Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning on Your Boat

Each year, carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of several boaters while causing sickness in many others who are exposed to the harmful gas. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 140 boaters have died from carbon monoxide poisoning since 2000, with more than 800 boating-related carbon monoxide poisoning cases reported during that time.

Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, so a carbon monoxide buildup usually isn’t detected until symptoms set in, making it extremely deadly. Even worse, it can be hard for boaters to notice it because symptoms are similar to seasickness or intoxication.

The good news is nearly all carbon monoxide deaths are preventable. Follow these tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning on your boat.

  1. Having an onboard carbon monoxide detector is your best way to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Check your detector regularly to be sure it is working.
  2. Make sure to never block exhaust outlets. Blocking them can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide in the cabin and cockpit areas.
  3. Be careful if your boat, or a nearby boat, is idling. When a boat is idling, carbon monoxide can accumulate on your deck, especially if you’re near a seawall or at the dock.
  4. Avoid activities on the rear deck, swim platform and near exhaust pipes if your boat’s engine is running.
  5. Only use devices such as heaters, generators and stoves in a well-ventilated area.
  6. Check your exhaust system regularly to make sure no exhaust is leaking from it. Look for any rust, black streaking or cracked and corroded fittings.

If you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, and are experiencing symptoms—headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision or shortness of breath—seek immediate medical attention.