Carbon Monoxide can be a "silent killer" on houseboats
and other recreational vessels. Each year, boaters are injured or killed
by carbon monoxide. Virtually all of the poisonings are preventable.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion of
carbon based material such as gasoline, propane, charcoal or wood. Common
sources aboard boats include main and auxiliary engines, generators,
cooking ranges, space heaters, and water heaters. (Note: Cold and poorly
tuned engines produce more carbon monoxide than warm properly tuned
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.
What To Do?
Schedule regular engine and exhaust system
maintenance inspections by experienced and trained mechanics.
Be aware that dangerous concentrations of
carbon monoxide can accumulate when a boat, generator or other fueled
device is operated while the boat is at a pier, seawall or alongside
another boat. Do not run engines or equipment for extended periods of
time under these conditions or without continuous monitoring.
Keep forward facing hatches open to allow
fresh air circulation in accommodation spaces, even in inclement
Keep people clear of the rear deck area and
swim platform of the boat while either the generator or engines are
running. Always monitor the swimming area.
Do not confuse carbon monoxide poisoning with
seasickness or intoxication. If someone on board complains of irritated
eyes, headaches, nausea, weakness or dizziness, immediately move the
person to fresh air, investigate the cause and take corrective action.
Seek medical attention, if necessary.
Install a carbon monoxide detector in each
accommodation space on your boat. Check the detectors periodically to be
sure they are functioning properly.
Make sure all exhaust clamps are in place and
Look for exhaust leaking from the exhaust
system components evidenced by rust and /or black streaking, water
leaks, or corroded or cracked fittings.
Inspect rubber exhaust hoses for burned or
cracked sections. All rubber hoses should be pliable and free of kinks.
Confirm that cooling water flows from the
exhaust outlet when the engines and generator are started.
Listen for any change in exhaust sound that
could indicate a failure of an exhaust component.
Test the operation of each carbon monoxide
detector by pressing the test button.
Do not operate the vessel if any of these
At Least Annually:
(Performed by a qualified marine technician)
Replace exhaust hoses if any evidence of
cracking, charring or deterioration is found.
Inspect each water pump impeller and inspect
the condition of the water pump housing. Replace if worn or cracked
(refer to the engine and generator manuals for further information).
Inspect each of the metallic exhaust
components for cracking, rusting, leaking or looseness. Pay particular
attention to the cylinder head, exhaust manifold, and water injection
Clean, inspect and confirm the proper
operation of the generator cooling water anti-siphon valve (if
Regular maintenance and proper operation of the boat are the
best defenses against injury from carbon monoxide...