Where carbon monoxide likes to hide

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 12, 2004

Last week I started a multi-part series on carbon monoxide and how deadly it can be to recreational boaters. In the first column I looked at exactly what &uot;CO&uot; is and how it can affect you.

This week, again using the latest Coast Guard Boating Safety Circular, I want to look at how carbon monoxide can accumulate onboard vessels so that boaters are aware of potentially dangerous locations, re-enforcing the need for proper ventilation.

The number of different places that carbon monoxide can accumulate, even on a relatively small sized boat, are as numerous as the hiding places for a gerbil free from its cage. In other words, they are potentially unlimited. However, this week I want to concentrate on the most likely of the groups.

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Area One – The Canvas Enclosure Area. As the weather gets a little bit more brisk and the sunshine doesn’t last as long, more people seek shelter under a canvas enclosed area.

Unfortunately, this is one of the primary places carbon monoxide can accumulate.

Solution: Please check to make sure your canvas area is completely ventilated.

Area Two – The Exhaust Port. Unfortunately plugging or obstructing an exhaust port occurs much to often, not only on a boat, but ashore when running a small engine like a generator. In the case of a boat owner/operators sometimes moor a boat in such a manner to block an exhaust route.

Solution: Make sure when you are moored that the exhaust system is free and unobstructed.

Area Three – Another Vessel’s Exhaust. Think about it: how often have you driven down a highway, directly behind a 71 VW Beatle that is belching smoke like a coal fired power plant? Whichever lane on the highway that you get into, the exhaust machine is in front of you.

How often have you gagged as that beatle goes from second to third gear? The same concept applies here. If you are docked either outboard or inboard of a vessel whose engines are on, the chance that the exhaust will dump into your boat becomes extremely high. This creates the possibility of accumulated gases.

Solution: Just as you make sure your own exhaust is clear, do the same of the boat moored next to you.

Area Four – The Station Wagon Effect. Boaters need to be especially careful or &uot;back drafting&uot; or as some call it, the Station Wagon effect. You may have a clear exhaust, but if the fumes are being pushed or drafted into the cabin you have the potential for carbon monoxide to accumulate.

Solution: Maintain situational awareness of your own boat’s exhaust. Make sure you watch the trend; is it being &uot;blown&uot; away from your vessel, or towards it?

The other big thing to keep in mind is operations at slow speeds. Just because you are idling or stopped it doesn’t mean that carbon monoxide is not building. Be aware of this and the direction the wind may be blowing.

Hopefully this week we have looked at some areas that Carbon Monoxide accumulates. Next week, we will look at ways that you can protect yourself. Until then…Boat Safe and … Boat Smart!