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Thread: When to shut off the engine

  1. #1

    Default When to shut off the engine

    I'm new to boating. I'm aware my boat key lanyard should be attached to an engine cut-off switch and also to my person. This suggests that every time I'm not actually at the helm, the engine should be shut-off. I haven't actually been doing that. When I go out, it is almost always alone. I start my engine, lower the prop into the water, and let the engine warm up in neutral while I get off the boat to untie my lines. When I leave my slip, I first set the boat in the middle of a pond-like area near the dock, where the boat is not near anything it can hit if it drifts a little. I then leave the engine running in neutral, and I pull-up my fenders. When I dock, I leave the engine running in neutral while I step off the boat and tie-up. Then, I raise the prop out of the water and turn-off the engine. Are these unsafe practices? Perhaps another way of asking the question: Is there any chance an engine can, on its own, slip out of neutral and propel the boat?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2004


    What you are doing is just fine. When you get ready to head out on the water, put the lanyard on. The engine will not pop into gear unless you hit the gear shift/throttle. One thing, do NOT raise the prop out of the water with the engine running. Turn off the engine and then raise it up. You will burn up your waterpump if not.

    St. Louis/Lake of the Ozarks

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Boat at Lake of the Ozarks Missouri


    Hi DocPit:

    It sounds like you have a workable routine going and you obviously want to practice safe boating.
    We are all for that. Like Rick, the only thing I'd like you to change is that you should lower the engine/prop BEFORE
    you start the engine and when quitting for the day you should shut off the motor BEFORE you raise the prop.

    These outboards have a multi vane impeller for the pumping of cooling water throughout the engine and running dry
    will cause the impeller to overheat, rub and wear inside the pump housing. This shortens the life of the impeller
    and could cause overheating of the engine.

    Finally, please use the cut off switch lanyard attached to your person when you are aboard the boat and before you
    shift into forward or reverse. It should be worn when ever you are aboard with the engine running and when under way.

    Finally as to your question about slipping out of neutral - YES if the shift lever is bumped and hit so that it goes into gear.
    This could be when boarding or exiting the boat when you tie up etc. Another reason to not start until you have boarded.

    My best practice is to get aboard, lower engine, untie but loop a line around the dock cleat - start the engine
    and then leave the dock. Upon re-entering, I dock, shut off the engine, then tie up to the cleats and if
    necessary i'll re board and raise / trim up the engine out of the water.
    Captain Tony
    2005 Summit by Triton - 220T Platinum 3Log
    2005 115HP Mercury Optimax - 228 Marine Master Trailer
    St. Louis & Lake of the Ozarks, MO.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Central Texas


    I believe a fine-point of the discussion is whether or not it’s appropriate to leave the helm with the engine running... And I will state that the lanyard should be attached to the operator whenever the boat is “under-way”... not necessarily anytime the engine is running.

  5. #5


    Thanks very much for the tip about the prop. I would never have known that.

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