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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2018 Bassmaster Classic won by Jordan Lee, Yamaha, & Ranger

Congratulations to Bassmaster for once again putting on a great event, this time on Lake Hartwood, South Carolina March 16-18, 2018.

We salute all the contestants and their families, especially Jordan Lee of Grant Alabama for becoming a two time, back to back winner of the Classic, and to Ranger boats, Yamaha outboards, and Carhartt for being among Jordan Lee’s sponsors.

Jordan Lee dock fishing on day 3 of 2018 Bassmaster Classic. image by Bassmaster /  Garrick Dixon

Jordan Lee dock fishing on day 3 of 2018 Bassmaster Classic.
image by Bassmaster / Garrick Dixon

We also congratulate 3 fellow Oklahoman’s that were doing very well in the tournament at the end of day two: James Elam (Tulsa OK), Jason Christie (Park Hill OK), and Edwin Evers (Talala OK).

We caught a screen capture of the Bassmaster live feed just after Jordan Lee learned he had won. You can see he is stoked with emotion.

Jordan Lee knows he has won.

Jordan Lee knows he has won.
image captured from Bassmaster live feed.

As a young angler, not long off the college circuit, his success and emotion will cause many other young men to consider tournament fishing. Read More →

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Farewell to Charlie Strang

Charlie Strang photo courtesy Strang Funeral Home

Charlie Strang
photo courtesy Strang Funeral Home

Mercury Marine released a statement saying “Mercury Marine mourns loss of Charlie Strang” on 13 March 2018.

In that statement, Mercury notes Charles “Charlie” Strang served as Carl Kiekhaefer’s top engineer for 13 years at Mercury Marine. He later served as Director of Outboard Marine Engineering (OMC) and later CEO and Chairman of the Board. Mercury notes, Charlie Strang was also known as the creator of the sterndrive engine, sketching the first sterndrive in 1948 while attending MIT. Mercury credits his mother, Ann, for the “famous Mercury Phantom Black engine color”.

The press release notes Strang was a very popular figure in both the marine and NASCAR industries and was National Commissioner for NASCAR from 1998-2008.

“Charlie was an avid powerboat racing ambassador and a brilliant engineer,” said John Pfeifer, Mercury Marine president. “He loved engines and loved Mercury Marine. We could always count on Charlie to lend his support to the industry. He lived an incredible life and is responsible for a lot of the success we have today.”

Mr. Strang was 96 when he died. Read More →

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Mercury Marine returns to Lake X

Mercury Marine logoAt the Miami Boat Show, Mercury Marine announced they are returning to Lake X where many of their products were tested in secrecy years ago.

Mercury’s press release states: Read More →

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Mercury Marine announces technology partnership with Fell Marine

Mercury Marine logoAt the Miami Boat Show (16 February 2018) Mercury Marine announced a partnership with Fell Marine in which together, they will co-develop Mercury-exclusive wireless and Internet of Things (IoT) products that integrate with Mercury’s SmartCraft system “to make boating easier, safer, and more enjoyable than ever before.”

Working prototypes are being shown on the water at the 2018 Miami Boat Show, and in Mercury’s booth.

Mercury says Fell Marine’s WiMEA proprietary wireless protocol offers encryption security and reliability in the marine environment. WiMEA incorporates support for SmartCraft, NMEA2000, and other CANBus standards while allowing Bluetooth enabled apps and devices (boaters to communicate with their products using their smartphones).

Mercury and Brunswick each issued a press release on the new partnership.

Fell Marine logo

Fell Marine logo

We have been following Fell Marine since they introduced MOB+ wireless lanyard at the 2017 Miami Boat Show.

MOB+ image from Fell Marine web site

MOB+ image from Fell Marine web site

When we first saw the announcement from Mercury we incorrectly thought Mercury was going to start using the existing MOB+ unit from Fell Marine, but as we read the press releases, they focused on wireless technologies in general and the co-development of Mercury-exclusive products.

That left us wondering if there was even going to be a wireless lanyard in the mix for Mercury. Thanks to a Mercury Facebook video by Wally Ross, Controls and Rigging Product Manager for Mercury and Christian Frost of Fell Marine we learned the answer.

Mercury’s video clearly discusses Man Overboard wireless lanyards and the potential for the development of Mercury-exclusive wireless lanyards as part of this joint venture. The video demonstrates the Smart Ignition System, it’s ability to start the twin engined vessel using a wireless fob, and to monitor the vessel from a smart phone.

We do note that when Christian starts the engines at about 1 minute into the video we do not see anybody yelling “clear” or checking to make sure no one is in the water around the vessel. They are on a large twin engined boat and it was started in neutral. We recognize it is really easy to forget about your surroundings on a boat this big, but if they shoot something like this again we encourage them to make some visible effort on the video to make sure no one is in the water near the vessel when they start the engines.

We are excited to hear Mercury is partnering with Fell Marine and wish both of them the best in this venture.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email updates “look” of website

On 3 February 2018 we installed a significant update to the “look” and “feel” of the site.

Almost everything is still in the same place. If you can’t find something you need, drop us a note.

Over the next several days we will be fixing several minor blips and issues from the update.

The new “look” will allow us to utilize some new features and improve readability on mobile devices.

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Brunswick follows our lead, files patent for neural network Virtual Propeller Guard

Brunswick Corporation filed U.S. Patent Application “Person Detection in a Marine Environment” on 5 May 2016. The patent application (US 2017/0323154 A1) was published by the U.S. Patent Office on 9 November 2017. As of late January 2018, the patent has yet to be granted.

The basics of Brunswick’s patent application teaches the use of computer vision (an image sensor on the vessel to capture an image) as the basis for a detecting the presence of people in a marine environment. An image sensor captures the scene, the system scans the image using an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) that has been trained to detect patterns in the image associated with one or more predefined objects such a swimmer near the propeller. The ANN outputs information regarding the presence or absence of such predefined objects within the image. Then powertrain computers respond by alerting the operator, slowing the vessel, shifting the drives to neutral, or other appropriate actions. In effect, the system acts as a sensor based propeller guard. We long ago coined a phrase for these types of systems, Virtual Propeller Guards.

We first coined the phrase, Virtual Propeller Guard, back in 2002 for use with sensor based systems designed to detect people in the water near a boat at risk for being struck by the propeller. These sensors were used to intelligently prevent propeller strikes by alerting the operator people were in the water near the vessels, sounding an alarm, shifting drives to neutral, shutting down marine drives, prevent the engine from starting, or other appropriate actions based on conditions. Over time it became obvious “Virtual Propeller Guards” also applied to sensor based detection systems monitoring possible presence of people in the water near a vessel, such as virtual lanyards, ladder switches, swim gate switches, and even traditional lanyard kill switches. Over time, Virtual Propeller Guards expanded to include Operator Presence Detection (OPS), and Voluntary Egression Detection such as swim gate switches and swim ladder switches.

Brunswick’s ‘154 patent application teaches:

  1. Using the technology to detect people near the stern of the vessel by attaching cameras (image, infrared, sonar, or other types) to the upper rear side of the drive or to the stern
  2. Using a similar system to detect the presence or absence of an operator at the helm
  3. Using a similar system to look forward off the bow to detect people, debris, or small vessels
  4. Using a similar system to look around the sides of the vessel for people in the water

We will further discuss the patent, then present evidence of our previous posting of materials teaching of a similar device several years ago (prior art).

Table of Contents

  1. First Page of Brunswick’s Virtual Propeller Guard Patent Application
  2. Discussion of Brunswick’s Virtual Propeller Guard Patent Application
  3. Brunswick’s Virtual Propeller Guard Patent Application Claims
  4. Volvo Penta Image Averaging Patent
  5. Boiler Plate / Fluff Language in the Brunswick Virtual Propeller Guard Patent Application
  6. Brunswick I-JET Lab
  7. Our Prior Art
  8. Volvo Penta Prior Art Statement
  9. A New Reference in This Field

First Page of Brunswick’s Virtual Propeller Guard Patent Application

A copy of the first page of the patent application was cropped and reassembled into the image below. Read More →

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Propeller Safety Year in Review 2017

A brief review of the major propeller safety events in 2017 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 →

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The Leash receives U.S. Patent

We just noticed The Leash, a tether to prevent outboard motors from flipping into boats when striking submerged objects, received U.S Patent 9,771,136 back on 26 September 2017. Some of our work in this field was cited in the patent references as well.

The Leash: left and right views side by side

The Leash: left and right views side by side

Roy John Grohler is listed as the inventor and the patent is assigned to The Leash, LLC. Read More →

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Pennsylvania changes wakesurfing laws to accommodate Volvo Penta FWD drive

The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) reports Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has approved allowing wakesurfing behind boat propelled by propellers OR water jets, but ONLY if the propulsion system was specifically designed by the manufacturer for use in wakesurfing. Previously the State of Pennsylvania only allowed wake surfing behind direct drives (inboards). NMMA notes the changes/revisions were written broad enough to allow future innovations and will take effect in early 2018.

Volvo Penta FWD photo

Volvo Penta FWD photo

The real force behind the change is Volvo Penta’s FWD drive. When the drive first came out our coverage noted its possible use in wakesurfing applications and suggested its safety in those applications be evaluated. Read More →

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Stop the Bleed

Stop the Bleed program logo

Stop the Bleed program logo

New York University at Winthrop has expanded their “Stop the Bleed” education program for first responders in Nassau County New York to include law enforcement, school educators, and others in response to a boat propeller accident.

The program now trains citizens to assist in bleeding emergencies before professionals arrive on the scene. The goal being to reduce the number of bleeding deaths. While the program is now part of an effort to prepare areas responding to mass casualties and acts of terrorism, it began in response to a boat propeller accident. Read More →

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