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Prop Walk For Outboards? Not So Much

Q: I have an outboard. Does prop walk apply to me or not?

I really enjoyed Tor Pinney’s article entitled “Prop Walk” [October 2020]. I have been a mariner for 50 years with only outboard-motor experience. I have a single 250-hp outboard on my 25-foot aluminum boat with a tall cabin that acts like a sail in the wind, so docking in tight quarters can be challenging. Never knew about prop walk before. 

A couple of questions: I have a right-handed prop, so am I going to benefit approaching the dock on the port side or starboard side to maximize prop walk in reverse? Also, with only a single outboard, do I augment prop walk by turning my outboard maximally to the dock prior to initiating reverse, or turn it to neutral position, or leave turning away from dock, which is where it would be in forward approaching the dock? —Donald Lillegard

Donald: Thanks for your comment. Regarding your questions, note how the sixth paragraph begins: “However, if a prop shaft is perfectly parallel to the water’s surface, as in sail drives, there is no prop walk at all.” I probably should have written “as in sail drives and outboard motors,” as this exception applies to them as well. Except when motoring in very shallow water, outboard motor propellers are usually trimmed so that they’re parallel to the water’s surface, neutralizing any paddlewheel effect. 

Even if you intentionally tilt your motors, you’ll likely achieve much better control in reverse by simply aiming the prop in the direction you want the boat to back. All of which is to say, I doubt whether prop walk applies to your boat. —Tor Pinney