Prop guards on junior sailing chase boats

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When I was a program director for a YC junior program, I pushed pretty hard for propguards to be applied to any motorboat working around the Juniors. Honestly jetdrives would've been a better solution but to completely refit an organization's boats with new systems would be a disaster. I was surprised by the amount of resistance I received when pushing for for the propguards, with the most common criticisms being performance and entrapment issues. On the performance issue, it never was really an issue, our coaches spend at least 90% of their time on the water going sub 10 knots, so the reduction in top speed was negligible. When I test drove a boat fitted with a propguard (10' Whaler), I didn't feel as if the boat's slow speed maneuverability was impacted drastically, but I feel like higher horsepower outboards on boats in the 18ft+ would've had more difficult handling issues, especially if you have a boat with more than one outboard. 

My rule is that if you're talking about small coaching operations, with a relatively unskilled group of operators, you 100% should apply Propguards to MOST of your boats. Most meaning the boats that will be out with the large groups of young juniors in slow boats. If you have a RIB that you're coaching 29ers with, one would expect you to have a much more experienced driver at the helm and are working with smaller numbers of boats than the part of your program associated with younger juniors, so a propguard probably wouldn't be as applicable there. 

Propguards reduce the dangers that motorboats present to a program and, while not being a substitute for hiring employees who possess the skills or training them to operate a motorboat efficiently, minimize the effects operator error play in many programs. So long as your coaches know to use the same caution they would if the boat had no propguard, they do protect against injury in the event of a mishap. They also protect your props from when your coaches inevitably tap the rocks which is pretty cool.

 

Gouvernail

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Why go half assed... jet drives only 

limit horsepower 

max speed allowed 5 knots 

Must stay 100 yards away from all sailing craft at all times except to render emergency aid 

in shared harbors, all powered craft must leave harbor one hour before first sailboat and may not return until one hour after last sailing craft is safely out of the water 

 

JoeW

New member
31
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Guernsey
When I was a program director for a YC junior program, I pushed pretty hard for propguards to be applied to any motorboat working around the Juniors. Honestly jetdrives would've been a better solution but to completely refit an organization's boats with new systems would be a disaster. I was surprised by the amount of resistance I received when pushing for for the propguards, with the most common criticisms being performance and entrapment issues. On the performance issue, it never was really an issue, our coaches spend at least 90% of their time on the water going sub 10 knots, so the reduction in top speed was negligible. When I test drove a boat fitted with a propguard (10' Whaler), I didn't feel as if the boat's slow speed maneuverability was impacted drastically, but I feel like higher horsepower outboards on boats in the 18ft+ would've had more difficult handling issues, especially if you have a boat with more than one outboard. 

My rule is that if you're talking about small coaching operations, with a relatively unskilled group of operators, you 100% should apply Propguards to MOST of your boats. Most meaning the boats that will be out with the large groups of young juniors in slow boats. If you have a RIB that you're coaching 29ers with, one would expect you to have a much more experienced driver at the helm and are working with smaller numbers of boats than the part of your program associated with younger juniors, so a propguard probably wouldn't be as applicable there. 

Propguards reduce the dangers that motorboats present to a program and, while not being a substitute for hiring employees who possess the skills or training them to operate a motorboat efficiently, minimize the effects operator error play in many programs. So long as your coaches know to use the same caution they would if the boat had no propguard, they do protect against injury in the event of a mishap. They also protect your props from when your coaches inevitably tap the rocks which is pretty cool.
I can't see the benefits of the jet drive. They are less intuitive to helm, harder to manoeuvre, harder to free any lines which get caught in it, generally have more maintenance or are more prone to breaking, and you can't go in shallow water with them. Surely if they were better to have on a safety boat then people would be using them? 

I think you've just proved the point that the issue is the skills of the helmsperson, not the lack of a prop guard. The only way to ensure that nothing gets caught in a prop is to have the engine switched off. 

https://www.rya.org.uk/knowledge-advice/safe-boating/look-after-yourself/equipment-for-uk-pleasure-vessels/Pages/prop-guards.aspx

 

Tubes

Member
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SoCal
I can't see the benefits of the jet drive. They are less intuitive to helm, harder to manoeuvre, harder to free any lines which get caught in it, generally have more maintenance or are more prone to breaking, and you can't go in shallow water with them. Surely if they were better to have on a safety boat then people would be using them? 

I think you've just proved the point that the issue is the skills of the helmsperson, not the lack of a prop guard. The only way to ensure that nothing gets caught in a prop is to have the engine switched off. 

https://www.rya.org.uk/knowledge-advice/safe-boating/look-after-yourself/equipment-for-uk-pleasure-vessels/Pages/prop-guards.aspx
The only benefit of a jet drive, and the only benefit of a propguard, considered in this situation is that it reduces the likelihood of a junior being seriously injured or killed in the event an operator slips up. Even the greatest motorboat operator in the world will make a mistake, and a propguard makes the chance that mistake hurting a kid smaller. 

This is probably not an issue for many individual boat owners, but for institutional work, it is an entirely appropriate and justified response to a serious issue. IIRC the Navy and Coast Guard both use propeller cages on boats operating in areas with swimmers in close proximity, but I could be misremembering. 

 

JoeW

New member
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Guernsey
The only benefit of a jet drive, and the only benefit of a propguard, considered in this situation is that it reduces the likelihood of a junior being seriously injured or killed in the event an operator slips up. Even the greatest motorboat operator in the world will make a mistake, and a propguard makes the chance that mistake hurting a kid smaller. 

This is probably not an issue for many individual boat owners, but for institutional work, it is an entirely appropriate and justified response to a serious issue. IIRC the Navy and Coast Guard both use propeller cages on boats operating in areas with swimmers in close proximity, but I could be misremembering. 
And if the engine is off then the chance of hurting someone is zero.

None of the RYA ribs have prop guards. I don't think the RNLI ribs have prop guards. I think the serious issue is the lack of training, rather than trying to put in measures to mitigate risk that aren't really needed. 

Prop guards by their nature also make the boat harder to manoeuvre and some make the propellor more prone to cavitation, both of these are issues. I just don't see that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and that there is another solution: training. 

The other thing is there is no evidence to prove they work, and I would go as far as to say they could give people a false sense of security.

 

Tubes

Member
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SoCal
And if the engine is off then the chance of hurting someone is zero.

None of the RYA ribs have prop guards. I don't think the RNLI ribs have prop guards. I think the serious issue is the lack of training, rather than trying to put in measures to mitigate risk that aren't really needed. 

Prop guards by their nature also make the boat harder to manoeuvre and some make the propellor more prone to cavitation, both of these are issues. I just don't see that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and that there is another solution: training. 

The other thing is there is no evidence to prove they work, and I would go as far as to say they could give people a false sense of security.
I don't think anyone is arguing that training and skill are required. But I have seen 100T licensed captains still bang a whaler on a dock and just being well trained does not completely eliminate operator error. As I mentioned in my first post, a propeller guard is not recommended for ALL situations and specifically called it as a recommendation for smaller programs. The RYA is hardly a small program and has full time coaching staff year round. I would say that maybe 10% of YCs in the US have more than 4 full time coaching staff year round, and almost all coaches are summer workers. 

Propeller cavitation is an issue at speeds of 12+knots, which coaches who would be training young sailors in protected waters would rarely exceed (think maybe spending <5% of their time). I agree that RIBs coaching performance boats with experienced sailors and experienced coaches should be thought of differently, and propguards are likely not an appropriate solution for those boats. 

 

fastyacht

Super Anarchist
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England is F1. U.S, is go-carts.

Really not the same thing.

" I would say that maybe 10% of YCs in the US have more than 4 full time coaching staff year round, and almost all coaches are summer workers.  "

^^^THIS

 

Kenny Dumas

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PDX
I’ve ridden a jet ski as a safety vehicle for The Big Float and the World Record Human Innertube Chain (>700). A good tool, but only for expert level. A hack with any jet drive is as dangerous as a wire afterguy. You don’t have to bonk many swimmers on the head to stun one. Any blackout underwater is critical. Hindering safety boat performance has a steep downside. Maybe we should put trip levers on swim platforms or big red STOP buttons where swimmers can defend themselves. Like a reverse safety leash. 

 

European Bloke

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There are occasions when it's not really practical to stop the engine. Examples are where you're constantly having to orientate the casualty boat or rescue boat to the wind or sea in big conditions.

The problem is you can teach rescue boat driving, but you can't teach common sense.

I've driven quite a variety of safety boats and never really noticed the impact on manoverability of the prop guard. That said some boats just handle shit, we deal with it. If I was familiar with the boat with and without the guard I might notice a difference, but they're all manageable.

We're lucky in the UK that our event safety cover is typically well organised. As a safety boat I'll typically be allocated to an area of the course, so I never have far to go and so speed isn't a big issue. That's probably not true for the RNLI so I wouldn't try to use them as a comparison.

I accept there are some badly designed prop guards, but that doesn't have to be the case.

On balance I don't see a reason not to use a well designed guard given those asked to drive the boats.

 
On the river Dart,  UK we have big open water swims, hundreds of swimmers, there are jetskis as support/rescue. No problems.

"I’ve ridden a jet ski as a safety vehicle for The Big Float and the World Record Human Innertube Chain (>700). A good tool, but only for expert level" (Dumas)

Why do you have to be an expert to drive one safely? What's the problem?

We have a small club on flat salt water and getting Safety boat crews is difficult, we can't get trained crews other than PB2. I can borrow a jetski and use it for club events, what's the problem envisaged?

 

Kenny Dumas

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Very poor directional control at low speed. You need power on to steer and reverse is backwards. The new Spark at least has Neutral as well as Reverse. Many older models have shitty or no reverse. Take a standup paddle if around swimmers, helps a lot. And practice first, great excuse for a ride!

 

European Bloke

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Very poor directional control at low speed. You need power on to steer and reverse is backwards. The new Spark at least has Neutral as well as Reverse. Many older models have shitty or no reverse. Take a standup paddle if around swimmers, helps a lot. And practice first, great excuse for a ride!
We put some of the coaches for the mini starter oppie kids on SUPs.

You would not believe how fast the kids got the hang of sailing up wind if the result was crashing into a dad's SUP and knocking him off.

 
What about a boat like the old mullet skiffs that didn't have the chopper out back, but in the middle?  Or any of the designs for handling nets where the prop isn't right out back.

mulle skiff.jpg

 

stinky

Anarchist
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I'm amazed that more children aren't maimed by well intentioned safety boat drivers. I'm not sure if prop guards are the right answer, but I do know that there are limits to teaching common sense. 

See below for a great example of US sailing certified safety boat operators being a danger to themselves and others:




 

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