Back into UK waters – literally, with a prop wrap

by Adrian on August 19, 2012

We’re now back in UK waters and 5 miles south of Dover. We’ve been going for about 54 hours so far and have another 8 to go until Brighton.

I had to jump over the side into the North Sea earlier as we had a huge clump of rope and fishing net wrap itself around the prop.

We were about 50 miles off the coast motor-sailing along in variable winds when the engine lost power. This was the first time this has happened to us and it was a horrible feeling, suddenly hearing the engine stutter and almost stall.

We tried the ‘forwards, backwards and forwards’ treatment to try to dislodge it but it wasn’t budging, so we dropped the sail, launched the dinghy to clear the transom and I donned the wetsuit and dug out the scuba tank ready to dive in.

The tide and wind was dragging the boat at 3 knots backwards, so we weighted a long mooring line and with one of us on either side of the deck worked it along underneath the boat until it was level with the prop. We tied it on each side so that it formed a loop around the hull that I could hold onto whilst underwater.

It didn’t actually seem that cold in the water, but it was weird being underneath the pitching and rolling boat out at sea.

The prop was well and truly fouled – with a large 3-4 foot length of rope net and thick line wrapped all around it. it was relatively easy to cut it free with the sharp emergency knife I took down with me, so after 10 minutes of hacking I managed to free it and it sank away in pieces.

Job done. Shower and warm up and off we motored again.


I’m glad I had the scuba tank onboard, as I wouldn’t have liked to dive under repeatedly lots of times holding my breath each time as I’m not that great a swimmer. I know this is the normal practice, but I’m just glad I didn’t have to for my first time.

The weight belt was pretty useful also, as I was not buoyant and thus didn’t spend my time floating upwards bashing onto the bottom of the hull.

I should have taken the camera to get a photo, but was more concerned with removing the net and the boat was moving around a lot, so holding on seemed quite important.

I had to be very careful and deliberate when underneath cutting the net not to hack myself at the same time. There’s a lot of movement going on, so it would be easy to be a bit over enthusiastic and careless.

When feeding the mooring / safety
line underneath the boat it would have been easier to work it down from the bow, instead of having to drag it against the current and under the rudders from the stern. In retrospect, this would have been easy with the keel up as it was.

The whole incident took about an hour, during which we drifted about 3 miles back where we’d come from.

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