September 2012

Propeller safety

Test your knowledge

1. If a passenger falls overboard, you should …

A. slowly reverse, keeping the person in sight at all times. Stop within five feet and allow the person to swim to the side of the boat.

B. stop the boat. Allow the passenger to swim to the side and slowly pull the passenger to safety.

C. stop, slowly turn the boat around and approach while keeping the passenger in sight. Shut off the engine before bringing the passenger to safety.

2. True or false?

It is safe for passengers to board or exit from the water if engines are idling.

3. Fill in the blank:

________________ will stop a propeller should the driver of a boat be thrown overboard or pulled away from the boat’s controls.


1. C. Never reverse your boat to pick up a passenger. Always stop, turn around and shut off the engine before pulling someone to safety.

2. False. It’s never safe to board while engines are idling because the propeller may continue to spin even when the boat is in neutral.

3. An engine cut-off switch. A traditional lanyard or wireless kill switch connected to the driver and the boat’s control panel or dash can save the driver’s life if he or she is thrown from the boat.

You can do several things to minimize the risk of propeller injury:

  • Personally examine the area around your boat’s propeller before starting the engine.
  • Take a moment to inform your passengers of the location and dangers of the propellers before setting out. Call attention to propeller warning labels around your boat.
  • Never permit passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seatbacks or other locations where they might fall overboard and under the boat.
  • Establish and firmly communicate rules for the use of swim platforms, boarding ladders and seating.
  • Consider using an engine cut-off switch or another propeller safety device, and make sure all passengers (including you) wear a lifejacket at all times.

U.S. Coast Guard



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A simple knot that will hold under a load, the buntline hitch can be rapidly and easily passed through a ring or around a bar or spar.


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