Oct 10, 2019

Carbon MonoxideWhen operating at a slow idle, carbon monoxide can build up and blow back into the vessel.

As the seasons change and we move from warm summer into cooler fall, many fanatic boaters (especially those with cabin space) begin to use on-board heaters to extend the boating season. I was recently asked about some of the dangers associated with having heaters aboard – and I launched into a lecture about ventilation and the danger of Carbon Monoxide.

As I thought about the subject after the fact, I realized that there’s a bigger story, here. The story is so big, in fact, that there are questions on carbon monoxide on the test necessary in obtaining your boater’s license (Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card) in Canada. That said, to most boaters, carbon monoxide poisoning is one of those terms that they hear, but without understanding exactly what it is, it’s dangers, and methods of detection and prevention.

Anything aboard that involves burning a fuel (engine combustion (gas or diesel), diesel/propane onboard heaters, fuel burning stoves, generators, and barbeques), produces carbon dioxide by the natural incomplete burning of the oxygen in the air. If the oxygen being burned is coming from enclosed cabin spaces, it will no longer be available for breathing – all that will be left is the poisonous carbon monoxide exhaust gas.

The statistics are frightening: US coast guard ranks carbon monoxide poisoning among the top 5 causes of death of boaters. According to a 2017 US coast guard report: there have been 800 reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning related to boating in the last 15 years (2002-2017), with 140 fatalities. In Ontario from 2001 to 2007 (the last period I can find numbers for), there were 74 accidental deaths from asphyxia due to furnace fumes and vehicle exhaust.

To make matters worse, the term ‘silent killer’ is highly accurate: Carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless. That said, there are a number of preventative measures that can be taken aboard, to protect yourself and your guests from being exposed and injured:

Carbon MonoxideThese exhaust tubes are inadequately secured to the boats muffler, potentially leaking exhaust fumes into the engine compartment.

1) Where both gas and diesel engines produce carbon monoxide, gasoline engines produce higher levels

2) Cold, poorly tuned, and overloaded engines produce more CO thank warm, properly tuned and load-matched engines

3) Each engine aboard (running engines and generators) should have their own exhaust line, venting exhaust gases overboard

4) Engine compartment blowers should be properly positioned, operable, with blower hoses secured and no rips/tears in the hose

5) Despite CO gases being vented overboard, boaters should still be aware of how CO gases can collect :

a. Boats with aft canvas enclosures can create the ‘station wagon effect’: exhaust gases are captured beneath the canvas and don’t allow the CO to disperse

b. Swimmers/waterskiers should be kept well away from the exhaust vents when engines/generators are running

c. Swimmers should stay away from areas where CO gases can accumulate: beneather or around swim platforms and between pontoons

d. When rafting two vessels together, or docking against a seawall, CO can collect in areas that might otherwise be well ventilated

e. When riding with the bow high, exhaust gases may collect in cabin spaces and enclosed areas

Carbon MonoxideWhile not an ideal generator installation, at least the generator is in a well ventilated area!

6) Cabin heaters that burn fuel (wood, paper, diesel) should have an independent exhaust flue, allowing exhaust to be vented topside

7) Non-electric stoves, water heaters and other appliances should never be used when unattended or when users aboard are sleeping (when CO poisoning symptoms may not be evident), and should only be used during periods when there is adequate ventilation in the cabin spaces

Beyond all of these preventative measures, is the detection of the poisonous gases. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standard for carbon monoxide detection systems (A-24) requires that any boat with a cabin or sleeping area requires a CO detector. CO detectors can be battery powered, or wired into the boat’s electrical system (but should include a block on the electrical panel to prevent the detector from being accidentally turned off). CO detectors had received negative reviews in past years due to their tendency to go off during periods of high humidity and other ‘nuisance type’ alarms. Modern CO detectors, especially those designed for marine use have been improved significantly.

Please read this as you stow your boat:

A final note, as a reminder for those who are involved with winterizing and shrink-wrapping – whether you’ve hired a contractor or are a do-it-yourselfer: Heat shrink guns produce a very high level of CO as shrink-wrap plastic is being heated. Be careful in areas of poor ventilation, and never heat shrink-wrap from the inside of the wrap.

Stay safe on the water.

Andrew MacDonaldAndrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques - Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.

Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Related Articles
Maintenance
  • 09 September 2020
  • By Ethan

Ask Andrew: Blowing Smoke

My Dad is not a mechanical guy. He is educated and well-read, and handy around the house – but not mechanical. When I was 12, I joined a trip to the local mechanic to get our family car...

CYOB Inbox
  • 25 August 2020
  • By Ethan

CYOB Inbox: Safety please

We see people coming into the public docks with people sitting on the bow of the boat or on the outside front of pontoon boats, if the boat had to slow down fast, that person may end up in the motor...

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
The Oceanis Yacht 54, younger sister of the Oceanis 62, embodies the innovation that has always ...
Beneteau announces the launch of the latest addition to the Antares range! With a length overall of ...
I had been looking forward to a sea trial aboard the Greenline 33 because I was hoping it would ...
New at the end of 2019, the 58 Salon Express design features large windows to flood the living ...
No wonder this is one of Regal’s best-selling boats; the Regal 33 Express offers amazing ...
The newest member of Beneteau’s Gran Turismo line is the GT 36 and this yacht brings the style and ...
With a philosophy of quality and 'doing things right Ranger Tugs launches the all new R-25 at the ...
The new Beneteau Swift Trawler 41 renews the spirit of the practical seaworthy cruiser. The ...
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.

 

Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................

AXOPAR 37 XC

 

Axopar 37 XCWhole new ball game…

 

Set aside your assumptions and expectations for a few minutes while we try to describe the new Axopar 37 XC that made its American debut at the 2020 Miami International Boat Show. This boat represents a whole new ball game in terms of design, performance, seakeeping and functionality. In fact, I’d say it takes a ‘clean sheet of paper’ approach to boating – it’s that different.

Read More about the Axopar 37 XC..................

Destinations

  • Prev
History: right after gym and just before chemistry class. Fifty minutes of naming the prime ...
On May 19, the New York State Canal Corporation today announced an updated opening schedule for the ...
If you have four hours to enjoy a fine tour of one of Canada’s most interesting waterways (let’s ...
Boom & Batten Restaurant is suspended over the water adjacent to the Songhees Walkway and ...
Provincial Boat Havens are those special places to drop anchor in British Columbia’s West Coast and ...
NW Explorations, a Bellingham, Washington-based yacht charter, brokerage, and marine services ...

Exiting Hogs BackBy John Morris

History: right after gym and just before chemistry class. Fifty minutes of naming the prime ministers by date and looking out the window. Who knew it was actually interesting.

And in some ways it hardly matters because the Rideau Waterway is just so amazingly beautiful. Driving your boat through the locks is wonderful fun for kids of all ages (adult kids, too) and the scenery is sensational. The history is a huge bonus however, and worth understanding from both as a political lesson and from an engineering perspective.

Read more about The Rideau...........


Lifestyle

  • Prev
Schooner Cove Yacht Club through their staff Capt. and other volunteers organize cruises so members ...
With things the way they are, a whole new batch of Canadians are discovering that boating is IT! ...
Recently while admiring the boats in Victoria Harbour my eyes locked into a 58ft yacht named ...
The 38.1m / 125' motor yacht, custom built in 1930 by Boeing of Canada and last refitted ...
This interesting shot is one you will remember. It comes to POTW from our pal, photographer and ...
Unknown to us at the time, the quest for VIA-MARA started in 1973 when I saved the back cover of a ...
You will find that many of the yachts travelling up and down the BC Coast have Sea Kayaks on board. ...
The Council of British Columbia Yacht Clubs with over 50 yacht club members has become the voice of ...
Classic boat restoration expert and wooden boat builder Stan Hunter recently sent us this great ...
In Mid June, a floatplane plunged into Constance Bay on the Ottawa River after two planes collide ...

Marine Products

  • Prev
ShockAlarm is a floating, continuously monitoring alarm that protects your family and friends from ...
The Airhead Thrust is an out-of-this-world thrill ride.  Get your wetsuite out and get ready ...
Airhead Recreational Kayak is perfect for cruising boaters at anchor.  Stow it, inflate and ...
To help keep those aboard safe, critical equipment such as the compass must hold up in the rough ...
The Boating HD Marine & Lakes app from Navionics is an excellent resource to help plan your ...
Dive tanks are notoriously difficult to stow on a boat and can be outright dangerous if left ...
Waterways around the world are increasingly becoming choked with plastic trash. To stem the ...
QuenchSea is an up and coming low-cost, portable, manually-powered device that instantly turns ...
The Big Orange Original Filter is connected to the vent line leaving your boats holding tank.  ...
The Cablemaster Model CM-7 is a solid when it comes to handling and storing bulky 50 amp power ...