Q&A: Propeller Shaft Rope Cutters

Question: Do you have a rope cutter? I ask because we are thinking of fitting an Ambassador Stripper (stainless) to a new build alloy [aluminum] yacht with an alloy sterntube, and we wonder if it is possible to get the two to live happily together.

Answer: Some twenty years ago we picked up a ball of netting at sea on a passage from Bermuda. When we got to Nova Scotia, unaware of our new underwater decoration, we started the engine and put it in gear. The result was a bent shaft and strut that required having the boat hauled twice before we finally got things sorted out. As I recall, the total cost was in excess of US$5000, making the price of the cutters we installed the next year look like a very good deal.

That was on a previous boat. One of the first things we did in 1992 when we bought this Morgan’s Cloud was to install a set of Spurs cutters. Since then they have saved us from being disabled by a rope around the propeller at least a dozen times. Although even the Spurs could not clear the running gear when we picked up the whole cod-end of a net, some years ago .

Bottom line, there is a lot of rope and netting floating around the ocean and so we strongly recommend line cutters, particularly since getting disabled at the wrong moment, say entering a harbour situated on a lee shore, could even cost you your boat.

We have no experience with the Ambassador Stripper but we can tell you that any cutter you install on an aluminum boat should not compromise the isolation of the stainless steel shaft from the hull. The Spurs cutters are great in this regard since they have small plastic bumpers and plastic bearings that isolate the spinning part on the shaft from the fixed part that attaches to the strut or stern tube.

Does anyone have any experience with the Ambassador Stripper or any other thoughts on line cutters? If so, please leave a comment.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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