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 →

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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 →

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Design Chart to prevent outboards from flipping into boats – UPDATED

We updated our Design Chart to Prevent Outboard Motors From Entering / Flipping Into The Boat After Striking Submerged Objects today (23 October 2018).

The primary addition was adding the option to Minimize the Hazard of the Outboard Entering the boat by killing the engine when the outboard breaks loose from the boat. The industry previously turned outboards off or slowed them down when they kicked up out of the water several ways, some of which they patented.

Outboard Can Flip Into Boat warning 2

Outboard Can Flip Into Boat warning 2

Our design chart refers readers to Approaches to Prevent Outboard Motors From Flipping Into Boats After Striking Submerged or Floating Objects for additional information on many methods to prevent outboard motors from entering boats.

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Large Outboard Motor flipped into boat list updated

We updated our list of large outboard motors breaking off and flipping into boats on 7 October 2018 and are posting it today.

Outboard broke off and flipped into Michael Moreno's boat. Image via Bass Angler magazine.

Michael Moreno accident
Image courtesy Bass Angler magazine.

We continue to see example after example of large outboard motors breaking off and flipping into boats.

We encourage the boating industry to read our list of ways to prevent them. Outboard motors continue to land in the buddy or passenger seats with their propeller turning a few thousand RPM.

Outboard Can Flip Into Boat warning 2

Outboard Can Flip Into Boat warning 2

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“Preventing Outboards from Flipping into Boats” updated

The third edition of our paper, Preventing Outboard Motors From Flipping Into Boats was published online today, 25 July 2018.

It has been about 3.5 years since we last updated the paper. Many things have happened since then. Several new methods and technologies have been added to the list. The 3rd edition covers many new solutions including some targeting bass boats.

The paper can be viewed at Preventing Outboard Motors From Flipping Into Boats Read More →

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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

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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

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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.

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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. Read More →

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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

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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 →

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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 →

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