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Old 07-10-2009, 12:34 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 301
Fouled Propeller Are You Prepared?

It was early December; we were nearing our chosen anchorage, Shark River, on Floridas west coast at the western most point of the Everglades. The seas were calm; the weather has been partly cloudy and warm all day. A nice cool cocktail on the fantail watching the sun set over the Gulf would be great. In just another hour or so we would be there.

Suddenly, thump, thump and the port engine died. What happened? A quick look down below by me produced nothing amiss. But our First Mates watchful eyes spied a crab trap float, suspended from a line attached to the boat.

We had been avoiding these floats all day; there were thousands on them in the gulf set by the local crabbers. But we obviously missed spotting one and now had the line and the crab pot wrapped in our prop. We were miles from civilization and we didnt have a mask and fins, much less any dive gear. There was neither cell phone service out here nor any VHF reception. Things didnt look good, not at all.

Could that hypothetical scenario happen to you? Think again! Most of us boaters dont think about it often as it is rare that things like that do occur. I have made the same trip I described numerous times, praying that we could avoid those traps and we always did. But the possibility is there and its best to plan and be prepared for the worse.

On a calmer note, how about just checking the bottom of your boat regularly? For most of us trawler owners, especially in salt water, inspecting your yachts bottom regularly is a necessity.

Yes, bottom antifoulant paints do keep marine growth such as barnacles and oysters from the bottom, but the running gear always manages to lose the paint and attract the growth. And the boat zincs, the sacrificial metal placed there to protect the remainder of the boat, they need checking too as they only last for 6 months or so. And of course, there is always the slime that manages to grow at the waterline.

But finding a diver isnt always easy to do. Here in north Florida, divers are rare, pricey, and they are usually less than dependable. And you never know exactly what they did or didnt do below either. So whats a mariner to do?

Some time back I determined that if I wanted my trawler to have her bottom inspected as often as I liked, my best choice was to do it myself.

After all, most mariners learn early on that you must become reasonably self sufficient to own a boat. Its not that saving some cash wasnt good, but you just cant rely upon others to help maintain a boat.

I had seen divers go under my boat saddled with tanks and such and felt it must be cumbersome to get all that gear on and it must surely get in the way. There had to be a better way. I came across a gentleman named Dennis Parker. Dennis is a boat owner himself and had his trawler here in Florida at one time. Dennis and his team had developed a tank less dive system that might do the trick.

His dive systems began in 1996 as an effort between several boaters, divers, research & development field engineers, mechanical engineers and manufacturing professionals. The common need was to come up with a practical system for the average boater to clean the bottom of their own boat, or do underwater inspections without expensive scuba diving outfits.

The system was born, utilizing an oil-less electric compressor to supply air to the diver without fear of carbon monoxide. A regulator, air hose and belt comes with the package. All you need to furnish is a mask, wetsuit and fins. Although the system is designed to allow divers to descend to 30 feet, most boaters will go under only about 3-4 feet.

All total, including the system, wetsuit, mask, and fins the price came in at under $1000.00.

It works great. I can now clean and inspect my trawlers bottom when I want to. A complete inspection and water line scrub only takes about 30 minutes. And if I ever do encounter that stray crab pot, I have what I need to correct the problem.

Mike Dickens, the author, is a boat owner and owner/Yacht Broker of Paradise Yachts located in Florida USA
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