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    Hello, all. I have decided to bite the bullet and invest in a folding/feathering prop on my 2001 B34, but which one? We have a Volvo 2030 29hp saildrive engine. We spend 11 months a year in the water, often with several (4-5)weeks between use. We only want to sacrifice minimal astern maneuvering performance. The main reason is that we need a new prop anyway, and would welcome the extra performance. Any advice/experience, please? Thanks & regards, Bryan Hughes. Karisma


      I have a 2003 B32 with a Volvo 2020D 18 hp sail drive. I, too, spend 11 months a year afloat.

      When I bought the boat it had the fixed aluminium prop, two-bladed, and it must have caused terrible drag. I could certainly hear the transmission whirring when I was sailing and the gearbox was in neutral.

      I did a huge amount of research and, in the end, went for a Bruntons VARIFOLD, 2-blade. Here are the exact details from the order:

      15″” x 10″” 2 Blade Varifold Propeller
      to suit Bavaria 32 with Volvo Penta MD2020-D Engine 19hp @ 3600rpm, with a 2.47:1 Gearbox Ratio
      Volvo Penta SD Saildrive, with LH Rotation.

      It cost £756.60 + VAT in 2017.

      I went for this one chiefly because I wanted the minimum possible drag (I do a bit of club racing!) and, at the time, I was not awash with spare money. If I were doing the change again I think I might have considered the more expensive (about 50% more) Autoprop (the one which behaves identically in forward and reverse) because I am not a confident berther in the marina and I always like to reverse into my berth. So I do a lot of reversing. There is no doubt that the Varifold takes a while to ‘bite’ when engaging reverse, this is noticeable when compared with the old fixed prop, and it is long enough for the lightweight B32 to catch the wind. That said, the Varifold is outstanding in forward and, of course, on a long trip that is what you need.

      It was very easy to install and it is easy to service.

      Things to note:

      1. it absolutely DEVOURS prop anodes. The two-part anode is quite expensive from Bruntons although I think it might be possible to get a pattern set and I might try that next year. Certainly after 11 months you’ll be down to the bolts. It is worth having at least one spare set when you do a change because as the sectors of the anode are half-circles (not thirds as on some props) if there is any inaccuracy in the casting then the anode will break when tightened. I always have two spare sets, having had one break the day before launch which led to a very long journey to get replacements.

      2. I don’t advise bothering to replace the plastic bumpers. They are near impossible to remove in order to make the change.

      In conclusion the Varifold is a decent, good value choice, as long as you remember to rev up when going into reverse. Bruntons were helpful and knowledgeable people to deal with. Consider the Autoprop if you have the money but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one on a saildrive. I wonder if they might be very heavy and therefore wear the seals and bearings in the sail drive.

      Probably for the likes of the B32 or B34, the Varifold is the one to go for.





        I have a Brunton’s AutoProp on my B32, it was fitted soon after I bought the boat new in 2002 and is one of the best bits of kit I have.  Certainly it’s expensive but well worth it in terms of drag reduction, improved fuel economy and forward/reverse performance.  It’s very satisfying when you’re sailing to turn off the engine, feather the prop and watch the speed increase by another 1/2 – 3/4 knot.  Also, when motoring I cruise at about 2000 rpm, significantly lower than with the standard fix-blade prop.

        Regarding the weight, as I said the boat is 2002 vintage and the engine has done some 2000 hrs with no adverse effect on the saildrive and associated seals.  I’ve fitted a galvanic isolator in the mains power circuit and have no problems with anode degradation, the Brunton’s anode lasts one season with no problems (I’m berthed in the Hamble).

        Hope this helps.

        Ian Culley




          Folders are best for boat speed under sail, especially if you race.  They are not the best in reverse though.  You also have to give most folders a good kick of throttle to get the to open and grip.

          Feathering props give more instant response in both forward and reverse, and give you loads of stopping power and reverse grunt, as the blades revolve to always face the right way.  Feathering props have more “mecahnical bits” than folders, and need greasing every year.

          The Autoprop is a Marmite one.  Some people love them, others hate them.  The biggest critisism I’ve heard about them is that in a sea or a chop, they are next to useless and they keep changing pitch and you can’t get any drive out of them.

          I personally went for a Featherstream from Darglow when I changed from a fixed prop 2 years ago.  Sailing speed was noticable better.  Motoring speed forwards was the same as with the fixed prop. Stopping power was much better, as was reverse drive.  Propwalk almost went too (I have found that if you put it in reverse and let it tickover, the boat still walks a bit before going backwards, whereas if you give it a blast of reverse, it just goes straight backwards without any walk).

          If you want a good all-round solution for a cruising boat, I suggest the Featherstream.


          Thank you for all your very helpful views, Gentlemen. After careful thought, and weighing up the pros & cons, together with the YM test report of the leading available props, I have ordered a Darglow Featherstream. As mentioned by Bob, astern performance is excellent, which is important in tight maneuvers. Not, cheap, but it does seem a good all-round solution. Awaiting delivery & installation, I will report back on my findings. Many thanks again for your trouble in answering. Hope to see some of you in Bembridge. Best regards, Bryan Hughes, Karisma.

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