Propellers are Seriously Not Fun

A boat propeller can travel from head to toe on an average person in less than one-tenth of a second. The result of propeller strikes are horrific.

With the growing number of boating activities involving towing (skiing, tubing, wake boarding, etc.), more and more people are in the water in the middle of boat traffic. We want to make sure everyone is properly trained in maneuvering and recovering people from the water safely.

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propeller strikes41 deaths and 182 injuries were caused by propeller strikes just last year,* all of which could have been avoided with proper education. Obviously, a propeller is out of sight, but too often it is out of mind as well. Add to that, insufficient training on close maneuvering, inattentive passing boaters, and incorrect procedures for dealing with persons in the water, and the result can be serious injury or death.

There’s also the potential for a rogue boat becoming a dangerous, out -of-control weapon if the boat operator is not wearing an emergency engine cut-off device (remote version or physical connection).


Safe Boating Advocates: Share these life-saving tips

propeller strikes, emergency engine cut off deviceFirst and foremost, boat operators SHOULD always use the emergency engine cut-off device. Consider it the seatbelt of your boat – something you just do.

People in the water may not be visible from the helm. Before starting your engine, walk around the boat and look in the water to make certain that no one is in the water near the boat.

Be especially alert when operating in congested areas, and take extra precautions near boats that are towing skiers or inflatables.

Never allow passengers to board or exit your boat from the water when engines are on – or idling (your propeller may continue to spin).

When recovering someone in the water, always approach from downwind (leeward) for better boat control, and on the helm side so the operator can maintain visual contact with the person in the water.

Propeller strike, people on boat tubing

  • We encourage you to fly an orange or red flag (required in some states) on your boat while maneuvering near a person in the water. This will warn other boaters to stay clear while you are in process of recovering someone.
  • If you are if wakeboarding, tubing or skiing, be sure you are towing more than a 20 foot distance while underway.
  • Stop the boat when the person is near the bow. Turn off your engine. Have the person use a boat ladder on the downwind side (leeward) or swim platform to get in the boat.
  • Never put your boat in reverse to pick someone up out of the water, circle around again.
  • You can NEVER be too cautious when recovering someone from the water.


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Boating is serious fun. We’ve provided a variety of advocate tools and outreach methods, choose what works best for you and your community.

  • Visit spread the word for easy outreach through personal social media outlets and boating forums.
  • Provide year-round education on all boating safety topics – download pamphlets, flyers, banners, and posters. Great event materials. Search by topic in the resource section.
  • Download our marketing playbook, an advocates dream resource for creating change. Find it under the Boat Live 365 topic in our resource section.
  • Don’t know where to start?  Contact us. We’re happy to help.


*U.S. Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics Report, 2022

Welcome aboard, our Safe Boating Partner PropGuard. Thank you for your commitment to creating a safe boating culture, 365 days a year.

Prop Guard protects from propeller strikes

get connected, propeller strikes

Visit GetConnectedBoating.org for resources to help educate and promote the use of an engine cut-off device.

download icon, orange shaped like documentVisit our resource library for downloads, event materials, tips and ideas on how to create a safe boating culture 365 days a year.

Find more resources on propellersafety.com.

To truly spread the Boat Live 365 message, please make a concerted effort to discuss and promote all of the “Serious Fun Topics” together, all year long.

Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. Coast Guard.