Passengers of just about any boat with a motor on board can be victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Silent Killer
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can be toxic even in very small quantities since its effects are cumulative over time. There have been injuries and deaths caused by the infiltration of poisonous gasses into boats’ living and sleeping spaces. Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. These symptoms can often be misdiagnosed as seasickness or intoxication.
A newly recognized phenomenon has been discovered where swimmers died when they ventured too closely to houseboats’ swim platforms while engines or generators were running, and victims have been poisoned while being towed or dragged too near the stern of a boat.
Stay Safe in the Water
To help avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide on your watercraft:
◦ Keep air flowing throughout the boat whenever any gas or diesel engine or propane appliance is running.
◦ Stay away from any area where engine or generator exhaust is vented.
◦ Do not leave your generator running at night or when anchored.
◦ Install carbon monoxide detectors in the living areas of your boat, test them frequently and never remove the batteries unless you are replacing them with new ones.
◦ Keep your boat and motor properly maintained including keeping exhaust clamps tight and in place. Also, it’s a good idea to replace exhaust hoses if there is cracking or deterioration. Skiing, dragging, or tubing closer than 20 feet from a motorboat can be fatal from carbon monoxide poisoning – so stay well away!
For more information, please view the Minnesota Boating Guide.