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Everyone seems to have their own line-around-the-prop story. We have been largely spared from things like this, our only prop incident being self-inflicted with some fishing line. We did pick up a float line once on our rudder, during a passage to St. Martin. In that case, we didn’t even realize that it had happened and thus might have been dragging the length of rope for hours. Yesterday, we were not quite so lucky.

Leaving the shelter of our Nevis anchorage.

Just a couple of hours out from Nevis, motorsailing in anything but calm seas, we heard a loud bang. We quickly realized that something was up when our starboard engine shut down. When we opened the hatch to look at the engine, we found that it was in its tilted-up position instead of in the water where it was supposed to be. Not only that but I couldn’t get it to go back down. It didn’t take too long for us to figure out that we had picked up a float line.

As anyone who has had to do this before will tell you, it’s not such an easy task to fix this situation. The only things we had going for us were that we were far from any hazards and that it was daylight. We first had to drop all of our sails to stop the boat but even after doing that, we were still drifting along at about a knot, and pitching up and down quite a bit in the waves. Given the above, there was no way I felt like just jumping into the water with a knife to attack the line. I first found myself a non-inflatable life jacket and after donning that, I tethered myself to the boat. Before getting in the water, I was reminded of the suggestion our friend John gave us about wearing a bike helmet when involved with a maneuver like this. Why a helmet? Because the boat moves up and down quite a bit in certain wave conditions and getting hit in the head while in the water would not be good. Do I have such a helmet? No, but I was mindful of my head, that’s for sure. It took a few trips into the water but I was ultimately able to free the line and float which had not only wrapped around our prop but had also lodged itself behind our rudder.

Why didn’t we see the float to avoid it? Simply because picking up white floats in seas with white caps everywhere when you’re cruising along at 5 or more knots is not all that easy.

Our new treasure.

These little floats are pretty hard to pick out!

Anyway, that drama behind us, we merely had to put up with the less-than-ideal sailing conditions. Yes, it was sunny, where we were, but that’s about all that was good. The wind never did back to ENE as was forecast (big surprise). Instead it remained almost on our nose. Additionally, the seas were akin to an amusement park ride. That, or a mechanical bull in a western bar, I’m not sure which. There’s not much one can do in a situation like that though but sit back and do your best to enjoy the ride. We did our best and happily made it to Montserrat in time to not only clear in but also to arrange for an island tour later this morning. Do you think they’d let us hike the volcano?

Fortunately, we dodged this rain.

Land ho!

The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean…

It’s not hard to see why it’s called that.


  1. Glad you mentioned the bike helmet! I have one and while I won’t be able to take my road bike with us, I now know to take the helmet. Great idea!

    Hope you enjoyed the hike … I’m sure it was great.

  2. Whether sailing or motoring one should always have a mermaid on one’s bow. That rule is part of the Basic Cruising Standard although it can be applied to sailing dinghies as well.

  3. I hope I’m not letting the cat out of the bag too soon, but I noticed that day 1000 is close at hand.

  4. Hit a float? Nope, we are not falling for your nutty Canadian April fools type humor any more!

  5. – Crap wrapped around prop
    – Lumpy seas
    + Montserrat!
    + Someone special to share it with
    + Customs office efficient enough to clear you in same day
    Fun/Suck >60%
    Yup, you’re still good.

  6. A little Montserrat tidbit. Back when everything music was going digital, there was a really nice and well recognized recording studio on the island. Can you imagine artists would want to head down to the Caribbean to record their music? Musicians like Dire Straits, The Police, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath and Eric Clapton have all laid down tracks at the recording studio on Montserrat.

    • We had a 5 hour tour today and learned all about that. I had no idea.

      • Very cool. I look forward to doing that tour someday soon. I worked in the industry when digital went from CVDS to PCM. I know, over your head, but my world. That studio perfected the natural representation of digital audio. That is why all these famous people recorded there.

  7. All in all, not bad – you happily made it.
    Have gobs of fun, enjoy and relish all the opportunities.

    Could’ve been like one of my excursions whereas the prop was fouled by skivvies (that was a 1st ) and also managed to punch a hole in the boat. Never felt or heard anything – just noticed that we were slowing and freeboard appeared to be shrinking. Opened the cabin door and was alarmed to find stuff floating around – Yikes!

    BTW Mike, is it possible to get in touch with you via email? I’ve got something I want to share but it also includes a personal side related to myself which I’m not comfortable discussing in an open forum/blog? It’s nothing distasteful or derogatory towards or about anyone, just some thoughts I want to pass along.

  8. I like the bike helmet suggestion, and a wetsuit helps if there is a possibility of barnacles on the hull.

  9. Mike, if you are contemplating picking up a helmet for, uhh, future occasions, I suggest a kayak helmet over a bike one. It’s made to get wet, it won’t add all the extra buoyancy to your head that a bike helmet would, and it’s made to take many small bumps, unlike a bike model that is basically a one-strike deal. It’s on our to-purchase list before we take the boat offshore. FWIW.

  10. What was the float line intended for if you could tell? Lobster/Cran pots, long-lining, etc.?


  11. The just had a photo journal about this place. Although your shots at ground level were a better perspective than some of what they posted. (if links are permitted –

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