Clearing the Prop on a Narrowboat
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Thu Nov 27, 2014 at 11:00am

Clearing the Propeller on an Inboard Engine

From time to time every narrowboater is likely to get something stuck in their prop.  Canals and rivers are full of debris, and getting this stuck around your propeller can cause the canal boat to come to a stop.

How do I know if I've got something stuck around the prop?

You will know when you have got a small bag or bundle of weed around the prop because the narrow boat will gradually slow and the engine will make a strained noise.  On top of this there might be some black smoke from the exhaust and the steering may go a bit slack.

How can I get rid of the debris?

Sometimes the canal boat will free itself from the debris stuck around the propeller.  However more often than not the owner will have to clear the prop to make it free of any debris. 

If the debris does not become free from the propeller then the first thing to try is to drop the boat in to neutral and then into reverse.  Ease the boat back and forward and see if there are any changes in the engine noise so as you can determine whether the prop has become free.

If this tactic does not work then more direct action is required.  It is important to move your narrow boat to the side of the canal, river or move it to somewhere where you can securely moor.  It is extremely important to make sure that the engine is turned off and the key removed

If your boat has a weed-hatch (most narrow boats do).  A weed-hatch is a square trap set in the bottom of the hull above the propeller, then you need to unclamp this.  You can undo this by taking off the top hatch which enables you to look down on the prop.  This will enable you to see if there is a problem with debris around the propeller.  You can then free off whatever is jammed by cutting it clear or removing with your hands.

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