Gear

Don’t wear your kill cord? This wire­less wear­able de­vice might change that.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Si­mon Mur­ray

In a world in­un­dated with elec­tron­ics, a com­pany wants to re­place the kill cord with some­thing smarter.

In 1974, the mag­a­zine Pop­u­lar Me­chan­ics fea­tured a new tech­nol­ogy that was just be­gin­ning to make its way into plea­sure boats. In a story ti­tled “This Kill Switch Can Save Your Life,” the au­thor ex­plained why the nascent lan­yard ig­ni­tion shut­off switch, used pri­mar­ily in boat rac­ing, was “a lifesaver ev­ery power­boat should have, and may even­tu­ally be re­quired by law.” To dis­suade earnest tin­ker­ers from cob­bling to­gether their own makeshift switches, he warned of badly wired switches cor­rod­ing from sea spray. In­stead, he rec­om­mended pur­chas­ing Mer­cury’s Ig­ni­tion Safety Stop Switch for $14.95.

Time proved the au­thor only par­tially right. To­day, most small boats with out­board propul­sion come equipped with some type of emer­gency ig­ni­tion cut-off de­vice; how­ever, only cer­tain states man­date its us­age. The prob­lem is ap­pli­ca­tion. Not ev­ery­one shares that au­thor’s en­thu­si­asm for the kill cord, nor can we be both­ered to clip it to our per­son. And yet, the po­ten­tial for ejec­tion is al­ways there. The cause could be op­er­a­tor er­ror or an un­for­tu­nate col­li­sion with a sub­merged ob­ject; dark pos­si­bil­i­ties on the bright­est of days.

In a world in­un­dated with elec­tron­ics, GPS and Blue­tooth, it’s al­most in­cred­i­ble that the cord cut-off switch hasn’t been univer­sally re­placed by some­thing smarter.

En­ter Au­totether, the man­u­fac­turer of wire­less ma­rine safety de­vices that hopes to change all that. Au­totether ($235) works through the clever use of sen­sors. A host unit con­nects to the boat’s engine cut-off switch, and can con­nect with up to four re­mote sen­sors that, once turned on, can be at­tached to a PFD or stowed in a pocket. If the op­er­a­tor or one of the crew goes over­board and contact is made with the wa­ter, the sen­sor cuts off the engine and sounds an alarm. (The same thing oc­curs when the re­mote sen­sor is over 100 feet from the host unit.) That means less wor­ry­ing about Fido tak­ing a spon­ta­neous plunge when the boat is un­der­way.

When I tested the de­vice in Florida—at­tach­ing dif­fer­ent clips com­pat­i­ble with Suzuki, Yamaha, Mer­cury and more—the plas­tic broke and a wire be­came dis­en­gaged. I’d like to think this was a spe­cial cir­cum­stance. While the prod­uct vaguely re­sem­bles an E-ZPass transpon­der (per­son­ally, I’d pre­fer a sleeker, sex­ier de­sign), it cer­tainly works. The Au­totether has the abil­ity to save lives, which could be why other man­u­fac­tur­ers are quickly jump­ing into the fray. What’s clear is that if this tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to im­prove, those curly red cords might just go the way of the sex­tant.

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