Coast Guard Auxiliary Warns
Carbon Monoxide (CO) can be a "silent killer" on houseboats and other recreational vessels. Each year, boaters are injured or killed by preventable carbon monoxide poisoning.
Boaters have been poisoned by carbon monoxide in situations such as while setting fishing lines or performing maintenance on their boats while the engine was running.
“Teak surfers” or “drag surfers” are particularly susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. This activity involves clinging to the swim platform or transom of an underway boat, then letting go and body surfing. Exposure to engine exhaust can cause a teak surfer to faint, and if not wearing a life jacket, which interferes with body surfing, to drown — not to mention the potential danger of propeller injury. Teak surfing is illegal in some states.
Carbon monoxide is produce by gasoline, propane, charcoal, or wood. On boats, some common sources of carbon monoxide include engines, generators, cooking ranges, space heaters, and water heaters.
Carbon monoxide can collect within a boat in a variety of ways. Exhaust leaks (the leading cause of death by carbon monoxide) can allow carbon monoxide to migrate throughout the boat and into enclosed areas.
Even properly vented exhaust can re-enter a boat if it's moored too close to a dock or another boat, or if the exhaust is pushed back by prevailing winds. Exhaust can re-enter boats when cruising under certain conditions — the station wagon effect — especially with canvas in place. Exhaust can also collect in enclosed spaces near the stern swim platform.
There are many ways to protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide. Several of the different precautions a boater can take are listed below.
Symptoms of CO poisoning may include severe headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, fainting, and death. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and a mild headache.
Low levels are more dangerous in the boating environment because they can lead to drowning. Carbon-monoxide poisoning may not be suspected immediately because the symptoms are similar to those of people with the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary says “a successful boating outing begins when you leave home and ends when you safely return home.” For more potentially life-saving information along with how to take a boating-safety course or get a free vessel safety check from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit http://www.uscgboating.org/.