If you have chosen August for your boat holidays, get ready to accept all the problems congestion at ports and berths involves.
One among the main dangers you might run into when you sail under power within crowded marinas is that the line of a mooring buoy or even a drifting plastic bag can get twisted around your boat’s propeller, usually causing the engine to cut out.
As soon as your propeller has caught a foreign object, an unequivocal symptom will appear: suddenly, engine revs decrease and the engine immediately tends to stop. Experts recommend to disengage the gear and gas as quickly as possible in order to reduce the effort exerted on the transmission shaft because, at worst, flexible couplings might break and the situation can therefore become more serious if you don’t find a garage with the spare part you need.
If you have been promptly enough to understand the misfortune that has happened to you, I personally recommend to try, after stopping your engine, to reverse your direction of motion just for a moment. Sometimes, especially when it comes to plastic bags or large cables, this is the key to solve the problem. Otherwise, keep calm, stop and moor your boat as best as you can or, if you can, drop the anchor in a properly sheltered area.
In summer, when waters are warm ( if they are also clear, that’s better) you will certainly have no troubles in diving or finding someone in mask, fins and snorkel, armed with a sharp bladed-knife, who can free the propeller of your boat. It’s good to be properly equipped for such diving and it would be even better to have a wetsuit on board to successfully handle similar situations both at the beginning and at the end of the season.
When waters are not particularly warm, instead of a wetsuit, you can even use a close-fitting sweater, possibly made of wool, which can create a warmer layer of water all around your body. Under these conditions, as well as in rough sea, it is preferable that the diver is secured to the dock through a safety line.
If what has got twisted around the propeller is a line, it is almost always possible to solve the problem without having to dive or cut it. In the simplest cases, you only have to exert a traction with the engine idling. If the line remains stuck, you have to reach the engine and rotate the propeller shaft by hand, after having identified the direction of rotation of the line around the propeller. Patiently, you can free the propeller. Please remember that an excessive pressure on the line can damage the shaft: if the tangle is too hard and resistant, you have no choice but to dive.
One last try before diving can be made from your tender, using a boat hook, to the end of which a knife must be efficiently secured: the ideal would be a hacksaw like the one generally used to slice bread.
If diving is the only possible solution, all those who have attended a scuba diving course should consider themselves very lucky since they can use professional equipment without suffering from depth and cold temperature.
I must confess, I envy them, especially when I see aged yachtsmen equipped with scuba tanks, diving weights and all it takes to dive and work under water.
A friend of mine is one of them and, once, I asked him if I should attend a course to get a scuba certification. Without hesitation, he told me: ” The course will certainly be less expensive than a new anchor!”.
Considering that the propeller is just a little more than one meter from the water surface, is a scuba diving course equally necessary? I postpone the decision….