Advice on Boat Propellers from Polar Explorers

What kind of boat propellers do you use? Do you take care of them regularly? MaxSea partners from IMERPOL, Joëlle & Janusz Kurbiel explain the importance of your boat’s propellers. Here, they tell us about their experiences during their polar expeditions:

It can be quite a terrifying experience to navigate a vessel when there is no wind for the sails making all movement entirely dependent on the engine and propeller. However, this situation can often arise. It happened to us several times while navigating around the Poles.

Caged vs. Fixed Propellers
A caged and fixed propeller

Caged vs. non-caged fixed propellers

In the Nordic countries, a kind of protective cage is often built around the propeller which is attached to the hull on small vessels.

Even if this cage effectively protects the propeller against large pieces of ice sliding over it, pieces of debris can still get lodged between the spokes. This could be pieces of wood, ropes, nets or tarpaulins floating in the water or even small pieces of ice. This can be a real pain to remove!

We had protective cages on our vessels Vagabond, Vagabond Vagabond’eux and Exploraglobe. However, for our later vessels Vagabond’eur and Vagabond’elle, we finally opted for a fixed propeller which is unprotected but thicker. These propellers were made especially for us, with an oversized rope cutter.

Strengths of fixed propellers:

  • They allow the driftwood or ice to escape on its own, and
  • If the rope cutter is effective against small ropes, it also protects against nets and other coverings
Glacier images IMERPOL
Ice can cause serious damage to your boat propellers

Recently, during the launch of Vagabond’elle, a piece of carpet got twisted around the propeller. We needed to take the boat out of the water and two of us worked for an hour to remove. You’re either lucky or you’re not…

Interested in learning more about IMERPOL? Here are the previous blog posts they have written for MaxSea:

My Favourite books about the Arctic, by Janusz Kurbiel

The Vikings in the conquest of America

Borealis Expedition: pollution of the Arctic

MaxSea Happy Users: Borealis Expedition 2011-2012



Cold Weather Sailing Guide


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