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Do You Know Your Killswitch Regulations?

By: Captain Bill Jennings

ECOS killswitch in boat
Photo- US Coast Guard

For many years, boat manufacturers voluntarily installed an engine cut-off switch in their boats. More recently, the US Coast Guard has regulated that boat builders install this safety device on all recreational powerboats less than 26 feet, with an engine of 3 horsepower or more.

This small switch is called an ECOS (Engine Cut-off Switch) and is located next to the throttle. A lanyard connects the switch to the driver. When the lanyard pulls the switch to the off position, it breaks the electrical connection to the motor, stopping it immediately. If a driver is thrown from the wheel, the ECOS prevents runaways. This is a very worthwhile device --- if it is connected. But apparently, very few recreational boaters with an ECOS bother to use it.

In recent months a growing number of American states, recognizing the value of an ECOS, have passed laws making their use mandatory. The regulations do stipulate that they are not required while docking, launching, trolling, or driving in a no-wake zone. Canadian boaters, it is safe to assume that similar regulations will be applied for Canada in the short term.

It's probably a good idea to start getting used to attaching your ECOS lanyard this summer. Remember that ECOS regulations are only asking you to use a safety device that is already in your boat, and you have paid for.

If you are a boater who objects to being tied to something in your boat, wireless versions of an ECOS are available. Both Mercury Marine and Fell Marine offer engine shut off systems with an electronic fob that you can carry in your pocket. When the fob gets wet, the engine is stopped. They are available at a number of popular marine retailers.

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