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Thread: Folding or Feathering Prop?

  1. #1
    Sustaining Member Pat C.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Denison Texas, Lake Texoma

    Folding or Feathering Prop?

    Does anyone have any recommendations or preferences regarding switching from a fixed 2 blade prop? Any concerns or warnings from experience or brand recommendations? Thoughts appreciated, thanks.
    Waratah, Ericson 35-3, Hull 126

  2. #2
    1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada on Vancouver Island
    We have had a two blade Varifold/Brunton folding propeller on our E30+ for the past 11 years, and would recommend it highly. It used to be that the blades on a folding prop would not always open, or open together, but now they are geared, so they work together to open, so I have never had that problem. It is important to keep barnacles and growth out of the gear area, and on the propeller as a whole, as it has moving parts which will not move as freely (and fold under sail) if it is fouled with stuff.

    I figure that it increases my boat speed by about a half knot compared with a regular non-folding propeller. Also, when folded, it doesn't pick up weeds as much as an open propeller would.

    I have read reviews on them, and they now indicate that this (and similar) folding propellers work just as effectively in powering the boat. My boat doesn't do well at first in reverse due to substantial prop walk, but once underway in reverse, it's fine. I don't know if it would be any different with a non-folding regular propeller. While I have a two-bladed one, they do make them with three folding blades as well. I don't know how much difference that would make in forward or reverse.

    In summary, although they aren't cheap, I would recommend it.

    Last edited by Frank Langer; 10-12-2017 at 09:09 AM.

  3. #3
    Moderator Christian Williams's Avatar
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    Oct 2012
    Los Angeles
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    I have a fixed three-blade, but have read this survey many times. I am the "type of person" who would ordinarily want the best sailing possible. But I am also the "type of person" who turns on the engine when the boat speed drops off--which is where folding props really shine (at hull speed I figure prop drag becomes irrelevant).

    They are certainly a marvelous bit of kit, and the temptation persists.
    Last edited by Christian Williams; 10-12-2017 at 09:31 AM.
    Thelonious II, E381 hull 513 (1984) Universal 5432
    Table of Contents for Thelonious Blog here
    "Alone Together--the Book" trailer here

  4. #4
    Contributing Member II
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    New Jersey
    I have a 2 blade folding Martec prop on my boat, and on a former boat had a 3 blade feathering Maxprop. I would recommend either for the performance under sail, especially in light wind. As mentioned by Christian, in strong winds the improved performance is probably not noticeable, especially for a cruiser. Between the Martec and the Maxprop, the Maxprop performs better in reverse with less prop walk and more stopping power when shifting from forward into reverse. I believe I also got more power and top end speed with the Maxprop, but because it was on different boats its hard to compare directly. There is somewhat more maintenance required for the Maxprop. Its not a huge issue, but the prop does require greasing and zinc replacement which I did annually at spring launch. And the Maxprop is more expensive, maybe 4x the Martec. If I had to choose between the two, and cost was not a factor, I would go with the Maxprop. I may make the switch eventually, when I run out of other upgrades.

    1988 E38-200 (hull no. 262)
    "Dark Star"
    Jersey City, NJ

  5. #5
    Sustaining Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Anacortes, WA
    We changed from a fixed 3 blade to a feathering prop on our e29 about 8 years ago, the drag is the small part of the equation in our opinion. We found that the more undisturbed flow over the rudder gave us much more control, less rudder movement needed, and improved control with flying the spinnaker when...maybe...we should have taken it down. We have had a KIWI prop and really like it and the support from the manufacturer.
    "Form follows Function" or "Fast First, pretty later!"

  6. #6
    Senior Moderator Loren Beach's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Portland, OR. Columbia River
    Blog Entries


    As chronicled in past threads here, we have used the factory fixed two blade, a feathering two blade, and for several years now a three blade fixed prop.
    Fastest under power is the three blade, fastest under sail by about a knot in all winds was the featherer. Note also that the lower drag of the featherer allows the boat to point higher.

    All choices have plusses and minuses.

    1988 Olson 34 #8
    Sail # 28400
    Betamarine 25 (new 2018)
    Fresh Air
    Portland, OR USA

  7. #7
    Sustaining Member Pat C.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Denison Texas, Lake Texoma
    Quote Originally Posted by missalot View Post
    We found that the more undisturbed flow over the rudder gave us much more control
    That is an interesting benefit I never thought of. Between that and better astern control I'm talking myself into it. My boat has always prop walked rather severely to port with the fixed 2 blade.

    Thanks Christian for the reference. More of them out there than I realized. Texoma is a rather high silt content (all lakes in Texas are) so the maintenance may be even more demanding here.

    Good thing I love my boat for what they cost!
    Waratah, Ericson 35-3, Hull 126

  8. #8
    Sustaining Member Pat C.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Denison Texas, Lake Texoma
    Quote Originally Posted by Loren Beach View Post
    Note also that the lower drag of the featherer allows the boat to point higher.

    All choices have plusses and minuses.

    Another really good point I hadn't thought of. Thanks.
    Waratah, Ericson 35-3, Hull 126

  9. #9
    Contributing Partner Slick470's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Our boat came with an undersized martec that we replaced with a properly sized Gori 2-blade geared folder. I've been very happy with the performance of the new prop. Doesn't fold so well with a barnacle on the gears, but staying on top of cleaning the bottom and prop alleviate that.

    With the previous prop we were slow in forward and had miserable reverse performance with very strong prop walk. The new prop is much better in forward and reverse and when clean, has little to no prop walk. So far, I've been very happy with it.
    Andy H.
    1990 Ericson Olson 911S #149 Hawkeye
    Deale, Maryland
    Yanmar 2GM20F

  10. #10
    Principal Partner u079721's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Great Lakes
    Our 38 came with a Max three blade feathering prop that originally had WAY too much pitch. We eventually dialed it down to the point where we could again get the engine up to the recommended rpm, and after that all was good. I can't directly compare how well it powered forward compared with a fixed three blade, but in reverse it was just amazing. We quickly learned not to try full reverse on the anchor as it would just about always pull out until it had been allowed to settle. And if you put the boat in full reverse while coming into a slip you would find yourself backing out before you knew it.
    Steve Christensen
    Twin Cities, MN
    Former Owner of Rag Doll
    1989 Ericson 38-200
    Hull Number: ERY38318C989
    Universal M40

  11. #11
    Contributing Member Joliba's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008


    We had an experience identical to Steve's. Our 38 also came with a 3 blade Max Prop with too much pitch. We could not achieve full RPM and prop walk was horrendous. After changing the pitch (which is one of the great features of this feathering prop) all was good. This prop always opens in forward and reverse and feathers as it should. Maintenance takes 5 minutes at haulout. Changing pitch with the Classic model requires removing the prop, following some straightforward instructions, and then messing with a handful of tiny cotter pins & screws to reassemble it. I've done it several times and it's actually kind of a little puzzle toy. I can't comment about barnacles as we are in fresh water. There is a newer Max Prop that features in water adjustable pitch. I probably would not have spent the money on this propeller if it had not already been on the boat. But, if I get another boat, I would want one.
    Mike Jacker
    1988 E38-200
    Universal 5432

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