Cruising Tips: Free a Line from a Prop

Eventually everyone wraps a line around a prop. I was told this on my first-ever job as a captain—leading teenagers on liveaboard dive-training trips in the Leeward Islands—and bragged about being the only skipper not to have done so.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

SEAMANSHIP

All Wrapped Up

Eventually, everyone wraps a line around a prop. I was told this on my first-ever job as a captain—leading teenagers on liveaboard dive-training trips in the Leeward Islands—and bragged about being the only skipper not to have done so. On the last day of the last trip, motorsailing a catamaran up the east coast of St. Martin, my arrogance finally caught up with me. I saw a fish pot disappear between the hulls and before I could cut the throttle we had wrapped the starboard propeller. And yes, it has happened since.

Most of the time your engine will give you hints as to what is going on. There may be heavy clunking, extreme vibration or a complete engine shutdown. In all cases, you should shut the engine down immediately, stop what you are doing, and think. Many sailboats have folding or feathering props, and in some instances, the prop may not be wrapped, but instead is not properly oriented. The boat, when put in gear, will vibrate badly at all engine speeds. If this happens and you do not think you have hit anything, try shifting into forward and reverse, back and forth, to try and get the prop to unstick itself.

If the prop is wrapped, try and maneuver the boat to a safe place under sail. Anchor if you can. Issue a security call on the VHF so that any nearby traffic understands your situation. Only dive overboard if you have a mask and fins, the water is clear enough to see, and the wave action is calm. If you’re at sea in a swell, wearing an old bike or hockey helmet is a good idea. Do not jump overboard unless you are attached to the boat and someone is watching you.

Whatever the conditions, you’ll need a good knife and some patience. Wear gloves, and watch out for barnacles. They can cause nasty infections if they cut you. Once you cut away the line, gently test the engine and running gear to ensure no damage was done. A severely wrapped prop can bend a prop shaft, so do not assume all is well.

Related

DUFOUR-530_NAVIGATION_009

Boat Review: Dufour 530

Dufour Yachts seems to have shifted its strategy with the introduction of the new 530. Previously, the French builder maintained two lines: Performance and Grand Large, with the latter targeted at the cruising crowd. With the Dufour 530, however, Dufour decided to combine the ...read more

210913-11HRT-SKIPPER-PORTRAITS-VC-122

11th Hour Christens Two IMOCAs, Hits a Snag

This week has been a big one for the American-founded, sustainability-centric ocean racing team 11th Hour Racing. In addition to christening their two new boats, the team also took them out for a quick test ride—against some of the most intense IMOCA 60 skippers in the world. ...read more

01-LEAD-DSCF3091

Clewless in the Pacific

Squalls are well known to sailors who cruise the middle Latitudes. Eventually, you become complacent to their bluster. But squalls vary in magnitude, and while crossing from Tahiti to Oahu, our 47ft Custom Stevens sloop paid the price for carrying too much canvass as we were ...read more

Nigel

SAIL’s Nigel Calder Talks Electrical Systems at Trawlerfest Baltimore

At the upcoming Trawlerfest Baltimore, set for Sept. 29-Oct. 3, SAIL magazine regular contributor Nigel Calder will give the low down on electrical systems as part of the show’s seminar series.  The talk will be Saturday, October 2 at 9am. Electrical systems are now the number ...read more

5ae5b8ce-3113-4236-927b-f795be4ae091

Bitter End Yacht Club Announces Reopening

Four years after being decimated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Bitter End Yacht Club is set to reopen for the Winter 2022 season. Hailed as one of the best anchorages in the Caribbean and built by sailors, for sailors, this island outpost in the BVI has been a favorite with ...read more

01-LEAD-'21.05.01_Jay-&-Mira

Cruising: Bluewater Pollywogs

Bluewater sailing is 25 percent actually sailing and 75 percent learning how to live on a boat at sea, in constant motion and with no chance to get off the roller coaster. I cannot over-emphasize how difficult normal daily functions become at sea, even on nice, calm days. ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_0078

Refurbishing Shirley Rose: Part 2

If you missed the first installment, click here. Thankfully, the deck and cockpit of my decades-old Santana 27, Shirley Rose, were in pretty good shape. The balsa core, in particular, was for the most part nice and solid. Nonetheless, there was still a fair bit of work to do. ...read more

orca

Orca Encounters on the Rise

This week’s confrontation between a pod of orcas and the Nauticat 44 ketch Tuuletar which left the boat rudderless is just the latest in a string of encounters with orcas off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, over 50 of these encounters have been reported, half of ...read more