‘Prop Alert’ can save boaters,
New product can solve old problem

By Teri Boggess, Correspondent, The News & Observer

We’ve all done it – spied a display at a fishing or hunting show, stopped in our tracks and exclaimed the same words: “I wish I’d thought of that.”

The same thing happened numerous times this past weekend at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh . Only Jonathan Hughes and brother Knox really did think of that.

The boat-loving entrepreneurs have a patent pending on their invention, The Prop Alert, a cover for boat propellers that serves as a bright orange warning to keep drivers from bumping the motor jutting from a trailered boat.

“People say, ‘I don’t know why no one has come up with that idea,’ ” Jonathan Hughes, an account executive in Raleigh, said at the product’s first show, last weekend’s Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo.

Knox Hughes said the idea came from his “experience of a tiny bump at a launch ramp.” The bump barely dented the offending bumper but left the boat with $1,200 in damage.

The Prop Alert, a bright orange round cover made from PVC-backed fabric, reflective strips, mesh and a drawstring, enhances the chance that drivers will recognize that the engine is jutting out from the back of the boat ahead.

“When you see something orange, we’ve all been trained to recognize it as a warning,” Knox Hughes, a financial adviser, said.

Over the past year and a half, the brothers have researchedU. S.-made materials, found a manufacturer in North Carolina, launched a website in June and now hit the show circuit, including Richmond, Va., this weekend and Greensboro next month.

“We really wanted to find out what people with boats thought about our product,” Jonathan Hughes said. “The feedback we’ve gotten will help us … to be able to sell to the mass market.”

The top request is for collegiate logos to be printed on the fabric. Current images are the product logo, a bass, a red drum, a duck, a skull and a skier. Two sizes sell for about $25 and $30 on the website www.thepropalert.com.