Boat owners of a certain age will remember late-night comedian and Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s routine as a TV traffic reporter: “Take the Hollywood Freeway to the Slauson cut-off. Then cut off your slauson…” Budda-boom. Rim shot.
Chuckles aside, it’s a good reminder of a new federal law that went into effect on April 1st which mandates that all those piloting boats less than 26 ft. in length with more than 3 hp engines are required to use an Engine Cut-Off Switch (ECOS) during most operations with their boat.
The ECOS, or ‘kill switch’ as some refer to them, is designed to stop your engine in the event you, the boat’s operator, fall overboard or are heaved away from the helm. This will prevent severe injury from encountering the boat’s propellers in the water or keep your boat from chugging away without you.
Yes, the chances of something like that ever happening are infinitesimal but still greater than zero. And as any old salt will tell you, it’s better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
There are basically two kinds of ECOS devices: a physical off-switch that connects, via a lanyard of some kind, to you or your PFD, and an electronic fob that will send the shut-down message to your engine in case of immersion. You may already have an ECOS device installed on your boat; even though this federal regulation was adopted in 2019, many powerboats manufactured in the last few decades have come with some kind of ECOS system already installed.
This law applies when the primary helm is not in a cabin and when the boat is operating on plane or above displacement speed. Situations in which an ECOS link would not be required include docking, launching, and loading on a trailer, trolling, and operating in no-wake zones.
The new law will be enforced by the Coast Guard in federally navigable waterways, but most states are expected to adopt local versions.
So now is a good time to familiarize yourself with your boat’s ECOS system, and begin to get used to having it at the helm when operating your boat. If you’d like to discuss one of the electronic versions, stop by our Service Center.