It’s now the law
Operators of recreational vessels less than 26 feet in length are now required to use an engine cut-off switch (ECOS) and associated ECOS link (ECOSL).
What Is An Engine Cut-Off Switch Link?
The ECOSL attaches the vessel operator to a switch that shuts off the engine if the operator is displaced from the helm. The ECOSL is usually a lanyard-style cord that attaches to an ECOS either in close proximity to the helm or on the outboard motor itself if the vessel is operated by a tiller. When enough tension is applied, the ECOSL disengages from the ECOS and the motor is automatically shut down.
Wireless ECOS have recently been developed and are also approved for use. These devices use an electronic “fob” that is carried by the operator and senses when it is submerged in water, activating the ECOS and turning the engine off. Wireless devices are available on the aftermarket and are beginning to become available as manufacturer-installed options.
Why Is This Law Necessary?
There have been many instances of boat operators ejected from their boats, resulting in injuries and deaths. During these incidents the boat continues to operate out of control, leaving the operator stranded in the water as the boat continues on course. Alternatively, the boat begins to circle the person in the water eventually striking them, often with the propeller. These dangerous runaway vessel situations put the ejected operator, other users of the waterway, and marine law enforcement officers and other first responders in serious danger. We covered one of these incidents in a previous post, “Deputy Death Puts Spotlight On Boat Ejections While Underway.”
Since December 2019, boat manufacturers of boats less than 26 feet in length, with an engine capable of 115 lbs. of static thrust (3 hp or more), have been required to equip the vessel with an ECOS. Owners of recreational vessels produced after December 2019 are required to maintain the ECOS on their vessel in a serviceable condition.
Link Use Now Required
For decades, most recreational vessels covered by the statute have been delivered with an ECOS installed. This month, boat operators are required to use ECOS “links” when:
- The primary helm is not within an enclosed cabin
- The boat is operating on plane or above displacement speed
The links are not required during docking/trailering, trolling and operating in no-wake zones.
Now, Some Practical Considerations
Considering that an activated kill clip disables the boat, how would a crew member be able to rescue the skipper if he were to fall off, especially in a current or heavy sea? Obviously, you would need:
- A spare switch key aboard
- Understanding by the crew where the key is kept
- Understanding by the crew how to install the spare key on the cut-off switch
- Understanding by the crew how to restart the engine and maneuvering the boat to recover the skipper (without running him over or chopping him up with the propeller).
Some outboard and inboard/outboard control boxes have a spare key snapped into the box. A good idea is to carry on board an aftermarket lanyard that has an assortment of keys for common control boxes, and to make sure that there is one that fits your own situation. Keep it near the helm.
Feature photo courtesy of Osculati S.r.l.