The decision on whether or not to fit a prop guard is a personal one and one that should be made only once a full appraisal of the pros and cons of prop guards has been carried out.
Prop guards are intended to serve 2 purposes:
- To protect the propeller and gear box from damage in the event of a prop striking a rock or other hard object.
- To protect a person in the event they come into contact with a moving propeller.
Some prop guards are designed with both purposes in mind whilst others are specifically designed for one or the other. There is very little data available as to the effectiveness of prop guards in achieving either of their intended objectives. This is not to say they are not effective, simply that there is little or no evidence to support an objective analysis. On this basis, the best one can do is to assess the facts and make a decision based on the information that is available.
Prevention is better than cure
Essentially, the most effective way of avoiding prop strike injuries is by avoiding a person being in the water anywhere near a moving propeller in the first place. The RYA therefore believes that the focus should be on following several basic and essential good practices, including:
- Keep a proper look out at all times
- Check the area around the engine for hazards before starting the engine
- Use a kill cord whenever the engine is running
- Stop the engine when there is a risk of a person in the water coming into contact with the propeller
- When swimming around a boat ensure the engine cannot be started inadvertently
- Ensure passengers and crew are aware of the need to maintain good handholds whilst under way
- Communicate changes in direction or speed to passengers
- Warn passengers when approaching wash or areas of rough water
- When operating at speed, ensure passengers are not positioned or seated in the bow where they can be easily thrown out of the boat if it stops suddenly
- Operate at a speed appropriate to the conditions
- Observe restricted or no go areas designated for swimmers
- Utilise a spotter when towing water skiers or inflatables
- Where dedicated seating is available have passengers use it in preference to sitting on gunwales or sponsons
- Warn passengers of the hazard associated with falling in, in particular prop strike