Thanks everyone for your advice. This has been very useful.
We are planning for extensive cruising to far away lands. So performance under sail for long legs is important. I also single hand a lot and have a tight slip, so prop walk is a concern. And occasionally I am motoring in SF Bay and the Delta, contenting with strong currents.
So in summary it appears as follows:
- Forward thrust - performance is about the same (slight advantage with fixed)
- Reverse thrust - less prop walk and better acceleration with feathering prop
- Under sail - feathering prop leads (with some mixed opinions)
So I guess the biggest trade off for me is: better control in reverse or a lower maintenance prop. I'm always for simplifying a system when possible if it can be achieved without sacrificing performance or safety. So I'll get a fixed-prop, but also look into getting my Max prop fixed (great idea - only the blades are in poor condition, the hub and gears are very clean). And then take this question to sea for an experiment.
If I can live with the performance of the fixed prop, and have lower maintenance to boot, I'll go that route. If not I'll replace with the refurbished Max prop. In either case I'll have a back up prop while cruising around the world.
And I'll add Nigel Calder's Cruising Handbook to my library.
Great summary, Roger, Thanks!
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experience.