- … this tragic episode … spurred a businessman already personally motivated in this matter to do something about it.
- … a simple and cost-effective kill cord that can be fitted to any kill switch, by anybody, that will not let you drive off with it dangling at your feet.
Greg Copp explains the workings of a low-cost, simple yet highly effective piece of safety kit …
I am not the first to say that this lifesaving piece of kit is long overdue. I will confess, as I am sure most of you will also, to briefly forgetting to attach my kill cord on occasions. It is easily done, and until recently little has been done to stop us from making this potentially lethal mistake.
Most are aware of the tragic events of Padstow 2013, when Nick Milligan and his daughter Emily were run down and tragically killed by their own RIB. Nick, like his wife Victoria, who took over the helm from her husband, had completed their Powerboat Level 2 course, so were responsible boaters. Victoria simply forgot to attach the kill cord, and Nick failed to notice. I will say nothing more on this tragic episode, other than it spurred a businessman already personally motivated in this matter to do something about it.
John Barker is the man behind Lifecord, a simple and cost-effective kill cord that can be fitted to any kill switch, by anybody, that will not let you drive off with it dangling at your feet. This is not the first piece of kit in this department, as back in Issue 143 I reported on MOB+, a wireless kill cord that triggered if you fell overboard. However, MOB+, although a very neat piece of equipment, had no way of knowing whether you were wearing the wireless fob that triggers it or not. With Lifecord – excuse the pun – there is no way you can fob it off.
Though simple in concept, it needs a bit of explaining to understand how something that costs just £89 works so effectively. It knows whether you have it wrapped around your leg or attached it to your life jacket. The alarm itself is contained in a small IPX67 waterproof box on the coiled engine kill cord containing a thin wiring harness. Each system is supplied with a variety of connectors for every different make of outboard kill switch. These connectors fit onto housing at the head of the cord, which contains a plunger switch that turns on the alarm the moment you click Lifecord onto the kill switch. The alarm sounds with a series of audible beeps, getting ever louder, in 10-second intervals, while flashing a small luminescent LED from the alarm box. This will increase to a level that can be heard over most engines, though a pair of Ilmor V10s might be pushing it. This allows you to start the engine and do the fenders before the volume ascends to a point that tells you to get a grip and click in.
And it is simply a case of clicking in, whichever of the two methods you use. It is designed to be simple and foolproof, so the clasp and key that secures Lifecord to your leg knows whether it is tensioned around your limb, or whether you are stupid enough to try and fool it by hooking it back on itself. It does this by magnetism. The key, which is permanently fitted to the kill cord through its eyelet, has an internal magnet. The clasp into which it clicks has another magnet, both of which have opposite poles so they attract, working like an invisible spring pushing the key into the body of the clasp away from the cord around your leg. With the key drawn fully into the body of the clasp, it triggers a closed circuit of the internal wiring leading to the alarm box.
Removing the key from the clasp has the same effect as triggering a closed circuit, so unless the plunger switch is in the off position, due to Lifecord being removed from the kill switch, the alarm will start to sound. If you hook Lifecord back on itself to keep it off the deck, as people do with conventional kill cords, it will set off the alarm due to the key being drawn into the clasp. However, if you tension the cord around your leg slightly as you do with a normal kill cord, this small amount of force will overcome the magnetic force and pull the key towards the mouth of the clasp, shutting off the alarm.
I am told that positioning the key on the fourth or fifth loop of the cord is all that is needed to tension the key sufficiently, and that the key will not allow itself to be drawn into the body of the clasp, unless you intentionally slacken off the coils of cord around your leg considerably. Clicking in the key is an easy, one-handed affair with a thumb release catch – certainly less effort than those awful sprung metal clips that you get with a conventional kill cord.
For those who want to attach this system to their life jacket, there is a special life jacket key that is supplied with the system. Fitted with a quick-release karabiner, it stays permanently attached, and with additional keys costing £10, all crewmembers can have one, so changing helmsmen is quick and simple. The life jacket key, however, works the opposite way round to the conventional ‘around your leg’ key. The shorter life jacket key has the same magnetic polarity as the body of the clasp, so it is repulsed out towards the mouth of the clasp, and because it is shorter it can’t be pushed into the clasp to sound the alarm. If you unclick your life jacket key from the clasp, the alarm will sound. The karabiner fitted to the life jacket key is designed to provide a very secure fit, which also serves to deter people from removing it. The alarm is powered by a user-changeable C2 battery that gives 50 hours of alarm time, which is more than enough.
Manufactured in this country, it will be available in March 2018 through Landau UK, who will be UK and European distributors.
£89.95 (inc. VAT)