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Feathering, Folding or Fixed?

The three most commonly used propellers on sailboats, fixed, folding and feathering each have a number of distinct advantages and disadvantages, the major differences to consider are shown in the table below.

What is the difference between a Fixed and a Folding propeller?

It must be remembered that this information is of a general nature and varies between brands and designs

Feathering Folding Fixed
Superior manoeuvrability at all times due to good thrust in forward & best thrust in reverse Lowest drag of all propellers No service requirements
(Other than shaft zinc/anode and cleaning)
Best reverse thrust of all propellers Sleekest lines = Lowest chance of snagging foreign objects in the water Lowest initial purchase price
Low Drag
(Slightly more than a folding prop dependant on shaft angle, but significantly less than a fixed prop)
Generally smoother/quieter under power than flat blade feathering propellers 
Adjustable pitch allows optimisation of setting to suit application
(System varies, Autostream can be set independent forward & reverse, even while in water)
If perfectly pitched, provides best forward propulsion
Reduced prop walk
(Reduction is highest on models with independent forward/reverse adjustment)
Lower initial purchase price than feathering prop Reverse ability is usually better than folding props
(Dependant on number /  size of blades, gearbox ratio & displacement)
Long service life
(Dependant on design)
Generally more robust in construction than a folding prop Simpler design than feathering props Long service life
(If protected from electrolysis)
Simplest design, no moving parts
No technique required for docking manoeuvres No technique require for docking manoeuvres

Feathering Folding Fixed
Highest initial purchase price Typically have 'adequate' to 'poor' reverse thrust and require some 'technique' during docking manoeuvres. Highest drag while sailing of all types
Slightly more drag than a folding propeller while sailing
(Largely dependant on shaft angle, but significantly less than a fixed propeller)
Due to design tend to wear the fastest.
(Varies with brands considerably)
Requires a shaft lock to stop rotation of shaft
Some service requirements
(Complexity & frequency varies with brands)
Fixed pitch Rotating shaft generates noise and can damage gearbox.
Gears exposed to marine environment Reverse thrust lower than feathering propeller
Fixed pitch cannot be changed once fitted, without removal and specialist attention.
Tendency to "prop walk" in reverse