The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

by John Bell
Guest Columnist

Kill Switches

I read Max's recent article on kill switches and it inspired this:

The closest I ever came to getting killed was one early spring evening on Lake Allatoona when I was about 18 years old. I was in a 15' aluminum johnboat/bassboat waiting for my companion to back the trailer into the water after a long day of fishing. Instead of waiting quietly for him to get the trailer situated, I motored out into the middle of the lake and starting cutting donuts in the 45 degree, 90 foot deep water. I'm sure you've heard that flat bottom boats will 'trip' if thrown into a turn too sharply, and that's what happened. The boat skidded through the first few circles without incident and then all at once the outside chine caught and there I was, ass over teakettle, tossed over the rail. I was wearing blue jeans, a flannel shirt, a down vest, and tennis shoes. I was not wearing a PFD or a kill switch. The boat had a kill switch fitted, but I didn't even know what it was for!

Anyway, I went over the side and went deep. This was a good thing, because the boat kept going and I heard the motor run by at three-quarters throttle past my left ear. Twenty two years later, thinking about that sound (and what could have happened) still gives me the shudders. As I spluttered to the surface, the boat was circling back to make another attempt to run me down. I only barely swam out of the way, so I was at least free from the danger of being chopped up by my renegade boat. But I was still 100 yards from shore with no one to help me get there. It was all I could do to swim the distance in my heavy, waterlogged clothes. I don't think I would have made 150 yards...

To make a long story short, someone got me some warm clothes pretty quick before I slid too much further into hypothermia. The boat circled for about an hour until it ran aground on an island on the other side of the lake, the motor screaming out of the water until it seized. It was quite a sobering experience.

Keep preaching the kill switch gospel, Max, it needs to be heard.

John Bell <><
Kennesaw, GA