! Again, if not familiar with pre-heating metal, get expert help. Don't rap the shaft end too many times either. You risk damaging the transmission.
Assuming the propeller pull was successful, proceed to the bearing removal. Remove the set screw(s) holding the cutless bearing in place. Hopefully, the last time the cutless bearing was replaced, the new one was set in place so that about 1/4" was left sticking out of the shaft log. Also, hopefully, the bearing was inserted with a good coat of anti-seize compound or other suitable lubricant (fiberglass compatible) and bottom paint was not slathered on the area such that the paint seeped up into the interface and glued the bearing to the shaft log. Given all this, there is a good possibility of removing the bearing without removing the shaft. I say "possibility" because there is no guarantee this will happen.
Keep in mind that there is meant to be a gap between the propeller hub and the cutless bearing or the bearing will not self lubricate. So on some propeller/shaft combinations it may not be possible to leave 1/4" of the bearing proud of the log without starving the bearing of lubricating water.
If none of the bearing is sticking out to grip, go to plan B below. (There are other methods out there on the Web involving making pullers to grip the bearing ends through the set screw holes. I tried one of them and it did not work for me, but maybe I just wasn’t lucky that day. I spent more time messing with it than it took to execute plan B below.)
Remove the set screws holding the bearing in place. Assuming there is enough of the bearing to get a pair of vice grips on, grip the bearing and try to turn the bearing in the shaft log. Try not to tighten the vice grips so tight that the bearing is deformed by them.
If the bearing won't turn, seal up the bearing lubrication holes by wrapping some rescue tape, Ace bandage, etc. around the shaft at that point until there is a seal. Also, put the set screws back in to seal those holes. Inside the boat, loosen the hose clamps on the hose connecting the packing gland to the shaft log and move the hose forward. Make a funnel of aluminum foil and pour a cup or two of white vinegar down the shaft log. Leave it overnight.
Next day, remove the tape and vinegar and try the vice grips again. Really get on them if you need to, but try not to deform the bearing so much that it impedes further efforts to remove it. If you can't get it to rotate and back out, borrow or buy a McMaster-Carr bearing separator that will fit over the shaft (e.g. #6342K1). You will need the optional jack screws for the holes in the separator. With a hack saw, cut two notches in the outside of the exposed part of the bearing on opposite sides from each other (right angles to bearing length) such that the knife edge opening of the bearing separator will fit in the notches. Cut the notches as close to the shaft log as possible so as much bearing metal as possible is left astern of the notches for strength. Find some sheet metal or a really big washer  (McMaster-Carr 93550A125) to protect the fiberglass where the jack screws will bear when they are tightened. Finally, tighten the jack screws and withdraw the bearing.
If the brass bearing sleeve deforms and squeezes away from the knife edge of the separator by pressing into the rubber of the bearing, use a trick David Home (PSC s/v Jina) taught me. Ream away the rubber in the bearing back to a point inside of the saw cuts. Then slide a 1 inch copper coupling (joiner fitting designed to fit two pieces of 1 inch copper plumbing pipe together) onto the shaft and into the bearing. This will prevent the bearing from deforming under the load of the separator.
If the bearing won’t come out, go to plan B. But first, pour some water down the shaft log to wash the remnants of vinegar out of the bearing. I don’t like the idea of the bronze bearing sitting there reacting with the vinegar and stainless in the shaft for an extended length of time. It’s probably not necessary but just call me superstitious.
Plan B. Go buy three feet of schedule 40 white PVC pipe with a 1" ID. Set it aside. Remove the four bolts holding the shaft coupling to the transmission coupling. Remove the two grub screws fixing the shaft coupling to the shaft. (If you have a clamp type coupling, loosen the clamp.) Get some PB Blaster and squirt it into the grub screw holes, the keyway and the place where the shaft enters and exits the coupler. Wait an hour for the PB Blaster to work. While you are waiting, find a socket wrench socket that will fit in the space between the two couplings such that the socket bears on the shaft only and not on the shaft coupling itself. Pull the couplers together with the socket in between. Measure the distance between the bolt holes and go buy four fine thread bolts and nuts of a length that will allow you to tighten them up and push the shaft out of the shaft coupling (the existing bolts may be too short; also using them might damage them).
Put the set up together with the socket between the aligned couplings. Use anti-seize compound on the bolt threads. Tighten the nuts to bring the socket to bear on the shaft. Keep tightening uniformly (each nut a little at a time) until the shaft slides out of the coupling. Do not over-tighten the nuts. One of the couplings could warp or break. Instead, get a heat gun (I would not use a blow torch in this area; too much risk of fire) and heat up the shaft coupling (not the shaft). When it is hot, the shaft should come out of the coupling. If not, have someone rap the end of the shaft gently with a hammer once or twice (outside the boat) as if to drive it into the boat. Avoid the temptation to whack away with the hammer or to hit the shaft or couplings at right angles; not a good idea. If the shaft won’t move, keep reading. (Note: if you do use a torch to heat the coupling, besides the risk of fire, be careful not to transmit so much heat to the transmission shaft that you melt the transmission seal! You will know this has happened when fluid starts dripping down into the engine bilge. Don’t ask me how I know this.)
If the shaft doesn't budge, the mate is too tight or someone didn’t use anti-seize when they installed it. You will need to cut the coupling off. A coupling cost $75 (2010) from Buck Algonquin. Do this by drilling holes above and along the keyway of the shaft coupling to form a continuous cut. Continue the holes right up to the flange of the coupling. Avoid drilling into the shaft (put a stop on the drill bit). When the cut is finished, the bolt up and socket method should free the coupling. Sometimes a wedge forced into the cut helps. If not, use heat and try again. I have never had to use heat at this point.
Note: if the new coupling does not fit on the anti-seize slathered shaft with a “bump fit” (machine shop jargon for it should slide in with LIGHT raps from a hammer on the stern end of the shaft), you will be reduced to pulling the rudder, removing the shaft and taking it to a machine shop to fit the new coupling to it. In which case, you can jump to the last paragraph, the one before “Good Luck!” While you are waiting for the new coupling, you can still try to remove the bearing as follows.
Okay, remember the schedule 40 PVC pipe? Slide the shaft out of the boat as far as you can (until the shaft hits the rudder). Remove the hose holding the packing gland by loosening the two hose clamps holding it to the shaft log. Cut lengths of the PVC pipe just short enough to fit onto the shaft on the inside of the boat (longest pieces possible). Slide them down the shaft until no more will fit and the last one protrudes beyond the end of the shaft on the inside of the boat. Give that last one a whack with a small sledge hammer (sledge hammer makes up for the lack of swinging room). Hopefully, a few whacks will start the cutless bearing out of the shaft log. If not, someone didn’t use anti-seize or a good waterproof grease when they installed the bearing (one that will not harm the fiberglass shaft log).
Don't keep hammering if it doesn't budge. You don't want to break the PVC pipes. Instead, seal up the outside of the shaft log. I do this by wrapping a long Ace bandage around and around the shaft and hull opening. I suppose Rescue Tape would work as well, but it would be harder to remove. Then make a funnel with some aluminum foil and pour a couple cups of vinegar down the shaft log on the inside. Wait overnight and whack the PVC pipes again. I know of one fellow who successfully used schedule 40 steel plumbing nipples four inches long instead of PVC. Your choice. The bearing should come out.
If by some terrible stroke of bad luck, the bearing still won't budge (hard to believe it wouldn’t have by now, really), you are now reduced to pulling the rudder and removing the shaft.
Once the shaft is out and before you grab the Sawzall, try one more time to whack the bearing out with longer pieces of PVC or steel pipe. It will take only two pieces of PVC this time and there will be a lot more swinging room for the small sledge hammer. If this doesn’t work and you must cut and fold the bearing out, be very careful not to cut into the shaft log with the Sawzall (almost impossible not to).
Good luck!
Cutless Bearing Removal
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