PropellerSafety.com

Yamaha Possible Coverup of Propeller Guard Documents Exposed

Yamaha Prop Guard Statements

Yamaha Prop Guard Statements

In March 2012 Yamaha announced a new stainless steel propeller guard for outboards on flood rescue boats in the UK and made several statements about how great it was, how well it performed, and even how prop guards were necessary when people were in the water near the boat. About October we became aware of Yamaha’s new propeller guard. In mid October we began posting some materials about it and some of Yamaha’s own statements about their guard.

The boating industry has long defended itself in propeller injury court cases by claiming propeller guards don’t work. Among their objections, the industry claims guards create too much drag, reduce performance (top speed), effect the handling of the boat, are not durable enough, get bent into the propeller, and they create blunt trauma injuries when they strike people.

But Yamaha was making the exact opposite statements about their propeller guard. Yamaha said their guard worked great, minimized drag and performance reduction, improved handling, was strong and durable for use in shallow water, and guards were essential for operating rescue boats near people in the water.

Our mid October 2012 posts echoed several of Yamaha’s own comments.

By early November 2012, everything Yamaha ever said about the propeller guard AND all records of the guard’s existence vanished from their website. We made many attempts to contact Yamaha about why they pulled all of their materials about the propeller guard, but they will not respond. That leaves us to suspect Yamaha erased their statements to protect the boating industry’s long standing legal defense, “Guards don’t work”.

Among the many specific statements made and deleted by Yamaha about their propeller guard were:

  • “a new design of propeller guard, shaped to give greatest strength, with minimum water-flow disturbance to the propeller giving maximum performance when required.”
  • “For shallow and unpredictable conditions, a Plastic Prop Guard or stainless steel Deflector Guard will assist in limiting the chance of foreign objects fouling the propeller. In addition, these guards aid control of water flow from the propeller and can increase thrust at low RPM.”
  • Yamaha propeller guards, tailored to fit individual engines, are also specifically designed to have minimal impact on performance.”
  • “When operating in a flooded environment there is also the possibility of casualties in the water, which means a propeller guard is essential to reduce the risk of injury.”
  • “When operating in flooded environments the liklihood of swimmers/diver/casualties being in the water means that a prop. guard is essential.”

We dare the boating industry trade press to cover this important story. Don’t let the industry banish this life saving propeller guard just to protect themselves in court.

We need some help. We call upon:

  • The press to cover this story, especially the boating press.
  • Boating safety organizations and the United States Coast Guard to take action to prevent Yamaha from further suppressing this technology.
  • The legal and judicial system to prevent Yamaha from destroying test data from which they claim this was the best propeller guard they ever tested.
  • The boating industry itself to do what is best for the safety of their customers and put some peer pressure on Yamaha to do the right thing.
  • Our fellow propeller safety advocates to help get the word out.

Below we provide details of the events surrounding Yamaha’s deletion of these materials. Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Research Projects for Senior Design Classes, Masters Thesis Projects, Industrial Design & Other Researchers

Most college students in engineering and design take one or more design project classes, often a Senior Capstone Design Projects Class, in which they work individually or as teams to develop solutions to problems. We are trying to tap this resource and encourage students to consider selecting design projects related to propeller safety. More student design projects would help grow the body of knowledge available to the industry and to boaters. In addition to engineering and design students, we also welcome those from all fields and encourage them to consider projects in this area for their capstone classes. If you or others are interested in a college design class project or capstone project in propeller safety, propeller injury avoidance devices, or related fields, please view the projects listed below and contact us for additional assistance.

Propeller Guard

Propeller Guard

A few Masters and Doctoral students have written thesis and dissertations in this field. We strongly encourage Masters and Doctoral students looking for thesis and dissertation topics to contact us and discuss some of the possibilities available in their specific field of interest, as well as those looking for topics for scientific and technical papers.

We list of several possible boating propeller safety research projects below and will be posting more over time. Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

First Responders postage stamp: 2018

U.S. Postage Service (USPS) will recognize First Responders with the issue of a special stamp later in 2018.

First Responders U.S. Postage stamp 2018.

First Responders U.S. Postage stamp 2018

Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

FLIR files patent for submerged object avoidance system

In June 2017 FLIR Systems, well known for recreational boating navigational and infrared products, filed U.S. Patent Application 2017/0158297 for “Watercraft Protection Systems and Methods”. FLIR’s patent application describes the use of sensors (including depth sensors and boat speed sensors) interfaced with existing trim tabs, trim and tilt systems, jack plates, and potentially new vertical lift systems to automatically raise marine drives (outboards, stern drives, and inboards) above submerged obstacles, rocks, the bottom, and the beach preventing impact.

The application notes current outboards and stern drives do have log strike systems that allow the drive to “kick-up” (pivot upwardly and rearwardly relative to the watercraft) on impact. FLIR’s patent application notes these systems are not a cure all:

“However, regardlessly of the drive type, any use of these conventional protective measures typically results in at least a measure of inconvenience for the watercraft’s owner and are often inadequate to prevent expensive damage to the propeller, the drive leg, the watercraft’s keel, and/or other submerged components of the watercraft.”

FLIR submerged object avoidance patent application

FLIR submerged object avoidance patent application

Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

USCG Releases Recreational Boating Statistics 2017

2017 USCG Recreational Boating Statistics

2017 USCG Recreational Boating Statistics

U.S. Coast Guard recently released their annual 2017 recreational boating accident statistics report.

Total counts for 2017 Coast Guard Boating Accident Report Database (BARD) reported accidents, injuries, and fatalities were down compared to 2017.

2017 USCG BARD reported accident statistics were 4,291 accidents, 2629 injuries, and 658 fatalities.

2016 USCG stats were 4,463 accidents, 2,903 injuries, and 701 fatalities.

For 2017 USCG reported 172 propeller accidents, 162 propeller injuries, and 31 fatalities.

2016 USCG stats were 171 propeller accidents,175 propeller injuries, and 24 propeller fatalities.

Thanks to all those at USCG whose efforts helped make this annual statistical report of boating accidents possible.

We would also like to thank USCG, law enforcement officials, lake patrols, first responders, nurses and physicians, those offering boating safety classes, boat safety equipment check points, safe boaters, state boating law administrators, life jacket loaner program participants, Operation Dry Water, those spreading boating safety messages, and all others who work tirelessly to drive these annual totals down.

Plus thanks to all the state boating law administrators and all the officers in the field filling out the accident reports, and to the individuals that self reported their accidents.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Propeller Guard law passes: Suffolk County New York

This is really big news. Likely the first time ever in the United States that people protecting propeller guards have been required by law.

On June 19, 2018 Suffolk County, New York voted unanimously to require boat propeller guards on boats used in youth instruction.The law, known as Ryan’s Law comes one year after the death of 12 year old Ryan Weiss at Centerport Yacht Club on 18 July 2017.

NewsDay coverage of passage of the bill, notes Ryan’s parents, Kellie and Kevin Weiss, have been lobbying for a similar state wide bill in New York.

Per NewsDay, under the Suffolk County New York bill any vessel used to teach anyone under age 18 about marine navigation and safety in a formal setting such as an instructional course conducted by a marina, yacht club or boating organization would have to have a cage or encasement surrounding the propeller. Violators could be fined $250 to $500 for a first offense and $750 to $1,500 for subsequent offenses.

Suffolk County New York Legislature FaceBook image

Suffolk County New York Legislature
FaceBook image

NewsDay cites Suffolk County as saying this is the first law of its kind in the nation. We concur.

News12 provided the video below on Ryans Law in Suffolk County:

Countless attempts have been made to legislate the use of propeller guards nationally, by state, and in special situations since the 1950s. This is the very first one focusing on guards to protect humans to pass we have seen.

In 2017 a similar bill was introduced to the New York legislature. The text of that bill is below:

**********************************************************************************

8635

2017-2018 Regular Sessions

IN ASSEMBLY

September 1, 2017
___________

Introduced by M. of A. RAIA — read once and referred to the Committee
on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development

AN ACT to amend the navigation law, in relation to requiring propeller
guards on instructional vessels

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-
bly, do enact as follows:

1 Section 1. Subdivisions 10, 11 and 12 of section 40 of the navigation
2 law, subdivision 11 as renumbered by chapter 391 of the laws of 1971,
3 are renumbered subdivisions 11, 12 and 13 and a new subdivision 10 is
4 added to read as follows:
5 10. Propeller guards. All vessels which have a propeller and are used
6 to instruct children under the age of eighteen shall have propeller
7 guards installed around the vessels propellers.
8 § 2. This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after it shall
9 have become a law. Effective immediately, the addition, amendment and/or
10 repeal of any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of
11 this act on its effective date are authorized and directed to be made
12 and completed on or before such effective date.

*************************************************************************************

PropellerSafety.com Comments

Great to see a community taking action to protect its loved ones. We wish youth sailing organizations provided some more leadership and direction to those considering using propeller guards.

It would be nice, if Suffolk County provided some basic guidance as to which types of guards are acceptable and what problems they might create on certain vessels and applications.

As it stands, the bill provides little guidance or exemptions. (such as exempting true inboard boats, exempting faster vessels, etc).

The bill is very broad in terms of what type of youth instruction it applies to.

The bill is scheduled to go into effect in 90 days. We suspect that may be too fast without some better guidance in place to those who will be looking for guards.

Last year we prepared an open letter to Assemblyman Andrew P. Raia who spoke out for the use of guards. The letter was never mailed or posted. We tried to update it to post it here and may do so later. For the moment if Suffolk County Legislators would like to discuss the many suggestions and points we made about the proposed State of New York law most of which are relevant to their law as well, we would be happy to share those ideas with them or with Mr. Raia at the State of New York.

We hope sailing and youth sailing organizations will use the opportunity to step up and help clubs set some guidelines for propeller guards. Among the very basic questions are if you want protection to the rear or not.

We anticipate the industry will lash out against what they call “piecemeal regulations” or a “quilt of regulations” (different requirements in different places) AND the lack of guidance of these requirements.

We think it is a great idea to use propeller guards on small power boats associated with youth sailing. We are just a little concerned this bill may not be the answer in its current state.

Hopefully the legislature will quickly adapt the bill as needed to best fit their needs.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

LifeCord – smart kill switch lanyard

Inspired by the 2013 Milligan accident in the UK, John Barker, a UK businessman did something about the problem.

LifeCord logo
At least in the UK, some boaters, especially those in rougher water want to attach their kill switch lanyard (known as a kill cord in the UK). However sometimes they forget to attach the lanyard. This new invention calls attention to itself if it is not connected.

Before you start the boat you must attach the kill cord to the boat. LifeCord uses your existing kill switch. It comes with a variety of connectors so it fits all popular engines.

Once attached it begins to flash a light every ten seconds and beep at that same rate. The beeping starts at a low decibel rate and gradually gets louder every 10 seconds until you attach the lanyard by wrapping it around your leg or by attaching it to your life jacket. A different end piece is used for your leg that the special snap used for your life jacket.

LifeCord is basically a “smart” kill switch lanyard that reminds you to attach it so you do not end up in the “Circle of Death” with an unmanned boat circling, repeatedly striking you with the propeller.

If you elect to try to defeat the system by just latching it back to itself in either mode, LifeCord knows you are cheating and will continue to flash and sound the ever louder alarm.

By starting out at a light beeping sound, it gives you plenty of time start the engine and check a few things on the vessel and pull the bumpers between you and the dock before the beeping gets loud.

LifeCord accomplishes this feat with the parts below.

LifeCord assembly

LifeCord assembly
MBY image

Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 Children tubing struck by boat propeller Norris Lake TN 8 June 2018

Four children were riding a towed tube on Norris Lake north of Knoxville Tennessee on Friday, June 8, 2018.

The boat was near Goat Rock Island in LaFollette, Tennessee at White Bridge in Lonas Young Memorial Park per 10news / WBIR.

The boat was a small center console boat powered by a Johnson outboard motor, as seen below.

WBIR image of the vessel

WBIR image of the vessel
8 July 2018 Norris Lake TN

The children were still on the tube when the boat headed at them, a 16 year old girl and another child jumped from the tube, a six year old and an 8 year old staid on the tube.

The 16 year old girl that jumped, plus the 6, and 8 year old were struck by the propeller. Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Mercury patented outboard motor tether in 1969

The Leash, labeled image.

The Leash, labeled image.

With all the chatter about The Leash we thought we would point out the first commercially available outboard tether for larger outboards was invented and sold by Mercury Marine.

Mercury’s efforts preceded The Leash by nearly 50 years.

This post is best viewed on a laptop or desktop computer.

This post in no way belittles the development of or the accomplishments of The Leash, it just points out the basics of the concept have been around a long time. It also points out that one outboard manufacturer not only condoned the use of tethers, they factory installed them on tens of thousands of motors.

Back on January 12, 1967, Brunswick Corporation filed two patent applications that were later issued as the patents listed below:

  • U.S. Patent 3,434,448 Combined Impact Damping and Power Lift Mechanism for an Outboard Propulsion Unit Assembly invented by W.L. Woodfill issued 25 March 1969, assigned to Brunswick Corporation (parent company of Mercury Marine).
  • U.S. Patent 3,434,450 Mounting Arrangement for Hydraulic Impact Damping and Power Lift Means for an Outboard Propulsion Unit invented by well known Mercury engineer, D.F. (Dan) McCormick issued 25 March 1969, assigned to Brunswick Corporation (parent company of Mercury Marine).

The first patent teaches how to combine the damping needed to stop an outboard motor swinging up after striking a submerged object, with the power lift system as seen on the “Tower of Power”, the tall large horsepower Mercury outboards.

The second patent focuses more on the mounting arrangement used to accomplish the first patent.

We do find it a bit odd these two relatively complex patents list two separate inventors vs. listing them as co-inventors on each patent. They even share the same drawings. The first patent focuses more on the tether and specifically includes it as a claim in the patent.

Mercury’s tether is a heavy nylon strap about 1.75 inches wide and about one to two feet long (they come in different lengths depending on the outboard model and model year).

The tethers have a loop on both ends allowing them to be slipped over a metal rod.

In operation on the tower of power outboards, one looped end of the tether slips onto a rod on the swivel bracket (note a tube allowing the tether to swivel more easily is slipped over the rod first, then the looped end of the tether is slipped over the tube). The strap then loops around a metal bar on the outboard mounting bracket structure that is firmly attached to the transom, then the remaining looped end slides over the same rod on the swivel bracket that the first loop slipped on. See photos near the bottom of this post for how Mercury’s tether is assembled. The swivel bracket is tethered to the transom, just like The Leash.

The tilt cylinder(s) use external relief valves and check valves to allow the cylinder rod to collapse during collision with a submerged object which allows the swivel bracket to swing up with the rest of the outboard. Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Mercury Marine Aluminum Alloy patents & propeller safety

Rex Chambers' Mercury Marine outboard broken swivel bracket

Rex Chambers’ Mercury Marine outboard broken swivel plate

As noted before, outboard motor swivel brackets take tremendous loads during a collisions with submerged objects. On occasion swivel brackets fail, sometimes allowing the outboard motor to break off and flip into the boat with the engine still running and the propeller turning a few thousand RPM.

Driveshaft housings (the lower leg of the outboard) sometimes fail during log strikes.

Several years ago, Mercury Marine developed two new aluminum alloys with higher impact resistance for use in their lost foam molding process.

The very basics of what happened is Mercury found that small quantities of Strontium could make certain aluminum alloys more durable, allowing parts made from them to stretch more before incurring a permanent set which allowed their structural parts (like swivel brackets) to absorb more energy during a collision with a submerged object before failing. These alloys were not just more durable, they were more durable at high strain rates (when a load was applied very quickly such as during a crash). Thus Mercury was able to raise the speed at which their components would fail in some collisions.

In addition to increasing durability of Mercury’s parts, the specific blends of elements used by Mercury in their new alloys brought along some other good features as well, like fewer issues with porosity.

These two new Mercury alloys went on to be known as:

  • A367 or Mercalloy 367 used for structural parts
  • A367 or Mercalloy 368 used for propellers

Most major manufacturers of marine drives run one or more special blends of aluminum to achieve the qualities they desire specifically including reducing corrosion and being compatible with their molding process (die casting, lost foam, low pressure lost foam, etc.) For example, Yamaha uses an alloy they refer to as YDC-30.

The history of Mercury patenting their two new alloys is told below.

In 2005, Mercury Marine filed two patent applications for these new alloys: Read More →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rex Chambers speaks on The Leash: video

Rex Chambers, well known professional bass angler and his fishing partner were injured 3 May 2014 on Wheeler Lake in Alabama when they struck a submerged log, the 250 horsepower Mercury outboard motor broke off, and flipped into the boat still under power. His fishing buddy was struck in the head by the skeg. Rex was cut in the left shoulder and left leg by the propeller. See our previous coverage of Rex’s accident.

On 3 May 2018, the four year anniversary of his accident, Rex posted a video on his Facebook page, Rex Chambers Fishing, reminiscing from Lake Wheeler about the accident and telling about how he now runs The Leash, a tether to prevent such accidents.

We like his down home, straight forward talk and how he is able to speak from personal experience of the need to tether large outboard motors.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Stages of grief: boating industry resists proposed safety devices

Navigator Prop Guard Down Position

Navigator Prop Guard Down Position

The recreational boating industry has long used a series of objections in their efforts to resist proposed safety devices, including propeller safety devices. The industry raises different objections during different stages of the process. Overall the process resembles the 5 stages of grief people pass though when a loved one dies.

The five stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

We have long seen this sequence of objections used against propeller guards. Some of these steps were used against kill switches long ago, and now some are being used against The Leash, a device to prevent outboard motors from breaking off and flipping into boats after striking submerged objects. PWC off throttle steering devices passed through these steps too, along with automatically limiting maximum PWC speeds.

These steps are basically the playbook the industry pulls out every time a new safety device is proposed.

Steps within the five stages are listed below, along with some examples.

The first sequence of steps occur before the device is commercially available. During this stage, the industry is in DENIAL. The industry:

  1. Says the problem this proposed device is said to prevent does not exist, we have never seen an accident like this before this one or these accidents are extremely rare.
  2. The industry breaks the accident data down to very specific types of boats with specific types and sizes of drives for one year or two at a time to make the numbers look smaller, thus denying there is a problem.
  3. Says the accidents that do happen are caused by human error, its their own fault they were hurt.
  4. Says the accidents are alcohol related.
  5. Says we already have a safety device in place to prevent these accidents, it is the boater’s responsibility to use it (like manual kill switch lanyards that almost nobody uses).
  6. Says the proposed device is not commercially available and they could not possibly construct one themselves (even if the device appears to be very simply built).
  7. Says the proposed device could have unintended consequences and portrays those unintended consequences as always being bad (even if the device has already been on the market for several years).
  8. Says the proposed device is too costly to manufacture, install, or service.
  9. Says none of our competitors are using the proposed device so why should we (the entire industry pushes back against the device).
  10. Says our products were not designed with the proposed device in mind, it could damage our products.

The second sequence of steps of denial occur after the device is placed on the market, the industry becomes ANGRY and:

  1. Says the proposed safety device is not commercially available in the exact size/configuration to fit this particular vessel or motor (when all they have to do is ask).
  2. Claims no test data exists for the device – and fails to test it themselves.
  3. Says our product meets all industry standards (ABYC voluntary standards). There is no standard requiring this device, so we cannot use it.
  4. Claims no standards exist for the device or its use so they cannot use it (even though the industry sets its own standards through ABYC).
  5. Conducts litigation testing (they conjure up a test the device is guaranteed to fail even though their own products may fail the same test).
  6. Warns potential users their marine drive or boat warranty will not or may not cover the marine drive or boat if it is altered by using this new safety device (has long been done with propeller guards).
  7. Says education is the answer not safety devices (like we need to educate boaters to connect kill switch lanyards when they have been trying that approach unsuccessfully for decades).
  8. Says warnings could prevent these accidents even though they have already warned against the hazard for decades.
  9. Says this new safety device encourages risky behavior. With the hazard now appearing less risky, people are now more likely to be injured by it because they no longer fear the hazard.
  10. Claims they are unable to determine exactly which marine drives or boats to install these new devices on because they do not know which motor will be mounted on which which new boat and how that boat will be used. (even though they are able to recommend a specific propeller of their own manufacture for almost any boat and engine combination and use).
  11. Says the manufacturer of the new safety device has a monopoly on the market and they do not want to accept a safety device they must purchase from a monopoly. (even though their is a federal law preventing monopolies from overcharging for safety devices).
  12. Maligns the safety device, the inventors, and the firms manufacturing the safety devices. (NMMA once said, In the past, there had been several “snake oil salesmen designing guards in their garage.”).
  13. Uses their legislative connections/power to dismiss the issue. For example, the industry erupted in an uproar surrounding USCG’s “Don’t Wreck Your Summer” Public Service Announcement (PSA) video about propeller safety. The industry quickly contacted legislators and threatened the USCG boating office which quickly pulled the PSA.
  14. Tries to stack up rulings in their favor like they did with the 1989 NBSAC Subcommittee on Propeller Guards and with Federal Pre-emption in the courts prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Sprietsma case.

In those instances in which the Coast Guard picks up the torch and begins proposing regulations requiring these safety devices, the industry drags their feet and finally begins to BARGAIN. The industry:

  1. Says they will need years to implement the proposed regulations
  2. Says the proposed regulations are too broad. We must limit them to this small group of vessels operating in specific areas, while providing exemptions to some that even meet the industry’s proposed criteria.
  3. Says the proposed regulations will be too difficult or costly to enforce (said mandatory kill switch wear would be too hard to enforce and would require boarding all vessels)
  4. Sometimes bargains by establishing their own voluntary ABYC standard (the lowest requirements they can get everybody to agree on).
  5. Sometimes bargains by establishing a gentleman’s agreement with the government like they did in 1999 with PWC top speeds (65 mph).
  6. Sometimes tries to defeat proposed regulations by miring them down in the details (what is the definition of a houseboat?, what is the definition of propeller guard?. etc)

As for DEPRESSION and ACCEPTANCE, we rarely see these stages because the industry has been very successful at dismissing proposed safety devices in the earlier stages. Rarely is the boating industry forced to actually use some new safety device /propeller safety device.

Signs of the industry being DEPRESSED include:

  1. Losing a legal case for not using the proposed safety device and having to appeal the case and losing it again.
  2. When a large sum of punitive damages is awarded.
  3. When young children are killed (mobilizes the emotional response) or adults survive in a horribly maimed state from an accident they in no way contribute to (large payout due to sympathy they could garner from a jury)
  4. When there is no one out there to lay the blame on (on the operator for alcohol use or going too fast, on the lack of a spotter, on the injured party for use of alcohol, on the boat dealer, on a component manufacturer like the Teleflex steering cases).

Examples of the industry being in a state of ACCEPTANCE include:

  1. Them currently installing kill switches on most vessels after losing several legal cases.
  2. Accepting the proposed rudder steering design for off throttle steering of PWCs after losing several legal cases
  3. Installing finger guards on pontoon boat gates after several youth ripped off fingers in them
  4. We may soon see the beginning of acceptance of wireless kill switches with Mercury teaming with Fell Marine.

The resistance goes on

For nearly 40 years, the industry has repeatedly won the war against propeller guards.

As to The Leash, it has only been on the market for a couple years. The industry is just getting into the trenches against this one. Two major outboard manufacturers recently denied they even knew such accidents existed.


In Summary

The boating industry faces proposed boating safety devices just like individuals face the loss of loved ones. They pass through the 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

We have seen it time and time again.

Comment – At times, some of the objections raised by the boating industry against proposed safety devices may be legitimate. However it is ridiculous for the industry to raise most of these objections every time a new proposed safety device comes along.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email