How to Protect Your Boat and Keep Your Crew Safe


An unattended boat spinning out of control. It makes for a mesmerizing YouTube video but in reality, it is a scary and dangerous situation. Fortunately, situations like this can be prevented with the use of a kill cord switch.

Kill Cord to the Rescue

A kill cord switch is a device that attaches to your engine or to the helm of the boat. A coiled lanyard attaches the switch to the operator of the boat. If the operator is thrown out of their seat or falls overboard the switch is pulled and the engines shut down.

In recent years the kill cord has gone hi-tech. The lanyard has been replaced by a wearable FOB that connects wirelessly to a receiver at the helm. The switch is tripped if the operator moves more than a set distance from the receiver. The lack of a lanyard gives the operator more freedom to move around the boat.

In this article, Motorboat & Yachting reviews the new Mercury 1st Mate wireless kill cord system.

The primary kill cord function operates in much the same way as a conventional one, except that the fobs use a short-range wireless link to the hub rather than a physical cord. The moment this connection is lost, by the wearer falling into the water or moving too far away from the boat, the MOB alert is triggered.

Two different kinds of fob are available: a crew fob which sounds the alert and marks the spot where they fell overboard; and a captain’s fob that also kills the engines and stops the boat.

Advantages of Mercury 1st Mate

  • Captains FOB plus FOBs for crew members.
  • The system hub mounts inside your console and out of your way.
  • Connects to NMEA network for easy integration.
  • Uses WiMEA technology and 4G antenna for secure communication between devices.
  • The phone app.

In my opinion, the app is the biggest advantage of this system. If a crew member falls overboard the app sounds an alarm and shows GPS location of where they fell. But, it also acts as an anti-theft device.

Mercury engines fitted with SmartCraft technology can’t be started without an unlock command first being sent from either the captain’s fob or their associated app.

Without the captains FOB or the correct code from the app the engines can’t be started.

Other Cordless Kill Cords

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Cover image by michellenbillings from Pixabay