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A Few Thoughts
And Facts About Propellers
People think of speed
first, but usually acceleration is most important. You want to feel the
acceleration when you push on the throttle.
When you want a little more speed, a mile per hour or two faster so you
can pull ahead of your buddy's boat or just a quicker hole shot… You
could get more speed or a better hole shot by switching props! But…
Most of the time a good prop shop can tweak the prop that you are using
for less then a 100 bucks instead of spending 500 bucks on a new prop…
But…There's a trick to it.
always wants an ironclad answer on what prop to use… But finding the
answer is always a trial-and-error process. Well with that
said… There are a thousand props and a thousand different variations in
pitch, diameter, rake and cup. The question is; How do you find a good
starting point for improving your performance? One suggestion is to go
online to find test reports for your boat and motor. Look for a similar
hull of nearly the same weight and horsepower and use their performance
reports for a baseline propeller. But you still have to buy new props
to experiment with. Another suggestion would be to contact your local
propeller repair shop and get their suggestions.
Some Terms You Need To Know
What is "rake?" A prop has positive rake if its leading edge
leans toward the stern of the prop hub's centerline. Negative rake means
the blade edge leans forward. Positive rake tends to grab the water and
pull it toward the center of the prop. Then what does "cup" mean?
A prop is cupped when the trailing edge of the blade is curved backward.
Cupping tends to pull water to the center of the prop, improving bite on
the water and helping with the acceleration. How does "Lift"
help with speed? Lift comes from the downward pull of the prop turning
in the water. With enough "bow lift" from the prop in order to get as
much of the boat out of the water as possible can give you better speed
Specified rpm: Every engine has a specified rpm range. Choose
the prop that gives the performance you want without exceeding either
the high or the low end of that range.
Pitch: Theoretical distance a prop will move through the water
in one revolution if there is no slipping.
Diameter: Distance from the center of the hub to the tip of the
blade times two. Large diameters sometimes give stronger hookup for
Cavitations: Water passing over the leading edge of the prop
vaporizes from the pressure change, then de-vaporizes while striking the
trailing edge of the blade or the gear case. Cavitations can erode the
alloy much like a sand blaster.
Ventilation: With-In turbulent water, the prop can grab air
pockets, causing it to lose thrust. Larger-fluke props with increased
diameter that have less rake and cup can be more forgiving on turbulent
hulls like pontoons and tri-toons.
Ventilation holes: On performance craft like bass boats,
ventilation holes can increase the acceleration by causing air to form
around the hub, letting the prop spin up faster.
Aluminum props: Less expensive metal is more forgiving on
impact, but it flexes, slowing acceleration.
Stainless-steel props: Thinner, stiffer blades give better
acceleration but are less forgiving in impact.
Even with more information about props, there are a lot of variables to
wade through… Even when the experts agree on a few guide lines it is
still hard to understand all of the ins and outs of propping out one’s
boat. So… Here are some good starting points for maximizing your
Pontoons: Pontoons boats create a lot of turbulence ahead of the
prop, and because of the hull shape, prop design doesn't impact lift
much. To keep the prop performing to the max, try these suggestions; Use
a wide diameter prop with a positive rake and little or no cupping.
Bow-Riders and Deck Boats: These boats are about fun, so
acceleration to pull skiers and tubes takes priority over top speed. Use
cupping to improve hole shot and or a positive rake for added lift and a
moderate pitch for acceleration.
Bass and Performance Boats: Are The Need For Speed; Go long on
pitch and forget a snappy hole shot. The goal is to get the most mph
from rpm. Use cupping to improve acceleration rake for strong hookup
with long pitch for maximum speed and ventilation holes in hub for
better hole shoot.
Offshore Boats: These days it’s all about fuel economy and
mid-range control are most important. Saltwater is dense and tends to
slow the boat down. Use the following, lower pitch to handle load and
fuel. A four-blade prop to assist in lifting the heavier boat rig on a
plain with cupping for acceleration and some positive rake for better
top end speed.
Prevent Outboard Breakdowns with Simple Maintenance
your outboard in tip-top shape
can be done even if you're not a mechanic. There is nothing worse than
trying to run to shore to flee an incoming storm and hearing that
all-too-familiar cough and sputter from the outboard. More often than
not, just a little TLC and preventative maintenance could have prevented
the fact that you are now bobbing around like a cork, pounded by waves
and soaked by the torrential downpour.
If you are not a mechanic, get a reliable one and start every season
with a professional tune-up. You should have the mechanic test the
spark, run a compression test, pressure test the lower unit, check the
seals and water pump, test the warning alarms and, in general, go over
the motor in such a manner as to eliminate most causes of breakdown.
After you have had your annual check-up there are many things that you
can do to help assure that you make it through the season without being
every outing, flush out the engine. This doesn’t just apply to
salt water outings but to fresh water as well. If the lake or river you
operate on isn’t as clear as the water from your garden hose you need to
flush. If you ran aground and kicked up some sand, you need to flush. It
won’t take long, ten to fifteen minutes, and during that time you can
check out some other items.
flush the engine you will need a set of "rabbit ears" (two flexible
rubber seals connected with a metal clamp). Simply slip this apparatus
onto the lower unit where the water is picked up and attach a garden
hose. Start up the engine and let the water pump do the rest. (Be sure
to stay clear of the prop and make sure no one tries to shift into gear)
While the motor is being flushed, check the water pump to
make sure you have good water flow. Carefully put your finger through
the stream of water. It may be warm, but it shouldn’t be hot. If the
output is not strong, you may have some debris stuck in the outflow
tube. You should immediately shut down the engine to prevent overheating
and damage. A small piece of wire or similar object can be inserted up
into the flow tube and worked back and forth. Start the engine again and
check the output. If that doesn’t solve the problem you may need a new
you have a carburetorated outboard engine you should disconnect the fuel
line and allow the engine to burn all the fuel in the carburetor. DO
NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE A DIRECT INJECTED ENGINE or IF YOU HAVE AN EFI
ENGINE such as an Mecury Optimax or Evirude
ETEC. By the way, make sure you always use fresh fuel. You
should not use fuel that has been sitting around for over 60 days. That
means; at the end of your season take the fuel in your tanks to the
proper recycling authority or just use it your lawn mower. Don’t save it up for next year. That's an
invitation for disaster. Other fuel related items you should check are:
Check the fuel line for cracks and worn spots
Make sure the fuel primer bulb is not cracked and is pliable
Make sure the fuel line fittings seat properly and don’t leak
Check the clamps on the fuel line for rust or corrosion
Check the fuel tanks for damage and corrosion
Check the tank vent to make sure it aspirates properly (many a mechanic
has handed a boater a bill for services after he simply opened the tank
Check for water in the fuel
Once you have finished the flushing and run the engine out of fuel, be
sure to turn off the key and, if you have a battery switch, turn it off.
Open up the engine cover and check for fuel or water leaks. If you find
leaks you should consult your mechanic. Be sure to wipe everything down
and spray with a anti-corrosive like WD 40 or Quick-lube. Be sure to
lubricate all the moving parts such as the shift and throttle cables,
carburetor valves etc. Check your owner's manual for details.
Once you have performed your post-trip preventative maintenance program,
replace the engine cover and wipe the outside down. If you have a canvas
or plastic cover for the engine you should keep it in place between
Run your Engine 30 minutes every thirty days in the
summer or winter... This will prevent water pump impeller forming and
most time related fuel issues.
Hope this helps and decreases your chance of engine failure in the
The Basic of
Basics of Gas/Diesel Fuel and Boats
much do you need?
How much fuel you need to carry depends on the design of your boat and
the intended use. In a sailing vessel, for instance, a 50 gallon tank of
diesel feeding a 25 hp auxiliary engine cursing at 80 percent of top
speed could propel a 33 foot sailboat 300 miles at 7 knots in calm
weather. That same amount of fuel would take a twin engine
40 foot sport-fisher only about 33 miles at 40 knots. This boat would
need 450 gallons to cover 300 miles at that speed. Plaining
hulls need much more power than displacement hulls and use more fuel per
mile. However their ability to carry fuel is limited because their
plaining ability is affected by weight. Many naval
architects build in as little tankage as possible taking into
consideration the design of the boat, reasonable usage and the distance
between refueling stops in and around its normal area of operation.
much does it weigh?
Gasoline weighs about 6.1 pounds per gallon. Diesel weights about 7.1
pounds per gallon. Both gasoline and diesel engines use about 0.6 pound
of fuel per horsepower per hour. On average, diesel fuel contains about
140,000 BTUs per gallon or 10 percent more energy than the same volume
Where does it go when it is consumed?
Your engine uses the fuel you purchase in several ways.
percent is given up to the atmosphere in heat
percent is given up in heat and vibration absorbed by surrounding water
percent is given up to overcome wave resistance
percent to overcome wave formation and prop wash against the hull
percent to overcome skin friction
percent is wasted in friction at the propeller shaft
percent to overcome air resistance
This leaves about 13-14 percent of the original energy to turn the
much do gasoline and diesel engines consume?
Diesel engines consume about 1 gallon per hour for every 18 hp used. You
can estimate the number of gallons consumed per hour by multiplying
horsepower used by 0.055.maximum available horsepower. Most marine
engines are designed to run continuously at between 60 and 75 percent of
maximum speed. Diesels tend to be more toward the top of the range.
Gasoline four stroke inboard engines need about 1 gallon per hour for
every 10 hp used. The number of gallons consumed per hour can be
estimated by multiplying horsepower used by 0.100. (see note above)
Outboards might use considerably more since two stroke motors seem to
have a greater thirst than four stroke motors with exception of the
about fuel economy?
Any attempt to force a displacement hull beyond its maximum theoretical
hull speed brings exponentially higher fuel consumption for minimal gain
in speed. On the other hand, slowing down a little almost always is
rewarded by gains in economy, and thus range. This same principle
applies to high-speed plaining hulls as well but only up to the point at
which they start to come off plane. Once off plane they tend to lose
about fuel reserves?
Use the old rule of thumb; Use one-third of the fuel in your tank to get
there, one-third to get back and save the last third as an emergency
Taking Care of Your Boat & Motor Also
Means the Trailer Too.
Spring is here and now and you want to take your boat out for a day of fun. Last winter
you did your winterization on your boat and motor, but what about the
trailer. Follow this simple routine to make sure the trailer
transports your boat this spring, this summer, this fall and beyond this
Wash and Lubricate: Clean your trailer with an all-purpose cleaner that
includes a degreaser to remove corrosive salt water, chemicals and dirt
before putting it to bed for the winter. Even a galvanized trailer
should be rinsed thoroughly to prevent rust if it's seen salt water.
Lubricate moving parts such as rollers, winches and other components
with lightweight oil to ward off rust.
Remove Rust Spots and Repaint: All rust on the trailer frame should be
sanded and painted to stop the deteriorating process before it gets
worse. If a structural component appears to be badly rusted, repair or
replace it. Have it inspected by an expert if you're uncertain.
Protect Your Tires: It's best to put your trailer on blocks and remove
the wheels, especially if you're storing the trailer outdoors.
Otherwise, your tires could develop perpetual flat spots due to
prolonged inactivity. By storing the tires inside, away from sunshine
and moisture, you'll also keep the rubber from deteriorating. Another
advantage is that you'll avoid trailer theft. If you store
tires off the trailer but still mounted on rims, inflate them to 10-15 psi. If you leave your tires on the trailer outside, cover the tires
with wood or plastic, and move the trailer periodically to avoid those
Check Wiring and Connectors: If wires are exposed, either replace
the wire or tape it with electrical tape; exposed wires left untreated
during the long off-season will deteriorate, requiring more work in the
spring. Put a small amount of electrical socket grease on plug contacts
and light bulb bases to prevent rust and corrosion.
This will ensure
that no water lingers during the off-season. If water rests on bearing
surfaces for a few weeks without the wheel being turned, rust and
bearing damage will begin, and you'll have a bigger problem next spring
How to prep your outboard engine from top to bottom.
thorough were you when winterizing your outboard last fall? If you did
it right, you should be able to start up and go. But if you didn’t
follow proper winterization and preventive maintenance procedures, your
spring start might sputter. So before you launch, here’s a mix of fixes
that should catch any autumn oversights so your engine emerges from
winter unscathed. Let’s start at the top. Pop the cowling. Depending on your storage
situation, you never know what’s underneath—check for nests made by
critters that crawled in for a winter home. Make sure the wiring,
valves, and vents haven’t been compromised.
Due to the volatility of modern gasoline, fuel begins to break down
after 30 days. So if you didn’t drain or run out most of your gas, you may need
your injectors or carburetor rebuilt. It’s best to store your boat with
a full fuel tank to keep condensation to a minimum. But if you forgot,
fill the tank to the brim now to dilute any moisture before running the
engine for any length of time. Fill the tank and add a fuel conditioner.
Be prepared for multiple water separator changes until you’ve burned
Next, start the engine on “earmuffs,” or take a quick ride. Turning
over the engine and running it for a few minutes should burn off any
remaining lubricant and protectant you squirted into the cylinders to
prevent rust. Your plugs should be changed after this, as they will be
fouled. While your engine is running, check for a steady stream from the
water pump. You might have flow interrupted from debris clogging the
outlet or from an impeller whose blades have taken a set during storage.
Clean the hole with a paper clip to unclog any detritus, and replace the
impeller if necessary. Elsewhere, if you didn’t do it already, grease the pivot and steering
joints to provide lubrication for free movement of the tilt and trim and
steering. You should replace the lube in the lower unit, too, if you
didn’t do it last fall. Check the sacrificial anodes and check the skeg.
And, finally, pull off the prop and grease the prop-shaft and check the
Another consideration: With some EFI engines, the internal computer
monitor can slowly drain your battery—the computer draws juice even if
the engine isn’t in use. If you forgot to disconnect it last fall,
you’ll need to charge your starter battery.
Pulling and backing a boat trailer is the hardest part to boating. Ramp
courtesy should be followed during peak ramping times that occur usually
on weekends. The most courteous option is to drop off the tow driver at
the ramp and wait near by until the trailer is backed down to the ramp.
The trailer should be backed so the bow will be completely out of the
water when the boat is completely on the trailer. If you have carpet
have the driver back the trailer in until about a foot is showing.
This helps to align
the boat on the trailer so it will not rest off center once out of the
water. If you have a rollers back until the front four are all that's
left out of the water. Idle the boat towards the trailer centering on
the winch, and once stopped, attach the line and winch the boat up on
the last foot or so, shut the engine down, TILT UP THE MOTOR, and you
are ready to pull out.
st running in order to get up to the bow and winch up). Shut down, tilt
out and hop in the vehicle and pull out.
What every smart boater should bring aboard, besides a first-aid kit.
EQUIPMENT. Has a nice ring to it,
right? But when you think about it,
required safety equipment is short for “minimum required equipment”—the bare
necessities. Consider flares. Sure, the required three flares are better
than none, but they provide just six minutes of attention-getting fire. And,
of course, those Type II and III PFDs meet regulations, but wouldn’t you
rather be strapped into a Type I device if you found yourself overboard
offshore? That’s why experienced boaters don’t stop with the required Coast
Guard package. They beef up their boats with extra defenses. So besides more
flares and upgraded PFDs, what should you bring aboard? Find a place to stow
these seven smart safety upgrades.
 JUMPER PACK.
This battery with hard-wired jumper cables can get you started if your
boat’s batteries decide to quit. Choose a model with a 12-volt receptacle so
you can power a handheld VHF or GPS from it, too. And, not that you’d
forget, but keep it charged.
 BACKUP ELECTRONICS.
Handheld VHF radios
and GPS receivers are cheap insurance against disaster. Keep the batteries
fresh and purchase a 12-volt power cord for each. For the VHF, buy an
adapter that converts the radio’s TNC or BNC connector to a PL-259 connector
($15 at a marine electronics store) to connect to your boat’s antenna and
achieve additional range. Even if you have the most sophisticated
electronics suite around, bring paper to back up the paper-free. Paper
charts don’t require power and can help you give better information to the
tow company or rescuers.
 FILTERS AND BELTS. Two of the most
common causes of breakdown are the cheapest and easiest to fix. Adjustable
emergency belts ($40 at West Marine) can save your bacon. So can a pair of
panty hose: Just stretch them over the pulleys and knot them off. You may be
embarrassed when the guy at the drugstore says, “Sure, they’re for your
wife,” but they’ll get you home. Carry at least two backup fuel filters.
Even with a highly contaminated tank that stalls your engine, you can swap
out filters as they clog. You may not make it all the way home, but you’ll
at least make it somewhere. And don’t forget the filter wrench. Gluing or
taping a strip of sandpaper on the inside of the metal strap will give the
wrench a better grip on slippery canisters.
 FOOD AND WATER. Even if you’re not
reenacting Master and Commander, something to eat and drink sure
makes waiting for the tide to float you off a sandbar more tolerable. Stow
bottled water and some foil-wrapped high-energy or protein bars aboard. They
keep forever and will stave off hunger in a pinch.
 SLIPPERY STUFF. Having extra engine oil
with you is a no-brainer. But don’t forget transmission fluid (gear lube for
stern drives) and hydraulic fluid for steering systems and trim tabs.
 RADAR REFLECTOR. It’s comforting to know
that when you’re adrift, dead in the water, your boat is lighting up the screen
of any passing container ship or tug like a Christmas tree. Plus, it helps
rescuers and towboats find you quicker. A serviceable one costs about $50.
 DITCH BAG. Sometimes also referred to as
an “escape kit” or “fast getaway kit,” it’s simply a watertight fanny pack
containing a submersible handheld VHF radio, a signal mirror, several chemical
light sticks, a whistle, and some foil packets of water purchased at a
mountaineering shop. Strap it on when the going gets tough. But, we hope, if you
bring aboard the other seven, you won’t need it.