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How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning on Your Boat

People often associate the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning with homes or cars, but are uneducated that certain boats produce a substantial amount of the gas as well. Watercrafts equipped with gasoline-powered engines or onboard generators produce a large amount of carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless and colorless gas that can poison and even kill someone who inhales too much of it. Diesel-powered engines also emit a small amount of carbon monoxide as well.

Causes of CO Buildup

There are many ways carbon monoxide can build up in your boat. Listed below are five major causes of CO accumulation:

  1. Many large boats are equipped with generators that emit carbon monoxide gas toward the stern of the watercraft. More specifically, this CO emission builds up near the swim or stern deck or water platform of the watercraft. The carbon monoxide that fills up the capacity of this area is capable of killing someone in the matter of seconds.
  2. Idling or traveling at slow speeds can cause CO to accumulate on the boat’s cabin, cockpit or stern deck. In fact, wind blowing from the aft of your watercraft can expedite this buildup of carbon monoxide.
  3. Boats that cruise at a certain speed or direction can rapidly raise carbon monoxide concentrations in certain areas of the watercraft. This is known as the “Station Wagon Effect” or back drafting. Back drafting is accelerated if a boat is heavily loaded and operated at a high bow angle. Also, if there is an opening near the exhaust, the emissions will funnel quickly through the opening.
  4. Anchoring or mooring too close to watercrafts with running gas engines or onboard generators can pose a CO threat. Dangerous levels of CO emitted from these boats can funnel into your boat.
  5. A clogged exhaust, blocked exhaust outlets or improperly ventilated enclosures are extremely threatening causes of CO buildup. A blocked or clogged exhaust can cause life threatening levels of carbon monoxide to accumulate in the cabin of your vessel.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, headache, vomiting, chest pain, dizziness and confusion. Also, there are many instances of people that are symptom free and pass out unknowingly. In fact, people that unfortunately pass out, are asleep or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before they feel anything.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning on Your Boat

  1. Install a marine carbon monoxide detector guaranteed by Underwriters' Laboratories (UL). This device will alert all boaters if there is a life threatening level of carbon monoxide in your boat.
  2. Ensure gasoline-powered engines, diesel-powered engines and onboard generators are properly installed.
  3. Make sure passengers swim and play away from boat engine exhaust areas, particularly the stern or aft part of your boat.
  4. Anchor or dock your boat at least 20 feet away for the nearest watercraft with a running generator or engine.
  5. Purchase a boat lift or boat dock system to lift your watercraft completely out of the water to prevent seaweed or algae buildup from clogging your exhaust. A Jet Dock floating boat lift system makes it easy to check the back of your boat to check and remove anything that is blocking your exhaust before taking your boat on the water.

Carbon monoxide can pose a serious threat to boaters. However, now that you are educated with the steps to take preventative measures, the chances of a carbon monoxide disaster are exponentially lessened. Contact us today if you would like to learn more about our boat lift systems.

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