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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NYT article on MLF Bass Pro Tour

The New York Times published an epic article on bass tournaments titled, This is the Most Lucrative Moment in History to Catch Bass, on 18 October 2018. The feature article talks extensively about the history and business of bass fishing, The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), a Bassmaster Elite tournament at Waddington, New York in August 2018, and the recent formation of a new tournament series, the Bass Pro Tour, under the Major Fishing League (MFL).

Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) logo
Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) logo

When the article was written in October 2018, about 70 BASS association pro anglers had moved over from BASS to MFL’s Bass Pro Tour with its “total payout approaching $10 million.”

Among the major names defecting to the new tour are Kevin VanDam, thought by many to be the greatest bass fisherman ever, Edwin Evers, Skeet Reese, Alton Jones, and Brandon Palaniuk. The article says a total of about 70 pros had defected at that time. Since then, MLF’s web site lists several well known anglers joining their ranks including Tommy Biffle, Gary Clouse, Greg Hackney, Randy Howell, Mike Iaconelli, Chris Lane, Bobby Lane, Dean Rojas,

Major League Fishing logo
Major League Fishing logo

The article notes the sport of bass fishing has exploded at the high school and college levels. Over a hundred additional college clubs affiliated with BASS since 2012. Several colleges now offer bass fishing scholarships.

The author says many they spoke with anticipate rough times ahead for the BASS organization, but they expect BASS to pull though due to its grass roots presence and half a million members.

With another major organization for pro anglers, more serious anglers will likely be considering trying to enter the pro ranks.

We suspect this article will be cited for decades into the future as a major turning point in bass tournament fishing at the elite level. We hope both organizations take this opportunity to make sure their anglers are safe on the water and the integrity of the sport continues.

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Barhanovich case settled

Mark Barhanovich

Mark Barhanovich

Mark Barhanovich was killed when his Suzuki outboard motor struck a dredge pipe alleged not to be properly marked on Sunday morning September 16, 2012 off Biloxi Mississippi near Deer Island. The Suzuki outboard broke off, flipped into his boat. Later that morning, Mr. Barhanovich, a widely known and respected local figure, died from his injuries.

Initially, the dredging firm, C.F. Bean, filed Praying to Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability in Federal Court in the Southern District of Mississippi. The document was basically a Jones Act filing asking the court to apply a law in which their liability could be limited to the value of their barge and its contents (a pile of dirt). The court then asked anyone with a claim against Bean to file it by a certain date. Mr. Barhanovich’s widow filed, and the case began.

Over time some other divisions of Bean and Archer Western Contractors, a firm associated with the dredging operation were brought into the case.

Bean then asked the court to bring some third parties into the case,

  • Suzuki of Japan
  • Suzuki of America – later dismissed because they had filed bankruptcy after the accident
  • Bob’s Machine, manufacturer of the jack plat on the vessel, later dismissed because the jack plate was found to not have played a factor in the accident

Mark Barhanovich's center console fishing boat. Photo from Edward Fritsch expert witness report

Mark Barhanovich’s center console fishing boat.
Photo from Edward Fritsch expert witness report

Mr. Barhanovich’s survivors did not want to allow more parties into the case. They wanted to keep the focus on the dredging operation not properly marking the pipe. The family apparently felt that allowing more players into the case would muddy up the water prolonging the case and make it more complex.

Eventually, Bean and Archer reached a settlement with the Barhanovich family.

Then Bean tried to recover some of their losses from Suzuki of Japan.

All parties involved announced a settlement in a court filing dated 30 November 2018.

The actual case was listed as:

C.F. BEAN, L.L.C.,

Civil No. 1:3cv77-HSO-RHW

We wrote several articles on the case as it progressed through the system. Those articles can be found by clicking on “Barhanovich” in the tag cloud to the right of this article.

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Kickup bracket with jack plate patent application

David Vance Jr. filed a patent application for a jack plate integrated with a kickup bracket. The kickup portion of the assembly is chained prevent over rotation of the outboard when a submerged object is struck. The patent application was published 22 November 2018. Mr. Vance, the inventor, says this design is for faster vessels and shows a hydraulic jack plate integrated with a kickup bracket as seen in Figure 1 below.

Kickup jack plate with tether patent application

Kickup jack plate with tether patent application

The chains basically act as a tether. The patent application refers to the chain (item #108)as a “limiting strap”.

Kickup jack plate patent application Figure 4

Kickup jack plate patent application Figure 4

Item #140 in the images above is the tensioner that allows the jack plate to kickup (swing out and upward) on impact.

CMC is one of several firms currently building kickup brackets for small outboards. Some CMC units include chains to prevent them from totally breaking free of the transom if they strike something fast enough to fail the bracket.

CMC Kickup bracket

CMC Kickup bracket

As we understand it, Mr. Vance has invented a bracket of this nature that can be integrated with a manual or hydraulic jack plate targeting applications with larger motors and faster speeds.

At first thought, it sounds like an approach that could lengthen the time of contact during strikes of a submerged objects by bass boat outboard motors which would reduce peak loads.

The patent itself is a little confusing about its target market. The patent states it is for faster boats, then says for those in excess of 10 miles per hour. No mention is made of the hydraulic log strike system on large outboard motors or of any interaction between this invention and those systems.

Tiller steering is mentioned at least once in the patent. Thats leads us to speculate they are targeting smaller, but not very small outboards. Such as maybe 25 to 50 horsepower?

We do not recall ever seeing “factory” jackplates on outboards that small, perhaps due to the cost of hydraulic jack plates and to the challenges of bolting smaller outboards to the transom vs. clamping them to the transom?

If in fact the inventor is talking about bass boat outboards, an application where jack plates are frequently used, bass boats already have hydraulic log strike systems. Plus if you added additional trim to the unit by allowing it to kickup, you might smash their large cowl against the rear deck due to minimal clearance already.

We look forward to learning a more about the inventor’s actual intentions if the patent is issued and are happy to see another concept added to those than can prevent outboard motors from breaking off and flipping into the boat.

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Brunswick Patent Application prevents groundings

Brunswick Patent Application US 2018/0335788 A1 for “Systems and Methods for Raising and Lowering a Marine Device on a Marine Vessel” was published 22 November 2018. The patent application provides some automatic modes for monitoring drive trim, jack plate height, water depth, GPS location, heading, navigational map water depth, speed, throttle position, and other variables to prevent groundings of the marine drive when underway (striking bottom). The system automatically alerts the operator and takes action (trims and raises the drive) when it detects potential groundings.

Brunswick's patent application prevents groundings

Brunswick’s patent application prevents groundings

Brunswick’s patent application is heavily based on their CANBUS SmartCraft architecture monitoring many variables to estimate what is going on now and predicting what will be going on in the future. This patent application shares methods with their recent debris avoidance patents, collision avoidance patents, and their automatic trim patents such as:

  • U.S. Patent 9,944,375 Systems and Methods for Controlling Trim Position of a Marine Propulsion Device on a Marine Vessel.
  • U.S. Patent 9,290,252 Systems and Methods for Controlling Trim Position of a Marine Propulsion Device on a Marine Vessel.
  • U.S. Patent 9,927,520 Method and System for Close Proximity Collision Detection.
  • U.S. Patent 10,118,682 Method and System for Controlling Trim Position of a Propulsion Device on a Marine Vessel.

Some of the patents listed above try to avoid impact with floating or submerged objects. Avoiding debris at speed can prevent outboard motors from striking debris, breaking off, and flipping into boats.

Similarly, Brunswick’s most recent patent application has to do with preventing groundings of the marine drive when underway. Groundings can also result in outboard motors breaking off and flipping into boats.

We are glad to see Brunswick working in these areas and hope to see these systems on vessels in the marketplace in the future.

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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

Read More →

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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

Read More →

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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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