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Archive for Propeller Safety

An 18 July 2017 Centerport Yacht Club propeller accident claimed the life of 12 year-old Ryan Weiss. Three boys learning how to sail were with a sailboat that had been capsized on purpose as a training exercise. One of the boys, Ryan Weiss, was picked up by a RIB piloted by an 18 year old sailing instructor. As the RIB accelerated to bring Ryan to shore, Ryan fell overboard and was fatally struck by the propeller.

Following the accident, many U.S. sailing/yachting facilities providing sailing instruction to youth quickly began reviewing their previous decisions not to use propeller guard. Propeller guards are already widely used in Australian youth sailing programs.

For any wondering why propeller guards are needed with a sailboat, the guards are used with coaching boats, safety boats, chase boats, referee boats, media boats, and other boats associated with youth sailing instruction and youth sailing competitions.

In response to the Centerport Yacht Club accident, New York Assemblyman Andrew Raia, Republican from East Northport and an avid boater from the 12th District, is proposing a state law in New York requiring propeller guards on all vessels used to instruct children, per a 28 August 2017 CBSNY article. The article also includes a great video.

New York Assemblyman Raia holding Propeller Guard Press Conference image clipped from CBSNY image

New York Assemblyman Raia holding Propeller Guard Press Conference
image clipped from CBSNY image

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0 Categories : Regulations

Large outboard motors lined up at 2014 Tulsa Boat Show.

Large outboard motors lined up at 2014 Tulsa Boat Show.

The boating industry has been plagued with certain boat propeller safety hazards / issues for decades, some for over a century. While progress have been made on many fronts, some problems remain perpetual / eternal. Some solutions that have been applied have failed, others have wilted on the shelves for a variety of reasons.

Some Perpetual Boating Safety /Propeller Accident Scenarios

As a result of the issues described above, and more, we have been left with a number of PERPETUAL / ETERNAL boating safety / propeller safety accident scenarios including:

  • Participants in towed sports being run over by the boat propeller after they fell from the skis/board/tube/inflatable and the operator returned to pick them up
  • Unmanned outboard powered boats go in the Circle of Death
  • Children bow ride pontoon boats underway, fall between the pontoons, and are struck by the propeller
  • Operators reversing houseboats from beaches with swimmers in the water behind them
  • Boat operator and others being ejected from a bass boat
  • Bass boats strike submerged objects, their outboard motors break off, and flip into the vessel with their propeller still running
  • Inflatable PFDs not inflating or being cut and deflated by propellers if they do
  • Boaters not wearing their life jackets and if they do, they increase their likelihood of being entrapped on the propeller or being struck by the propeller in a Circle of Death accident
  • Entrapped on open boat propellers
  • Coaching, escort, and safety boats used with youth sailing, open water swimming, rowing, crewing, sculling, canoeing, wake surfing (with a sail), and other similar activities often in an amateur racing format are striking people in the water with their propellers. For example, the July 2017 Long Island New York accident
  • Those reboarding the boat at the swim ladder are sucked into the propeller
  • Divers and snorkelers being ran over by boat propellers and sometimes struck by the propeller of their own dive charter boat
  • PWC riders interacting with the wake of boat or trying to spray those on board are stuck by the propeller
  • Outboard motor starts in gear (typically involves rope started tiller steered outboards), one or more persons are ejected and struck by the propeller, can also happen with stern drives
  • Someone jumped into the water unbeknownst to the operator OR just at the moment the operator was going to reverse the boat

A quick look at the list shows several of those accident scenarios are interrelated, and most of them are tied to issues listed below (People Hazards, Water Hazards, Industry Positions, Media Reluctance, Existing Boat Designs), and all go back to the basic principles of propellers (rotating and sharp).


How the Propeller Accident Scenarios Listed Above Became Perpetual

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Engineering Tools Provide Solutions to Long Standing Boat Propeller Safety Issues

Two ostriches with heads in sand

Two ostriches with heads in sand

The boating industry repeatedly just sticks it head in the sand regarding long standing propeller safety issues. We suggest its time to go back to the drawing board on Perpetual boat propeller accident scenarios, like the Perpetual Propeller Accident Scenarios identified in a related post. Effective, practical, economical solutions need to be identified, tested, commercialized, and deployed.

Plenty new solutions remain to be discovered. Some effective, practical, economical solutions have long rejected by the boating industry. New materials and technologies are constantly placing more tools in our tool belt. One resource often overlooked, are solutions to similar problems in other industries.

We hope the tools below aid all those addressing long standing boat propeller safety issues.


The Safety Hierarchy

The Safety Hierarchy defines the sequence of steps used by product design engineers and safety professionals to prevent injuries once specific hazards are identified. In its simplest version the process is to identify the hazards of use, potential misuse, and of the environment in which the product is to be used.
Then:
     1. Design,
     2. Guard, and
     3. Warn.

When a hazard is identified, the best thing to do is to design out the hazard. By removing the hazard the danger no longer exits.

If it is not feasible to design out the hazard, the next best step is to guard against the hazard. Guards are physical barriers between people and the hazard. People that cannot come in contact with the hazard cannot be injured by it.

If guarding is not practical, the next best step is to warn of the hazard. Warnings require numerous actions of the person being warned to be effective. As a result, warnings are much less effective than designing out the hazard or the use of guards. Thus warnings are last step in the safety hierarchy as it is presented in its most basic form.

The three step Safety Hierarchy above is often presented with two more steps:

4. Training
5. Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Training and personal protective equipment are often used in manufacturing operations where someone has administrative control over the workers. Factory employees receive training /instruction, and protective equipment (such as eye shields, hearing protection, gloves, steel toed boots, respirators). Read More→

In December 2013 we published a report, Approaches to Prevent Outboard Motors From Flipping Into Boats After Striking Floating or Submerged Objects in which we identified several ways to prevent outboard motors from breaking off and flipping into boats after striking submerged objects. One of those was was active trim control (see pages 33-34 of our report) by using a magnetic fluid in the trim (tilt) cylinder and using position feedback (how far is the rod extended) during a log strike to adjust how much resistance the cylinder is applying to the upward swinging of the outboard. While the impacts are not as severe, the same approach is used for shocks on several cars.

Magnetic fluids are sometimes called Magneto-Rheological (MR) fluids. Also sometimes spelled as magnetorheological fluids. They change viscosity based on the presence of a magnetic field and upon its intensity.

Active control brings the ability to respond faster than existing systems and limit pressure overshoot today’s relief valves. It also provides the opportunity to measure the magnitude of the collision as it is occurring and then select the best way to respond or possibly to select one of several preprogramed ways to respond. One program could allow the outboard to rise up over the object before maximum resistance is applied (called trailover).

MR fluids are also currently used in some high end, rough water vessel chairs to dampen vibrations (protect your back in very rough water) for the U.S. Navy.

In January 2015, Brunswick filed a patent on this active trim cylinder approach that includes some interesting comments.

Brunswick’s patent, U.S. Patent 9,290,252 was issued 22 March 2016.

Delph Magneride image we posted with our discussion of using MagnetoRheolopical fluids in trim systems in 2013.

Delph Magneride image PropellerSafety.com posted with our discussion of using MagnetoRheolopical fluids in trim systems in 2013.

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Three boys in a sailing class at Centerport Yacht Club on the north side of Long Island, New York were out sailing in Northport Harbor Tuesday afternoon 18 July, 2017. Their boat was capsized on purpose as part of a man overboard exercise. Two of the boys stayed with the sailboat. The third boy was picked up by an 18 year old sailing instructor on a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat).

When the boat operator began to gradually accelerate the boat, the boy fell overboard and was fatally injured by the propeller.

Details are still sketchy, but some accounts say his life jacket was entrapped in the propeller and he was struck in the chest by the propeller.

The 18 year old instructor was able to get the boy back in the boat and performed CPR on him.

One news report mentioned the yacht club instructors were all trained in CPR.

The injured boy, from Northport, was taken to Huntington Hospital where he died.

Propeller guards are sometimes used to prevent youth sailing propeller accidents such as this one. We talk further about their use near the bottom of this post.

The instructed that performed CPR on the boy suffered shock and was taken to the hospital.

The boat was a Zodiac powered by a Yamaha outboard motor.

Centerport Yacht Club RIB involved in the accident

Centerport Yacht Club RIB involved in the accident
An Associated Press image

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U.S Coast Guard has released a Public Service Announcement (PSA) reenacting the June 1994 accident on Table Rock Lake in Missouri that maimed Phyllis Kopyto and claimed the lives of her husband Bob Kopytko and of their fishing guide, Paul Brundridge. Phyllis speaks over the reenactment video.


USCG Kopytko kill switch PSA

USCG Kopytko kill switch PSA



The video is very forceful.
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The National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) “Get Connected” campaign, funded by a U.S. Coast Guard grant, encourages boat operators to connect the kill switch / engine stop switch.

The purpose of connecting the kill switch lanyard / engine stop switch or using a virtual lanyard is to cause the boat to stop if the operator is ejected. Unmanned outboard motor boats underway tend to circle in the Circle of Death, repeatedly striking striking those in the water with the propeller.

In some instances stern drive or outboard powered boats can just run on down the lake leaving those in the water with no chance of reboarding and no visual indicator to others of their presence in the water. They may drown or be run over by other vessels.

We found one of NSBC images particularly striking and will comment on it below.

Get Connected hand image

Get Connected hand image


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Fell Marine will be showing MOB+, their wireless kill switch at the Miami International Boat Show this week per their 8 February 2017 press release. They will be in the Fugawi Software booth and have two center console boats on the water in Mag Bay Yachts slips.

MOB+ image from Fell Marine web site

MOB+ image from Fell Marine web site

MOB is a popular nautical abbreviation for Man OverBoard.

Fell Marine has partnered with Mag Bay Yachts of Adelanto to install MOB+ on all their future boats.

Fell Marine is a subsidiary of a Norwegian firm, Fell Group AS.

Fell Marine’s MOB+ literature repeatedly touts its electronics do not interfere with existing systems on your boat or other wireless systems.

They say their product brings style, design, and comfort to this market, and their system can be restarted by those remaining on board just 6 seconds after someone has been ejected. Read More→

0 Categories : New Products

Over the years we have seen many boat propeller warnings that were not as effective as they should have been for all kinds of reasons. Over the last 40 plus years I have looked at thousands of warnings on many kinds of equipment and none of them have ever made me sick.

All that changed Friday 3 February 2017 when we walked the Tulsa Boat Show and my eyes encountered the warning below.

Super Air Nautique GS aft facing seat warning

Super Air Nautique GS aft facing seat warning – closeup port seat

Just attempting to read the warning while the boat was sitting on the trailer made me nauseous. I called Lora over to try to read it, she looked at it and turned toward me with a very perplexed look on her face. Read More→

A brief review of the major propeller safety events in 2016 including safety meetings, accidents, legal cases, deaths of those involved in the movement, statistics, patents, articles published, public service announcements, anniversaries, regulations, and other related events. Read More→

Categories : Year in Review