carbon monoxide alarm

Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside your boat, and replace them as recommended by the manufacturer.

CO poisoning: A Firsthand account

Close call yields valuable lessons

My husband, Ron, and I joined 4 other couples for a cruise down the Cane River to Natchitoches, La., for the Christmas Festival of Lights.

We arrived at 1100 and tied up to the seawall. At 1630, a police officer requested that we move our boats out of the fireworks zone.

We dropped anchor just past the “no boats” buoy and had a great vantage point for the wonderful fireworks display, which we followed with dinner on board.

Ours was the only boat to put out an anchor, so the others tied up to our port and starboard sides with their generator exhausts pointed toward our boat.

After dinner, I retired to the cabin and Ron went boat hopping. By the time he returned, I had a headache, which worsened and was followed by nausea and vomiting. I thought I had a migraine.

When the carbon monoxide monitor went off later that night, I asked Ron to fix it. Now also affected, Ron “fixed” it by unplugging the monitor.

When daylight finally broke, I was very sick. I woke Ron and told him to take me home. When he went upstairs and came back down into the cabin, he became dizzy and realized what was happening: My migraine was carbon monoxide poisoning. Ron pulled me outside into the freezing morning so I could breathe clean air.

Although somewhat embarrassing, our story may help educate others about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lessons learned

1. Don’t position your boat so as to receive exhaust from both sides.
2. Don’t second-guess your carbon monoxide monitor. If the monitor sounds an alarm, get out of the cabin and investigate the source.
3. Don’t let the thought of inconveniencing others deter you from removing your boat and yourself from a life-threatening problem. (I didn’t want to disturb the other boaters by moving our boat or by pulling up the only anchor securing our raft.)
4. Don’t attempt to “sleep off” carbon monoxide poisoning at home like I did. Go to a hospital for oxygen therapy.

For more information

U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division
Boating Safety Sidekicks