Till Lincke — SPW Feathering Propeller in the Arctic
In January 2003, after an irreparable defect of our Maxprop feathering propeller in Gran Canaria, we have fitted our club-owned 18-metre sailing yacht “Passage” with the Variprop DF 112, a three-bladed feathering propeller by SPW. The “Passage”, a 18-metre Alusloop, was originally designed for the 1990s “Whitbread-around the World-Race” and has been in use for charter sailing trips and expeditions up north by our sailing club “Mare-Incognita” (www.mareincognita.ch) since 2010.
2013, before we tackled our first expedition into the ice-covered fields of the Arctic, pack-ice-experienced skippers recommended to replace the feathering propeller with a fixed pitch propeller. There would be a risk of damage to the mechanism of the propeller from chunks of ice. We ignored this warning, even though the seven-year-old SPW-propeller already had over 40,000 nautical miles on the clock. In spite of minimal service (yearly greasing during winter storage) the propeller still did its duty without complaint.
The switch into the sailing position by switching into the reverse gear always worked without any problems. When mooring lengthwise under offshore wind, a manoeuvre that we had to perform somewhat rapidly in stronger winds due to the lack of bow and stern thrusters, we particularly appreciated the very good braking effect when pushing backwards.
This is probably thanks to the possibility of setting the optimal pitch in forward and reverse separately.
Considering the warnings of Arctic experts, one can imagine how anxious we were while ploughing through a field of pack ice (frozen sea water, in contrast to glacier ice) for the first time. Usually, this is relatively unproblematic for the drive system because ice chunks are pushed aside by the ship’s bow or at times by the keel. But every now and then, one of the chunks scraping under the hull turns and if you are unlucky, one of its tentacles gets into the rotation of the propeller.
This may be fine with young ice with the consistency of rotten wood, but should be avoided with multiyear ice and glacial ice if possible, both of which are substantially harder.
This does not always work, especially if you are forced to free yourself from a dead end in reverse so that the propeller is not protected by the keel anymore.
We got into such a predicament during our circumnavigation of Cape Farewell, the southern cape of Greenland in July 2014, as we were locked in by a compression ridge (ice packs pushed on top of each other by the current). The blows that spread through the hull via the drive train due to the mistreatment of the propeller as an ice-mixer, gave us quite a fright. This, however, was relatively “soft” first-year ice.
During this year's inspection in the winter storage we found bearing clearance of the propeller axes, which – according to an examination by the SPW-specialists – can no longer be eliminated via revision. After 17 years and about 120,000 nautical miles of uncomplaining service under the toughest conditions our propeller will now go into a well-earned retirement.
We have ordered its successor at SPW, the Variprop DF 112, which is supposed to be even more efficient thanks to its four propeller blades. We are curious to see how it will prove itself this summer on its maiden voyage to East Greenland – see “Törns 2020” at www.mareincognita.ch
Wolfgang Hass, owner of the SV Gian
I ordered a new propeller for my Jeanneau Odyssey 54DS at the BOOT Düsseldorf in January 2019. Why at SPW? Without starting a discussion about the best feathering- and folding system, one has to find that the Variprop probably is the most precisely crafted product in comparison.
There is no bearing play, nothing rattles, and there are no hard end stops. Also of interest are is the different pitch in forward and reverse. While this was still theory at the boat show, proof could soon be presented.
The delivery of the big wooden box took place in due time. Exchanging the extant 3 blade fixed pitch propeller for the 4 blade Variprop did not cause any problems. All parts fit, including the supplied rope cutter.
What stood out in operation? The Variprop runs very smoothly and vibration-free. It feathers immediately and the performance can be activated immediately. This is also the case during a change of load. When moving forwards, the Jeanneau runs a little bit faster (0.3-0.4 kn) than before. In reverse, the prop walk feels weaker, the propeller runs very powerfully. While in the sailing position, you can see in the wake that there are significantly less turbulences, which is mirrored by a higher speed. I think that a gain of >10 % is absolutely realistic.
Another great effect: The shaft does not turn while sailing anymore. I don’t have to go in reverse, which causes permanent strain on the gearbox.
The Variprop is not a cheap investment – but it is a worthwhile one.
Knut Haye, owner of a Reinke 10S
As a cruise and regatta sailor, I had the VARIPROP 3-Blade installed and switched to the 4-Blade in 2004. I have to say: The 4-Blade VARIPROP is a stunner. In wind and waves, when sailing doesn‘t work anymore, it is a genuine help. Even harbour or lock manoeuvres in extremely narrow spaces, even without bow and stern thrusters, can be carried out safely. During the 2019 season, I had the opportunity to become familiar with the 4-Blade VARIPROP GP. My test route went through the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to Bornholm. When motoring, the 4-Blade GP proved to be incredibly powerful. Diesel consumption decreased noticeably as well. I have been very satisfied with the SPW feathering propellers for 25 years.
Distant Shores TV: Variprop Review
A look at our VARIPROP feathering propeller. It reduces drag under sail but still produces full power when motoring. Since it is a 4 bladed prop it produces the most thrust in the aperture we have between the skeg and the hull of our Southerly 42.
A large number of boats is already using the VARIPROP series GP-80 bis GP-112, DF-140 und den großen Bruder, den VARIPROP XLS This is just a small excerpt from our references.
Some boats using the VARIPROP GP-80 - GP-112 und DF-140:
- C&C YACHTS
- CS YACHTS
- GRAND SOLEIL
- HALBERG RASSY
- ISLAND PACKET
- 6 KR KREUZER
- PERRY CATAMARANS
- SCHIONNING CATAMARANS
- SPARKMAN AND STEVENS
- SUNREEF CATAMARANS
- SYDNEY YACHTS
- VAN DER STADT
- ... and many more