Swim Platform Seats: An Attractive Nuisance to Children, Youth, & Adults?
Lora and I attended the 2013 Tulsa Boat Show on Wednesday January 30th. We were quickly overwhelmed with swim platform seats, aft facing seats, swim deck seating. Swim platform seats were almost ubiquitous on midsize and large boats.
The extreme popularity of this design can lead to some problems. Most of the boats with swim deck seats have a warning label telling you not to sit in them when underway, but we suspect those warnings are often ignored.
For example, pontoon boats have warnings telling you not to sit on the bow, but every year several children and a few adults sit up there dangling their feet in the water, fall in, and are struck by the propeller.
Other warnings tell you to make sure you have a spotter at the stern before reversing a houseboat due to poor aft visibility. These warnings are also often ignored, especially by rental boat operators, and people in the water are struck by the propeller.
Table of Contents
- Safety Issues Created by Rear Facing Swim Platform Seating
- Probability Discussion of Swim Platform Seating
- Swim Platform Seating Accidents
- Possible Safety Devices & Methods for Swim Platform Seating
- These Boats Look Like Great Fun, But …
- Swim Platform Seats Seen at the 2013 Tulsa Boat Show
- Swim Platform Seat Warnings
Safety Issues Created by Rear Facing Swim Platform Seating
The current trend to rear facing / swim platform seating contributes to several safety problems:
- Falls overboard from riders when underway
- Poor aft visibility due to people sitting or standing back there resulting in striking people in the water at the stern
- Increased time of occupancy of swim platform area resulting in more falls overboard when boat is at rest
- Young children may briefly escape their parents attention, exit through the gate, and get to the swim platform while underway or at rest
- People are always loosing their caps, hats, drink cups, and other personal items overboard. Being that close to them will tempt some people to reach for or jump in after them before the boat comes to rest
- Passengers riding back there will be temped to stand and enter the water as soon as the boat stops, or maybe moments before. The prop may still be turning or the operator may reverse the boat to position it.
- Males may be tempted to stand and relieve themselves back there while underway
- People can be ejected from swim platform seats when underway when the boat makes a quick turn, suddenly accelerates or decelerates, hits a wake, hits a large wave, encounters rough water, etc.
- Vertical accelerations are amplified at the stern compared to the normal passenger area
- More people are exposed to the increased falling hazard of the wet, slick footing of the swim platform
- Situational awareness issues (once you ride back there a while you begin to forget the situation and how close you are to danger)
Once a passenger falls overboard, they can be injured during the fall, be exposed to propeller strikes from this boat or other boats, be ran over by this boat or other boats, drown, suffer hypothermia, have a heart attack, become lost, and other serious problems.
We did not notice life jackets / PFDs on any of the adult models in these seats in photos of the boats online or in the brochures we examined.
Probability Discussion of Swim Platform Seating Risks
If a boat without swim platform seating had given probability of being involved in a propeller accident during its useful life, if that same boat was redesigned to convert the forward facing rear seat to a rearward swim platform facing seat with walk through access to the main passenger area of the boat it seems obvious to us that the probability of that boat being involved in a propeller accident has been increased.
The boating industry and propeller safety advocates have long argued over propeller safety issues of traditional boats (boats without rearward swim platform facing seating). The boating industry has made various claims about why traditional boats are safe, including: propeller safety devices cause unintended consequences, warnings are all we need, most incidents are alcohol related, or incidents are too few to deserve attention.
However, that balance may well have been destroyed by the relatively swift change to rearward facing swim platform seating. We see absolutely no test data on the safety of this new design in normal operation (are people falling out of them in use or not), yet the industry is rapidly embracing this higher risk design.
We noticed several manufacturers adding amenities back there: stereo speakers, cup holders, elbow wrests, a pivoting tv dinner tray, and even a barbeque (BBQ) cooker. even without those amenities, the seats already almost scream, ride back here, this is lots of fun, a great view, easier to interact with other boaters and those being towed, and a little water splash/mist now and then.
Even without the amenities the seats could be called an “attractive nuisance”. The law states that a person who owns property on which there is a dangerous thing or condition that will foreseeably lure children to trespass has a duty to protect those children from the danger. For instance, if you lived near an elementary school and had a swimming pool in your unfenced backyard that was visible to children as they walked by on the sidewalk, your pool might be determined to be an “attractive nuisance”. We all know some children are going to be attracted to walk over to the pool at which time it creates a drowning hazard. I went to a very small high school where a neighbor to the school built a pool in a fenced backyard. Even fenced in, it created some issues.
Yes, we understand the legal meaning of attractive nuisance does not apply to these seats because no one is trespassing, however, the concept applies. Rearward facing, swim platform seats attract people like magnet. Their rapid adoption by the industry proves their popularity and desirability.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has been trying to get boaters to wear life jackets for decades. USCG has spent millions of dollars on promoting the wearing of life jackets, yet adult wear rates on open motor boats are still only about 5 percent. Does anybody really think that little decal affixed under the seat instructing passengers not to ride on the rearward facing swim platform seats when underway is going to be effective?
Swim Platform Seating Accidents
We do have one accident report, Deondra Scott and some others entered the water from a rented Chaparral Sunesta at the Lake Normal Lake Bash in 2011. They thought the boat had stopped, but the novice operator was still maneuvering the boat. Deondra Scott was very seriously struck by its propeller. Several people were on the boat adding to aft visibility issues.
U.S. Coast Guard Boating Accident Report Database (BARD) provides no means for easily sorting out propeller and man overboard accidents associated with rearward swim deck facing seats.
If anybody out there is aware of other man overboard or propeller accidents involving swim platform seats, please send them to us via the “Contact Us” tab in the top menu, or directly post them in the comments at the end of this post.
Possible Safety Devices & Methods for Swim Platform Seating
We strongly encourage the boating industry to put additional accident mitigation techniques in place on these vessels. Propeller guards are not the only way to mitigate propeller accidents. Our post on Developing a Consumer Guide for the Selection of Propeller Guards and Other Propeller Safety Devices identifies several other devices, and approaches including boating safety classes and altering behaviors.
Some approaches that quickly come to mind are Keith Jackson’s (MariTech) swim gate switch (prevents starting if the swim gate is open) and seat presence sensors (like the weight sensors that detect you sitting on your riding lawn mower and stop it when you stand).
These Boats Look Like Great Fun, But …
Swim platform seating just yells fun. When used safely they provide a new way to interact with the water, those in the water, those on shore, and other boaters. Its easy to imagine setting back there listening to music, relaxing with a cold drink, having a snack, chatting with your friends, and maybe even fishing.
The boating industry has been struggling with national economy problems the last several years. These models provide a fresh look, and generate sales even in today’s tough economy.
We are not saying they should be banned. We are just saying studies should be done and steps should be taken to insure they are safe. Not only the newly build vessels, but those placed in service in recent years as well.
For example, pontoon boats have rails around their perimeter, no such rail is present on these vessels at the swim platform seats.
In addition, boat manufacturers and third party suppliers will continue to create new accessories for use in the swim platform seat environment that will push the limits further. Its past time to recognize the hazards and begin to make sure things are safe back there.
Some quick ways of estimating how many people are riding in the seats when the boats are underway and how frequently that occurs are:
- Survey lake law enforcement personnel
- Do an aerial survey on a major holiday
- Watch some lake and marina webcams
- Watch the busy area of a lake using binoculars from an overlook (hill, bridge, etc) like the USCG life jacket wear rate study
- Survey owners of these boats
- Watch arrival and departure activity at a major lake bash / party cove
Swim Platform Seats Seen at the 2013 Tulsa Boat Show
As mentioned earlier, swim platform seating was everywhere at the 2013 Tulsa Boat Show. We took several photos, but these examples are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of boats present with swim platform / swim deck facing seating.
Regal, shown by Arrowhead Boat Sales, exhibited several large cruisers with swim platform seating.
Lora on one of the Regal swim platform seats.
Arrowhead was very nice about showing us around and answering our questions. If anybody in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas area is interested in a Regal or other premium brand boat, we suggest you visit with them at one of their multiple locations.
Chaparral brought a large fleet of rear facing swim platform vessels and was very nice to us as well.
The Chaparral Sunesta was the model involved in the Deondra Scott rental boat propeller accident. The swim gate is easily visible in this photo.
The Chaparral 310 Signature Cruiser is a very nice boat with swim platform seating. This seat, like many of the others is adjustable into multiple configurations including going flat for a sun pad / sun bed. Note the don’t sit here when underway warning is under the seat and would be hard to view by those on the boat. The swim gate is easily visible in this view as well.
We visited with the gentleman showing the larger Chaparrals. We talked about how popular rear facing seating has become. Chaparral was among the first to introduce it few years ago, now many others have followed suit due to its popularity.
Chaparral uses the same rear facing swim platform seating concept on smaller boats as well, like this Chaparral 257 SX sport boat.
This shot from the 2013 Chaparral Sport Boat Catalog shows a barbeque (bbq) attachment being used in the swim platform seating area. The easy to connect “socket” allows multiple Chaparral and third party accessories to be quickly installed.
A photo in Chaparral’s 2013 Sport Boat Catalog shows how close those riding in the swim platform seats are to the propeller(s).
MasterCraft uses swim platform seating on this wakeboard boat.
Malibu also puts swim platform seating on wakeboard boats.
Just like Regal and Chaparral, Forumula offers rear facing swim deck seating on cruisers.
Crownline provides a sun pad / sun bed swim platform seating on this boat. The seat adjusts into multiple positions.
The previous sun pad / sun bed, folds up into swim platform seating as seen on this Crownline boat.
Yamaha provides rear facing, swim platform seating on several of its jet boats.
We commend Yamaha for offering an extensive line of jet boats as alternatives to propeller driven boats.
While anyone who may fall overboard will certainly not be stuck by the propeller of this boat, they will be exposed to the danger of being struck by another boat, being injured as they fall in, being struck by the propeller of an other boat, drowning, etc.
Another Yamaha jet boat with rearward facing swim platform seating.
Some of the Yamaha jet boats had a socket at the rear to accept various accessories. This one accepts a swivel mounted serving tray that includes a cup holder. You can see it better in the next photo.
Yamaha jet boat with swivel mounted tv dinner tray with cup holder.
I tried to explain how this accessory was mounted to Lora. She was not understanding, so I pulled the pin at the flange in an effort to show her how the flat flange slipped up and down in the retaining socket slot. The accessory is a little heavy and awkward due it its shape. It quickly jumped out of its socket and I was embarrassingly wildly waving it around trying to gain control of it when a salesman can over to save the day. He told us the trays were very popular. I think he may have told us they have a flange mount barbeque (bbq) too.
The boat had receptacles for these slide in accessories on both sides of the boat so two folks could each have their own tray. It looks like a great accessory and lot of fun. However, it makes it even more attractive to ride back there when the boat is underway.
We noticed some aftermarket manufacturers providing replacement seats for these models. One of them is bringing out an armrest, which further adds to the fun of riding back there.
Swim Platform Seat Warnings
We previously showed some of the don’t sit here when underway warnings on our Propeller Warnings Seen at the 2013 Tulsa Boat Show page. A few of the seat warnings are reproduced below.
One manufacturer elects to use a Danger warning. The label has many problems with the ANSI Z535.4 standard, some of which we identify in our discussion of propeller warnings at the 2013 Tulsa Boat Show.
This manufacturer elected to use “Warning” as their signal word and to place it on an elliptical warning label.
As elsewhere discussed, not only do these warnings need to be in compliance with the design portion or ANSI Z535.4, they should be placed where they can be read. We noticed several manufacturers placing them under the seat where it would be difficult to view them from the boat.