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VOL. 9 NO. 8
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Propeller safety

Avoid a prop strike with your boat

Leaving the dock

We all know the danger our props pose to people in the water, but it bears repeating. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that approximately 200 propeller-related accidents occur each year. With the amount of torque propellers generate, they can cause devastating damage to anyone they come in contact with.

Marina boaters need to consider the possibility of divers in the water cleaning boat hulls. Always walk to the stern and check before starting your engines. Make sure passengers are off the swim platform. From reports I’ve read, a significant number of prop strike injuries occur when someone falls off a swim platform. Make sure your crew and passengers know not to get near the platform when the engines are running. Although intuitive to us, this may not be obvious to guests.

If you are picking up a skier, swimmer or crew overboard, always kill the engine before anyone tries to board. Never, ever back down to pick up someone. Approach bow-first, go alongside and cut the engine as the person nears the stern. Only once the engine is off should you send someone onto the platform to assist the person in the water—and then only if assistance is absolutely necessary.

Although it seems like common sense not to back down on people, it’s surprising how often boaters do it. When you are at the helm, just imagine yourself in the water. I have been that person in the water. A dive boat backed down on me in Cozumel a few years ago, and as I pushed against the swim platform, the prop looked awful big just a foot away from my fins. I may have used some harsh language at the time.

Boaters should make sure the onboard first-aid kit is equipped properly. Granted, a box of bandages is not going to do much good for an injury like a prop strike, but on our boat, we always carry a well-stocked first-aid kit, including supplies to deal with traumatic injuries. You never know what you might stumble onto out on the water or on the dock.
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