GREEN HARBOR, Mass. – Two boaters were rescued from a “circle of death” in Green Harbor, Massachusetts on Tuesday.
A fishing boat captain named Dana Blackman spotted the men’s vessel doing a tight circle pattern known as the “circle of death” and then observed one of the men waving a white t-shirt while in the water.
The Marshfield Police Department said two men were not wearing lifejackets and were somehow ejected from their boat. Additionally, neither man was tethered to a vessel kill switch.
Boat safety experts say the circle of death is triggered by a boat operator letting go of the steering mechanism while the vessel is still under power. This causes the propeller to continue to rotate in a clockwise direction.
“A phenomenon called steering torque forces the motor to slam to the left, which makes the boat cut sharply to the right,” according to Boat-ed.com.
The abrupt turn to the right will eject boaters into the water, as the boat continues to travel in a circle. The boat can then come back and hit the people in the water, which could lead to major injuries from the propeller.
“This is a stark reminder of how fast incidents can occur on the water without notice,” said police chief Phillip A. Tavares.
He thanked the captain and crew who spotted the distressed boaters and commended them for their “bravery, due diligence and keen situational awareness of locating two persons in the water.”
The local beach was closed out of an abundance of caution in case the unmanned boat changed course unexpectedly.
Sea Tow was able to stop the boat after 90 minutes and the beach reopened.
“We urge the use of life jackets and tethering of the vessel safety kill switch. These incidents can happen to the most experienced mariners,” said Tavares.