For the last decade or so, I have carried around a spare kill cord in my personal boating gear, imagining (rather naively) that they’re all the same. The idea behind it was very simple. You’re on a boat, the helmsman gets kicked out, the boat comes to a standstill and you reconnect your spare cord, restart the engine and drive over at your leisure to pick up the unfortunate ejectee. However, the RYA stand at the recent Southampton Boat Show made me feel a bit of a fool…

Kill cord attached to a kneeThey had a game with eight ignitions and eight kill cords. You simply had to connect the eight kill cords to their eight corresponding ignitions in the fastest time possible. After about a minute of head scratching and rigorous inspection of the terminals, I discovered: (1) that the range of attachment methods was bewildering; and (2) that my own spare kill cord would only come to my aid in about a tenth of MOB cases.


Now I know that there is a lot of pressure these days to make the wearing of a kill cord compulsory – and I know that pen-pushing ‘Think Tank’ dullards with Marketing Degrees are continually urging us to describe it as an ‘Engine Immobilisation Lanyard’ instead because it sounds so much nicer. But let’s ignore these aggravating issues for now and start small by suggesting that there should at least be some legislation to help standardise the bloody terminals.

In fact, come to think of it, I have a better idea. How about a kill cord that will only allow an engine to start when it is connected to the ignition at one end and to your lifejacket at the other. Of course it would need to be a more complex and intelligent device than the curly bits of wire we currently use – and it would also require an unprecedented degree of collaboration between engine and lifejacket manufacturers, allied to some firm impetus from an industry body with teeth. But if the only way to start your engine was to wear a lifejacket and attach a kill cord, there is no doubt that the world would be a far better (and slightly more populous) place.

Se also Safety Video: Using a Kill Cord Correctly .

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is an ex-Naval officer, with extensive experience as a marine journalist, boat tester and magazine editor. Having raced as a Pilot in the National Thundercat Series and as a Navigator in the inaugural Red Sea RIB Rally, he has now settled in the West Country, where he lives and works as a specialist marine writer and photographer from his narrowboat in Bath.