"Prop Wrap" - It's Easy to Prevent the Costly Consequences of a Fouled Propellor | Modern Sailing

"Prop Wrap" - It's Easy to Prevent the Costly Consequences of a Fouled Propellor

A dock line dangling in the water can too easily ruin a perfectly good day of sailing - and worse. A fouled propeller often comes with costly consequences. The good news is that "prop wrap" is very easy to prevent.

What are the possible consequences of a prop wrap?

  • Loss of auxiliary propulsion and secondary accidents (collision, grounding, etc) that may occur due to propulsion loss
  • Needing a tow back to the dock
  • A professional diver must be hired to cut lines away and inspect for damage
  • Breakage or distortion of the propeller, prop shaft, cutlass bearing, and/or engine mounts
  • Haul-out, extensive repairs, and downtime, which can add up to thousands of dollars in costs
  • Charterers are liable for the cost of tow, dive, and repairs when the prop is fouled by lines aboard the boat.

What are some of the most common causes of prop wrap?

Dock lines are very common culprits. Due to their length, spring lines are the most common type of dock line to foul propellers. Sheets can also foul the prop if they go overboard.

While underway, always keep a lookout for crab pots, discarded fishing nets, and other types of debris in the water. Keep in mind that a spinning propeller tends to draw in anything that comes near it.

What are the signs that a propeller is fouled?

When shifting the engine into gear, the engine vibrates abnormally or abruptly clunks to a halt. There may also be rattling or grinding noises coming from underneath the boat.

If you suspect that your boat’s propeller is fouled, do not try to force the engine into gear. Instead, take immediate action to prevent a secondary accident. (See our article Handling Emergencies Part II: Propulsion Loss and 10 Steps to Stay Safe Until Help Arrives.)

What is the best way to prevent prop wrap? 

Here is what Modern Sailing recommends:

  • During your pre-sail crew briefing, emphasize the importance of keeping lines out of the water with your crew. It is a critical safety matter. 
  • Bring all dock lines with you. These lines may become necessary to you and your crew in the event of an emergency.
  • When departing the dock slip, bring dock lines on deck as quickly as possible. Until you're ready to coil and stow the line, ensure its bulk is laid near the center of the deck well away from the toe rail.
  • Remove all dock lines from deck cleats, lifelines, or pulpits and stow in cockpit lockers. If a dock line is stiff and difficult to remove from its deck cleat, pour some water on the line to often soften it enough to work it loose. Do not tie your lines in a "larkshead" on the lifeline or pulpit. Due to the high risk of a larkshead coming undone and leading to a prop wrap (we've seen it many times), this practice is now forbidden by Modern Sailing charter policy. The best practice is to stow the lines in a locker or below deck.
  • Coil your dock lines neatly before stowing so you won't find them tangled up when you need them most.

Enjoy watching this helpful video from West Marine on how to neatly coil lines for safe stowing.

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  • Rolf Zingg

    Since many, many years, I had the dream to sail underneath the Golden Gate bridge. On October 14th last year, my dream became true. Thanks to our dear friend Aaron Fritz who made it possible and organized this cruise for us. With this adventure I was able to achieve one more milestone on my sailing career.

    Finally on the water, it was great! Full moon made the flows even stronger and it was like sailing in a washing machine.

    I did my sailing education in the English Channel, where the situation with the wind and flows is comparable to the San Francisco Bay. So I felt pretty much "at home" being on the helm in the Bay.

    I hope our skipper Stan Lander enjoyed this day cruise too. We, definitely did! It was an unforgettable experience for all of us.

    A very big thank you to all of you who made it possible, that my dream became reality! Also thank you for the MSC flag I got at the end of the day. It found it's place in my study, where I can see it daily.

  • Mike, Santa Rosa, California

    All of the courses and my instructors (JT and Stan) were extremely professional and full of knowledge and experience. I found I was able to learn from their experiences beyond the scope of the courses, and look forward to future opportunities to do so. I would highly recommend Modern Sailing to anyone.

  • Emma & George Stubbs, Sausalito

    We just took our ASA 106 at a school in Rhode Island as we prepare for 6 months of cruising in the Caribbean. The class was great, but more than anything it made us really appreciate the quality of teaching and rigor at Modern Sailing. Even though we were the newest to sailing, the group seemed to think that we had the best fundamentals. We felt very well prepared and we see why Modern Sailing has the reputation it does.

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