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Strike a New Cord

A vast improvement is made to the kill cord by keeping it simple.

Outboard engines continue to drive the recreational boating industry. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, outboard engine sales increased for the sixth consecutive year in 2017, up 6.3 percent from the previous year. Among those sales, engines rated at 300-horsepower and more led all segments with 21.1 percent growth.

Page through Power & Motoryacht magazine or walk the docks at your local marina and observe the new normal—three, four and even five big outboards on a transom are de rigueur. Last December, Yamaha had to address a shortage of large powerplants in the North American market, reassuring its customers that it was taking steps to better prepare for long-term, increased demand.


As manufacturers ramp up the production of outboards to keep pace with demand—even Azimut, Hinckley and Sea Ray are getting in the game now, with outboard-powered open vessels—I’m keeping an eye out for established marine outfits or entrepreneurs that create or improve products associated with outboards. I found a real ringer with Lifecord.

The reality is there’s nothing glaringly wrong with the current kill cords, as long as the lanyard is connected to the operator. I’ve used some wireless models that work well, too, but why complicate things with additional electronics? There have been times—during a pilot change or when moving about the vessel to adjust a line or fender—I’ve neglected to reconnect the kill cord to my PFD or clothing, as I imagine many of us have.

“The current passive kill cord offers nothing to ensure the pilot clips on,” says John Barker, director of Cordsafe, the company that makes Lifecord. Speaking to me from the company’s headquarters in Dorset, England, Barker echoed my thoughts on how easy it is to become distracted aboard a vessel and leave the lanyard dangling from the kill switch. So, Cordsafe took a cue from the seatbelt alarm in your car, the one that drowns out the stereo until you clip in. When developing Lifecord, the company kept things simple—and made the design very effective. Once it’s connected to the boat’s kill switch, Lifecord blares at increasing levels of volume every 10 seconds until you connect. “It’s designed to be unforgettable,” Barker says.


A typical kill cord can be easily deceived by looping it upon itself. Incorporating sensors to prevent this was “a fundamental part of the design brief,” says Barker. “We knew that solving this was critical to the success of the product.”

A tension sensor is built into the key and clasp connector, with magnets encapsulated in the device’s plastic mold. By repelling each other, the magnets allow the pilot some freedom of movement at the helm and silences the alarm. If that tension is compromised, the alarm sounds.

In the spirit of simplicity, your vessel needs no adjustments to integrate Lifecord. Adaptable heads and clips accommodate engines from every outboard manufacturer and come as part of the package. No modifications are needed—Lifecord simply replaces your existing kill cord. The connection can then be worn on your leg or attached to a key on a PFD.

The rugged enclosure has no exposed metal parts and should stand up to the harsh marine environment. When connected, it uses no power and the easy-to-replace CR2 battery lasts 50 hours in full alarm mode.

At this time, Lifecord is available through the manufacturer’s website only, but because it’s such an effective solution I’d expect to see it at a local chandlery soon.

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.