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Can surface drives work on slow vessels?

An interesting question that I will attempt to answer. This article came about after a recent tender made its’ appearance. Without going into specifics regarding the “who?” or the “why?”, the project involves some small patrol craft. The desired top speed is in the 25 – 27 kt. range. The cruising speed is 10 – 12 kts. Ironically, it is rumoured that the slow speeds were chosen as a way to minimize fuel costs; though surface drives on this application will,  most likely, end up consuming more fuel than other types of propulsion at these slow speeds.

The answer is that surface drives will function, but at nowhere near their optimal level of performance. Surface drives utilize supercavitating propellers. These propellers function by using air and cavitation, as opposed to minimizing cavitation, as on a fishing trawler or container ship. In order to effectively operate at slow speeds, the propellers must be aerated prior to throttle. If this procedure is not performed, the thrust is minimized, and not efficient.

Now, this scenario may not make sense initially, but a real danger is that the propellers, in order to produce sufficient thrust, must be sized far-larger than normal. Indeed, the size increases to the point that an over-torque situation is likely to occur, snapping the propeller off the end of the shaft.

We placed our bid, with some corrections, on this project. Will we get the bid? Who knows?

However, when designing a vessel, one type of propulsion versus another type of propulsion is not always a clear, cut-and-dry question. Every application has propulsion methods that suit it best, whether surface drive, stern drive, water jet, or outboard motors. There is no one “best” type of propulsion for all vessels.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By John Miele

I am currently Sales and Marketing Manager, Asia / Pacific for France Helices. Created in 1977 by Paul BEZZI, FRANCE HELICES is today an international company. French marine propulsion leader, FRANCE HELICES is also one of the international leaders. Research and development are a very important part of FRANCE HELICES program, the CAD's department is equipped with the latest computer technology, using most up to date programs. Our engineers and technicians determine from the customers specifications and designs, the type of propulsion system to suit the boat's application. They can also advise on the ideal choice of power and optimum gearbox ratio to obtain the maximum thrust. There are many FRANCE HELICES' inovations and patents such as Surface Drive System (SDS) which enable boats to obtain very high speed with excellent handling capabilities and high quality Controllable Pitch Propeller systems (CPP) for both professional use and pleasure application. The constant research using cavitation tunnel testing, guarantees high efficient propeller blade shape for our customers. More than 20 000 propellers per year are manufactured by FRANCE HELICES workshops. In all sizes from small sailing boats to large fishing vessels to navy boats or mega yachts. The FRANCE HELICES workshops are equipped with modern foundries capable of casting propellers up to 3.5 tons in NiBrAl. They are also equipped with CNC milling machines and CNC lathe machines. FRANCE HELICES has four sites which cover the complete range of production. The development of FRANCE HELICES, supported by shareholders places our company as a leader in the international market and insures a constant development, worldwide, in order to be close to the end user.

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