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Old 12-06-2009, 05:42 AM   #15
Join Date: Oct 2004
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Brenda ,

The Suction lifter pictured in the tools is actually a dent puller - used by auto-body repair shops,

this one rated for 250lb (I down graded it for marine use) It is also better because it will work on a curved surface, whereas the type used by glaziers is designed for flat glass. (And because its not marine it's cheaper and sold in single units)


Thanks for the input on not starting the engine until one is sure that the shaft and prop are properly aligned.


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Old 12-06-2009, 05:34 PM   #16
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Oh! nifty that it can work on curved surfaces. Ours are small enough (4" diameter or so) that they work fine along the waterline of the hull--and most other places, too. They're also quite cheap. Can't remember the rating but know they work well for our purposes. I'd be likely NOT to hang tools from them, though. Rather, keeping tools on a short lanyard on my person if at all possible.

"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

What we're doing - The sailing life aboard and the Schooner Chandlery.

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Old 12-06-2009, 10:07 PM   #17
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I'm certainly no expert, but...

We picked-up a big wad of weed & poly line at 0400 while motorsailing off Panama last year which required me to go over to clear it. At dawn, I went over the side to examine the situation while harnessed in and my wife tending me on a sheet winch. One glance told me what was needed and I got back aboard and gathered the following tools: a simple bathroom plunger, a pair of gloves and a serrated bread knife on a lanyard. Next, we hove-to and I went back over the side. Heaving-to greatly stabalized the boat and slowed us way down. Bathroom Plungers work well for gripping the hull and are cheap as chips and our bread knife has sawn through all sorts of lines over the years. I was done in about 20 minutes. As mentioned above, it's a good idea to try and un-wrap the line as much as possible first before cutting. We purchased a half dozen plungers in Panama ($1.25 each) and can now afford to give one away to fellow divers on occasion. I haven't read the first-hand account - but it seems to me that somebody simply forgot to tie a stopper knot on the end of the line that went overboard or didn't secure the halyard to the mast... in the first place. Simple seamanship is what usually prevents these simple problems from developing into potential disasters.

To Life!

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Old 12-08-2009, 07:13 PM   #18
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I love plungers Kirk,

We have two small short ones for use in sinks, etc, $1.49 ea at the Home Depot. They are perfect for clearing deck drains, cockpit drains, and of course all other drains. We have 6 deck drains that often clog with sawdust, dirt, leaves, etc and it is hard to clear them w/o lots of pressure water--unless you have one of these nice little plungers. Works a charm Our cockpit drains are huge 2" drains but the deck drains are only 3/4" because the deck is supposed to clear with the big freeing ports in the bulwarks which start about 1" above the deck level and these little guys are just for "little water"
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

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Old 12-11-2009, 11:58 PM   #19
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I had one experience with this. On a power boat at anchor off Catalina, the captain wanted to back up. I pointed to the dinghy and said "Captain - the dinghy is behind you." He said "That's OK," put it in reverse, and wrapped the painter around the starboard shaft.

So some detail:

1) He didn't stop very soon.

2) With two engines we would have made San Diego safely.

3) The water was warm.

4) We didn't have scuba. Just a mask and snorkel.

5) There were almost no waves.

6) The day was clear and calm.

It took a lot of dives and a long time to get it all off. The tool which worked best was side cutters. First I clipped the line where it left the shaft in both directions so that only the wrapped line remained. One end was attached to the dinghy, the other to a cleat on deck.

Then I tried the fishing knife. It was slow going, but I made steady progress. Then the captain handed down the side cutters and that helped. They were good quality, large, and sharp. I would do three dives, then catch my breath. It took about a half hour to finish.

We might have been better off cutting only one end of the painter and pulling on the other while trying to turn the shaft. I don't know how this would have worked out.

We didn't check the shaft, but we didn't have a problem.

I have watched people dig their car wheels into soft sand. Human tendency seem to be to keep digging. The right thing to do is to stop and fix the problem before trying more power. I am guessing that people tend to do the same with wrapped shafts.
I've Contributed to the Cruisers Wiki: San Diego
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Old 01-14-2010, 01:58 AM   #20
Join Date: Dec 2009
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Great ideas, but before either getting in the water, or rotating shaft by hand, make sure the engine battery is shut off so the engine can not be started. If we have people on board who want to help, we have them sit on the comfy west marine adjustable recliner seats on their hands where we can see them. So many otherwise 'unusual' events are avoided.

Whatever your original problem was, if you hurt someone, it is much worse...

As to cutting off, never fun, the most effective tool, especially if the shaft was moving when it happened (why we have given up on shaft generators) synthetic lines melt and the fastest (safest) way to get the mess off is with a pointed end hacksaw with coarse teeth. One go and its off. I have used the suction cup 'hold ons' when removing line while hove to, and I just floated along with the boat (we had sailed up to the boat that needed help into the lee at cap brett) and then assessed if the motion was too wild to do the job, if too rough, get what you can with your boathook into reach, and then when in better conditions, pop down and clear the rest.
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Old 02-13-2010, 02:23 PM   #21
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I've had two episodes where line wrapped around my shaft and both of them involved having to dive on the boat (at a later time) with scuba gear.

One story is described on this page, another is described here.
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Old 07-07-2010, 05:43 AM   #22
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A simple solution which I have used a couple of times in the last forty years or so is to get some one to hold the end of the line that is attached to the prop out over the side with finger tips making sure that the line is free to run.

Hold the line out over the side and pull it up gently with finger tips, now with a person in the cock pit who can see it clearly, start the engine in neutral and idling then very very carefully put the engine into gear and pull it out of gear again.

If the line continued to coil around the shaft /prop then put it in the opposite gear then it will uncoil. The line must be held carefully so it can be released if it wants to take the holder with it. It must also be held at right angles to where the propeller is.

I have used this method twice so far and it worked beautifully each time.

Getting in the water at sea is not to be taken lightly and I would not recomend it unless it is flat calm and no wind, a friend once used this method to free his prop and was nearly killed when he accidentaly stabbed himself in the head when his boat rolled.
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Old 07-03-2014, 10:11 PM   #23
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Another good thread or topic!

I read all the previous posts. Enjoyed the stories and the thoughts you all shared.

My experience with this was out in pacific half way from Hawaii to California.

Yarn coming.....

It was morning watch (others asleep below) and as part of diligence I looked behind the boat. I was surprised to see a very large bright green sea dragon following our boat. It was about 50 feet long! It swam with an undulating motion of its tail. It had multiple bulging eyes that surfaces as it rolled in our wake. Ugly thing!

Of course this turned out to be a large section of green fish net with a few plastic floats, it was about 50 feet long that had caught on the prop. It was very dense stuff, must have been deep gill net.

We hove to, one of the crew put on a tether and mask and jumped over to cut us free.

Lots of tools have been mentioned.

For cutting tightly wrapped lines such as a jib sheet, a hack saw would be my first choice. Long strokes make faster work. Second choice would be long serrated blade (the bread knife sound very good). straight edge divers knifes are often dull stainless or have very small serrated surface, so would not be my first choice.

For cutting nets, I would use a different tool. Small lines used in nets are best cut using heavy "scissors" which makes it easier to do the cutting with one hand. So pack a pair of specialty vey heavy duty scissors or pruning shears (as used by gardeners). Really, when under water, heavy "shears" work better than most knives and are faster on loose stuff. After getting tangled once scuba diving I dove with a pair instead of a knife.

I like the plunger idea and suction cup too. I can see how those would be handy.

But I have another idea. If the boat does not have a plunger on board, I would pass another line under the hull and snug it close to prop, sort of like a belt around the boat. This becomes a hand hold that goes around the boat from port to starboard and makes it easier to stay in place if there is current or slight swell even if coming up for air or break or communication. Not too tight to prevent the diver from getting a grip. The diver goes up and back down holding the line. Remove the line after the diver is back aboard.

Others have mentioned some of the risks: head injury from hull coming down on diver, entanglement, hooks in fishing lines, and premature engine starting. Good to be aware of those.

Safe sailing!
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Old 12-15-2015, 03:27 AM   #24
Join Date: Dec 2015
Home Port: Las Vegas
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Default Use rubber suction cupped gripper

Several years ago I ended up with the spinnaker sheet wrapped around my prop in the Singlehanded Guadalupe Race/// Pulled in behind the island (lee side) and went overboard with knife, hooka and rubber 'gripper (to hold onto the boat while it bucked up and down - thereby keeping myself away from the hull). Hated to cut the high-tech line, but figured it was better to have a free prop with all the MX freighters around not using lights and sailing under autopilot... didn't have to use the engine on the trip back up to CA, but felt a lot safer knowing that I could if needed.

Only stupid thing I did was not tie myself to the boat...sails were up and luffing... when I got back onboard and realized my stupidity, I cursed myself for the next hour while sailing back out into 25 knots upwind for the next few days. Suppose I could have swum to the island, but Robinson Winkel was not who I wanted to be.
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Old 12-15-2015, 08:48 AM   #25
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OUR EXPERIENCE - We were on a mooring buoy just off of the Caves of Norman Island, BVI. As we attempted to motor up to the buoy to release, we got our prop shaft tangled in another buoy's submerged tether. These were our actions: 1 - Shift into Neutral immediately / 2 - Assess the situation - With the backwind coming over the cliffs, there was an onshore breeze toward the rocks 100 ft away, however the snagged prop was holding us - Don't do anything to screw this up until another mooring method was in place / 3 - Deploy the main anchor via the dinghy offshore and into the wind. Ensure that it is set and the rode is taught / 4 - Send a crewman over the side to deal with the line around the prop shaft / 5 - When clear, start the engine and ensure that it is operational / 6 - Retrieve the anchor and motor away with another experience in the memory banks. George - gts1544
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Old 08-08-2016, 08:54 PM   #26
Join Date: Jun 2016
Home Port: Royston
Posts: 99

Suction lifter can be another name for a toilet plunger, which works well.
I have a blade at a 45 degree angle, bolted to my deadwood , just touching my prop hub, around which a line would have to tighten, in order to warp around the prop shaft. Works well on half inch line , but has problems with1 1/4 inch poly steel.
I think a hunter's gut hook on a pole would be handy for cutting line or nets off a prop.
A long enough pole would let you do the cutting with your snorkel out of the water the whole time, eliminating the need to hold your breath, or get under the boat.

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