Prop Guard

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:

  1. To protect the propeller and gear box from damage in the event of a prop striking a rock or other hard object.
  2. 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
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Look after yourself at sea

The best piece of safety kit you have is you. Keep a clear head so you can react to any situation.


Look after you

Keeping warm and dry is important. Once you start to get cold your ability to think and function properly will deteriorate.

Wear clothes made from man-made fabrics rather than cotton which soaks up body moisture and makes you cold. Always take spare clothing with you so you can add layers if necessary as well as a waterproof jacket and trousers, and a hat.

Conversely in hot weather remember your sun cream and hat and keep yourself hydrated.

Alcohol and boating don’t mix

Alcohol will impair your coordination and your ability to think clearly, particularly in an emergency situation.  It influences your behaviour and affects your judgement.

The RYA does not condone the drinking of alcohol whilst in charge of a vessel and encourages all boaters to act responsibly in this regard.

Care should also be taken when at anchor, transferring to and from a tender or when walking to and from a boat along a pontoon.

Life jacket or buoyancy aid

Make sure you and your crew have the right personal safety equipment, that they are well maintained and fitted correctly. More information on life jackets and buoyancy aids.

Wear your kill cord

If you are on an open powerboat or RIB make sure you wear the kill cord. If your boat is not fitted with one then get one fitted. The kill cord should be attached around your leg. Always check your kill cord works before you go out on the water. Watch how to attach a kill cord correctly and read more about kill cords and power boating safety.

RYA Information

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Fuel Storage ( GAS OIL )

biodieselFuel Storage Increased care is needed in the storage of diesel (gas oil) where this contains biodiesel.


Due to their hygroscopic nature, biodiesel blends can contain more water than ‘normal’ diesel which can result in accelerated corrosion, sediment formation, and filter blocking. All of this can be controlled by good housekeeping and fuel management.

All diesel is contaminated with water to some extent either because it is suspended in the fuel itself or it gets into fuel tanks through faulty seals and vent pipes and from condensation caused by changes in ambient temperature. The latter is a particular problem in common rail diesel injector systems. Because biodiesel is hygroscopic, it exacerbates the problem and biodiesel blends are more susceptible to biological attack by micro-organisms. Aerobic micro-organisms that consume hydrocarbons, such as fungi, bacteria, and yeast, usually grow at the interface between fuel and water in fuel tanks. Anaerobic species can actively grow on tank sides.

Bacterial growth can result in the blockage of fuel pipes and filters and increase the problems of corrosion. Prolonged use of contaminated fuel may result in damage to engines. Bacterial growth can be prevented by eliminating water from fuel tanks and conducting regular checks to ensure that tanks remain free of water. Where a bacterial growth outbreak has occurred, this can be addressed either by emptying and cleaning the tanks, or by tackling the outbreak with biocide additives and filtering.

Biodiesel is a better solvent than ‘normal’ diesel. As a result it may pick up deposits already in fuel systems and in fuel tanks. To prevent those deposits from blocking filters, a one-time replacement of storage tank and off-road equipment fuel filters, outside the regular service interval, after 2 to 3 tank throughputs of biodiesel is recommended. In addition, fuel seals in sight gauges on older fuel storage tanks may be incompatible with sulphur free diesel, irrespective of whether it contains biodiesel, and may require replacing. Users should examine seals and if there are signs of leakage, they will need a one-off replacement of these seals.

The oxidation stability of biodiesel is poorer than that of ‘normal’ diesel. Over time oxidation can precipitate solids with the potential to block filters in fuel distribution systems. To minimise the likelihood of this occurring, it is recommended that users take particular care to ensure a fuel turnover period of once every 6 months and, in any event, no longer than once every 12 months. Bio-diesel blends have a higher Cold Filter Plug Point (CFPP) than ‘normal’ diesel which means it may not flow as well (a phenomenon known as ‘waxing’) in cold weather or stop altogether. However, the fuels made available to the latest standards (BS EN 2869:2010) include additives to prevent waxing and maintain oxidisation stability.

Current advice based on good practice recommends that:

  • fuel in any tank is turned over regularly, at least every 6 months and certainly no more than 12 months;
  • when in use, tanks are kept as full as possible, to reduce condensation, however this must be balance against the amount you use and how long a tankful is likely to last you
  • water must be drained off regularly (although it is rarely possible to remove it all) in order to discourage MBC (micro biological contamination). Consideration should be given to modifying the drain facilities to make them more effective
  • seals and components in the fuel system are inspected and, where necessary, replaced
  • strainers and filters are checked and cleaned more regularly

It is understood that this is easier said than done. Smaller marinas and boatyards may only have one supply tank and may not sell enough fuel to turn it over regularly particularly in the winter months. Many recreational craft are laid up over the winter with full tanks for 6 months or more in some cases. A balance must therefore be struck between the amount of fuel bought and the amount of fuel you use. Where possible you should try to buy diesel that does not have biodiesel in it. But remember that the problems described here also affect ‘normal’ diesel as well, albeit to a lesser extent.

If you are concerned about biodiesel and whether there is something nasty in your tank, test kits are now available, which can identify whether contamination is present and its severity. These have been demonstrated to give quick and accurate results on-site.

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