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Carbon Monoxide Dangers for Boaters

Carbon monoxide can be a "silent killer" on many recreational powerboats. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless deadly gas that is produced by gasoline engines and generators, cooking ranges, space heaters and water heaters. Cold or poorly tuned engines produce more carbon monoxide than warm, properly tuned engines. The gas enters your blood stream through the lungs and displaces the oxygen your body needs. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. 

Carbon monoxide can collect easily within or around a boat. A generator or engine can exhaust carbon monoxide into the air and water. Exhaust leaks can allow the gas to migrate throughout the boat and into enclosed areas. Regular maintenance and proper boat operation are the best defense against injury from carbon monoxide. 

To avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide: 

  • Schedule regular engine maintenance and exhaust system maintenance inspections. 
  • Be aware that dangerous concentrations of carbon monoxide can accumulate when fueled devices are operated while your boat is at a dock or alongside another boat. 
  • Keep forward facing hatches open. 
  • Avoid teak surfing, dragging and water-skiing within 20 feet of a moving powerboat. 
  • Do not confuse carbon monoxide poisoning with motion sickness or intoxication. Get the person with irritated eyes, a headache, nausea, weakness or dizziness to fresh air, investigate the cause, take corrective action and seek medical assistance if necessary. 
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in accommodation spaces on your boat and check it periodically to ensure that it is functioning properly.