August 2023

August 2023

Boat Propellers – A Hidden Danger!

Boating on Smith Mountain Lake, or any waterway, is a great way to spend a day, weekend, or a vacation. But tragically, the dangers of boating are sometimes overlooked, or not even anticipated. Just a few weeks ago in Myrtle Beach, an 11-year-old girl was killed in a boating accident on the Intracoastal Waterway.
From the news article: “Olivia Knighton was killed Wednesday when a large wake from another boat sent her and eight others overboard their 23-foot vessel. Olivia was struck by a propeller and didn’t survive the accident. No other injuries were reported.”
And a few years ago this report came from neighboring Lake Anna: “When hit by a large wake at Lake Anna, a family found themselves in the water. The boat they were in continued motoring, killing the father and injuring the rest of the family”. A cut off switch lanyard could have prevented this tragedy.

Did you know that a typical three blade propeller running at 3200 rpm can inflict 160 impacts in one second? A typical recreational propeller can travel from head to toe in less than one tenth of a second.

In both incidents, those killed were ejected from their boat by a large wake from another boat. Although it seems common sense, prepare your passengers in advance by holding a safety briefing before you leave the dock, and avoid the wakes of larger boats when at all possible. Offer adult passengers life jackets, insist that children under the age of 13 wear them, and make sure everyone on board knows where you store the life jackets in case of an emergency.
A few safety tips

  • Before starting your boat, walk to the stern and look in the water to make certain there is no one near your propeller.
  • Never allow passengers to board or exit your boat from the water when engines are on or idling (your prop may continue to spin).
  • Educate passengers about the location and danger of the propeller.
  • Take extra precautions near boats that are towing skiers or tubers.
  • Never permit passengers to ride on the bow or the front of a pontoon boat outside of the railing, gunwale, transom, seatbacks, or other locations where they might fall overboard. Unfortunately, this has happened at our Lake.
  • Never reverse your boat to pick up someone in the water. Circle back.
  • Wear your cut off switch lanyard so if you are ejected from the boat the motor will stop. This is now required by Virginia law.

    Enjoy the rest of the summer at SML, safely and responsibly.
    For more water safety information, visit the SML Water Safety Council Facebook Page.
    Click Here for the WSC Facebook Page