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Dinghy Safety: The Kill Cord Is Your Friend

By David Blacklock

The Christmas winds began blowing last week, creating hazards for sailors—not least some surprisingly quick, vicious chop and small swells. Up by Saba Rock, BVI-based sailing instructor Kevin Hughes watched from the shore as a dinghy flew past, bounced off a wave and threw the operator into the water. It is a design feature of small outboard motors that the clockwise rotation of the propellor will force an unattended dinghy to swirl about in clockwise circles. The person at the center of that circle is at serious risk of getting chopped by the propellor as it races by.  Luckily, Kevin was there to rescue the charter guest driving the dinghy, who was cut on the legs by the spinning prop. As  Kevin points out to us, “The prop hit him low down, on the legs. If the injuries were above the waist it could have been a terrible mess.” His conclusion, which we fully endorse, is “to always attach the safety cord/kill switch to your wrist when operating the dinghy. If you get thrown out, the motor will stop. Otherwise you are at serious risk of a terrible, if not life-threatening, injury.”  Fortunately for the victim, an operator was quite literally standing by. Otherwise, medical attention in remote areas of the BVI can be a long time coming.

Runaway dinghy. Wearing the red coily-cord EVERY TIME prevents this dangerous situation. (Photos provided by Kevin Hughes.)

Twenty wounds in a moment. VERY lucky man – only minor lacerations. Above the waist, these injuries are easily severe and life-threatening.

Hughes (front) and the unlucky, lucky sailor.

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