Saturday, March 22, 2014

Switching to a Feathering Propeller (Max-Prop)

While we're still defrosting from the latest (and hopefully last) snow of the season, we have plenty of time to refocus our efforts, prioritize our upcoming projects, and reflect on some of our favorite improvements we've made to Phoenix thus far; in this case, upgrading to the new feathering propeller.

When Bill motored Phoenix home from Detroit several years ago, the Perkins 4-236 motor had just been rebuilt, a new custom SS shaft was installed, and the boat had a 3-blade, fixed propeller with a 20x10 pitch. She motored very well, but he felt that the propeller was slightly under pitched and there was room for improvement.

Fast forward a few years to when we began sailing Phoenix, and we were listening to the annoying sounds of our fixed prop free-wheeling once the motor was shut off. Bill had installed a feathering Martek prop on our Yorktown Meandrous before we met, so I had never heard the loud whirring of a free-wheeling prop before and I initially thought something was very wrong! We were always pleased with the Martek, but we learned that the 1 1/2" shaft on our Andromeda was too large for their hub design, so we decided to go with a 3-blade Max-Prop Classic instead.

Feathering propellers are not cheap, but there are some more economical ways to go about acquiring one. You can wait for one of the boat shows and see what kind of discounts the companies are offering, or you can do what we did and look for a reconditioned propeller. After talking to the folks at Max-Prop, Bill learned that we could get a reconditioned prop from Max-Prop to fit our needs at a fraction of the cost, and it carried the same warranty as a new propeller. When we ordered it, we knew we weren't going to install the prop right away because of weather and our haul out plans for the boat, so they made notes in our file and didn't start the clock on our warranty for 6 months! Even better, they through in a "cruising package" with 2 extra zincs and 2 tubes of lubricating grease for good measure!

Max-Prop has a great instructional video that takes you step-by-step through the installation process and a great blow-up diagram as well.

One of Phoenix's previous owners redesigned our rudder and changed the propeller aperture, which allowed us to go from a 20" to a 21" propeller. The big question we had was where to set the adjustable pitch. There are many great online tools out there to help you determine your optimal pitch settings based on your boat specs, engine specs, desired cruising speed, etc. Beth and Evans developed an excellent pitch calculator that's available for download on their website under "vessel calculator." And Max-prop has it's own recommendations and charts to guide you as well.

When we used the pitch calculators, we found that we were pretty much right between the recommendations from the folks at Max-Prop for a 14.5 - 16 inch pitch (20 - 22 degrees). We vacillated back and forth, and finally decided to go with the 16 inch pitch (22 degrees). The blades on a Max-Prop are much flatter than you'd find on a fixed prop and from what we've been able to read from other Max-Prop owners, they were much happier when they slightly over-pitched their props. In fact, John from Morgan's Cloud wrote a great article about setting the pitch on a feathering prop. [Note: if you don't want to subscribe to the site, Google "Morgan's cloud" and "feathering propeller" to see the article.]

New Max-Prop, in feathered position
Zinc installed, greased, and ready to go!

New Max-Prop, blades out
Once we splashed Phoenix we were really happy with the new feathering propeller's performance. We can motor 6.5 - 7 knots at about 1750 RPM, and motor sail even faster. 

Motor sailing with the mainsail only, catching an ebb tide under the Bay Bridge at 8.4 knots
The new Max-prop has allowed us to motor faster at a lower RPM, Phoenix backs up much better than with the fixed propeller, and, no more free-wheeling when sailing! We haven't calculated the current fuel consumption yet, but with the lower RPM needed, I'm certain it's better than the 1 1/2 gallon/hour rate that we previously had with a seriously undersized propeller.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Paddy's Day Snow

The leprechauns didn't leave us a pot of gold this St. Paddy's Day, and instead played a nasty little trick on the region. The warm weather has apparently followed Bruce Bingham back home to Florida, and it seems we spoke too soon about spring being on the horizon.

After our visit with Bruce and the crew of Eager Dreamer, we were so excited about the changing weather that we started taking the tarps off of Phoenix and dusting off our list of spring projects to tackle before de-winterizing the boat.

We were treated to a beautiful spring day on Saturday with nearly 70 degree weather, but apparently winter isn't ready to leave us and we had to prepare for yet another snow storm. So, the tarps are back on, this time a little lower since the snow was going to be accompanied by 20-30 knot winds. We were hoping the snow would somehow miss the area or the forecasts were wrong, but once again, we woke up to a winter wonderland.

This is certainly NOT what Maryland is supposed to look like in the middle of March!

So, we have yet another boat work delay and instead will take the time to celebrate St. Paddy's Day -- with corned beef, cabbage, Irish soda bread, and of course, plenty of beer! After all, everyone is Irish today (well, I'm Irish every day).


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Bruce!

The crew of our sister ship, Eager Dreamer, invited Bruce Bingham up from Florida to sail with them for a long weekend. It so happened that Bruce's birthday fell within the planned trip so we all got together for an Andromeda reunion and to celebrate Bruce's birthday.

There are so few Andromeda's out there that it's pretty amazing to have Phoenix and Eager Dreamer both right here in the Chesapeake, let alone seeing them both in the same creek. And it's also good to be able to compare notes on sailing characteristics, modifications we're both making, etc.

The weather warmed up nicely for the visit, and thankfully the creek thawed a few days prior to their arrival. I dare say we're finally seeing some signs of spring! Scott, Laurie, Bruce and Tiller arrived early afternoon, and we had a great time catching up, hearing about their sailing adventure with Bruce, showing them the progress we've made on Phoenix, and enjoying some delicious food and wine.

Eager Dreamer arriving for the party

Bill, Scott, Bruce and Tiller examining our framed, original print ad for the Andromeda

Laurie, Bill, Bruce and Scott sitting down for our steak dinner

It wouldn't be a birthday celebration without dessert, so I whipped up Bruce's favorite -- key lime pie.

Birthday Key Lime Pie

Laurie, Bruce and me
Bill and Bruce both grew up in Michigan and have an affinity for Sanders chocolate, so we thought a little reminder of home would be a fitting birthday gift.

Bruce opening his birthday present
It was a great visit, and a treat to spend time with Bruce and the Eager Dreamer crew.

Now with spring finally on the horizon, it's time to get back to boat work and back to sailing.