The present paper analyses the vortical structures in the wake of a naval propeller operating underneath a free surface using detached-eddy simulation. We investigate the flow topology for several loading conditions and compare it with analogous observations behind a propeller operating in open water. We show that the wake topology is similar to that observed in open water only for low-loading conditions. For mild blade loading, the free surface's presence seems to stabilize the flow. On the contrary, for high blade loading, the mutual interaction between the vortex system and the free surface leads to vortex breakdown that overshadows the multiple pairing mechanisms observed in open-water conditions.
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