"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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  • Guy Robinson, Member

    I started sailing at Modern at the end of 2021 and threw myself into it, spending as much time out on the water as I could. I came to Modern with some flat water dinghy sailing experience and it was quite a transition learning to sail bigger boats in much tougher conditions. There was a lot to learn, but the Modern instructors, Club Skippers and fellow Modern sailors made learning fun and rewarding. My Modern instructors were clearly very experienced sailors and sailing with them was inspiring! I want to thank the maintenance crew and office staff for their dedication and hard work - you are the folks who make things work! There is a lot more to learn and I look forward to sailing with Modern for years to come.

    Guy Robinson
  • Jessica Zittere, Member

    The Full Moon Sail with Skipper Bob Gutsgell was Ah-Mayzing!! The group dynamic was lovely and the views spectacular. I can't say enough good things about the experience. Thanks so much for the wonderful Club Sails, they are really great.

  • Sara Jane G.

    I've taken two classes at MSS&C and was very happy with the program. This is also a great club with lots of opportunities for camaraderie and practice on the water. The boats in the fleet are fantastic and kept in tip-top shape. I highly recommend for all sailors and would-be sailors!

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(800) 995-1668

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