Push For Enhanced Boat Propeller Safety Measures In Wake Of Deadly Accident
August 28, 2017 7:27 PM

Filed Under:  Carolyn Gusoff, Centerport Yacht Club
NORTHPORT, N.Y. (CBS New York) - A push for new boating safety for anyone who swims or comes anywhere near a boat propeller comes after a tragic death at a sailing camp last month.

We teach our children how to swim and school them in water safety, but seldom do we give much thought to one danger under the water.

The churning steel blades of a boat motor kill and maim boat passengers, swimmers, and water skiers every year.
"it's an industry that all too often worries about the bottom line," State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (r-12th) said in a Monday press conference.  "the bottom line right now is saving lives."

Raia - an avid boater himself - is proposing a New York state law that would require propeller guards on all vessels used to instruct children.

"The propeller spins in here and heaven forbid you fall, it's not going to hit you in the chest and kill you which is what happened to Ryan," Raia tells CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

12-year-old Ryan Weiss enrolled in junior sailing camp,practicing a capsizing drill in July.  As the dinghy he was in lunged forward, he fell overboard and became entangled in the motor
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He died from catastrophic injuries, and his heartbroken boating community says it's time for change. 
"it could have been prevented if they had a shroud," commercial fisherman George Doll said.  "it's time."

A shroud - or cage - encases the sharp exposedblades.  Legislator Dr.William Spencer knew Ryan as a fellow member of the Centerport Yacht Club.  He's now drafting a Suffolk County Law.

"we don't want aknee-jerk reaction, we want legislation that makes sense and will really help with safety, " Dr. Spencer said.

The Marine Industry has long opposed guards, arguing they don't work and could even suck victims in.  Some boaters consider them an unnecessary mandate that slows speed.

But with 175 injuries last year combined with 24 deaths (New York), lawmakers say this is a much needed first step.

"I'd rather be prudent and try to seek a solution that's a middle ground right now," State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said.

Ryan's mother tells CBS2 her pain is still too raw for her to speak publically but she fully supports a propeller guard law and will lobby for it to save other lives.

CBS2 reports propeller guards typically cost between $100and$400. 
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Preventing Propeller Accidents - The Prop Guard Proposition
by 1ST/Lt Seth Cirker, N-IN

Unfortunately, these days it seems we more and more often hear of the tragic accidents caused by boat propellers, which if not bad enough, frequently involve young children.

As Bayside’s Assistant Squadron Educational Officer, while I continually find myself preaching proper training and safe boat operation, I still recognize that accidents do happen, and a fail-safe means to prevent propeller accidents is needed. With three children of my own spending their summers in a yacht club junior sailing program, I, like fellow parents, am greatly disappointed that such a solution is not in use.

While it may seem obvious that installing a protective cage, similar to that of a fan, around a boat’s propeller would prevent accidental contact, “prop guards” have been continually plagued by perceived flaws which prevent the use of these life-saving devices.

This predisposition is most often based on the misbelief that while prop guards minimize the likelihood of accidental contact, they also minimize water flowing past the propeller, thereby resulting in greatly reduced steering and boat control.

While physics mandates that propeller guards reduce water flow, the surprising truth, as I have been told by prop guard advocates, is that if designed correctly, there is no noticeable impact on boat performance other than limiting top end speeds.

Could this possibly be true? Could the boating community be misinformed? Could a solution we have had available to us, but have chosen not to use, actually work and save lives?

To answer these questions, a prop guard providing full 360 degree protection (front, sides and back of propeller) was installed on a typical sailing coach boat, a 17’ Boston Whaler w/ a 50 HP Yamaha outboard motor.

This boat was then used to perform a series of tests based upon a procedure generated by the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) for the United States Coast Guard. Specific performance criteria, including acceleration, turning radius, holding a course in forward & reverse, emergency braking and boat speed was evaluated.

These tests were performed, under different sea and wind conditions, by numerous highly qualified boating professionals, including certified powerboat instructors & operators as well as accredited sailing program directors & coaches.

Across the board, the findings were unanimous, there was absolutely NO noticeable impact on boat performance during any of the maneuvers performed. The only effect of the prop guard, which provided the maximum level of protection, was a reduction in top speed from approximately 23 MPH to 17 MPH.

So, while not necessarily a solution for all, as prop guards might not be appropriate for high performance boats, prop guards do appear to be the perfect fit for boats like those used in junior sailing programs where the additional safety gained is more important than the high speed lost.

About the author
Seth Cirker is a technology consultant, avid boater and United States Power Squadrons officer. He and his family reside in Port Washington, NY and can be frequently found sailing their sloop Casamar on Long Island Sound. You can find Seth on LinkedIn.