Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer. CO is a gas produced as a result of burning carbon based fuels such as gasoline, diesel or propane. Odorless, colorless and tasteless; you don’t know it’s around until its too late. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness or even unconsciousness, and can often be confused with seasickness or intoxication.
Earlier this year we picked up a pair of CO detectors from Port Supply (one for the v-berth and one for the main salon) and I finally got around to installing the other day. Expensive little suckers at nearly $100 each considering they only have a 5 year life span. Yes, you heard me correctly. There’s something programmed into the circuitry that makes it to go into fault mode 60 months from the manufacture date on the little sticker. It won’t quit flashing & chirping until you replace it with a brand new one. Not sure if that’s exclusive to the marine industry or if the same holds true with household CO alarms, but like anything boat – it’s always twice as expensive. Right? I probably would have installed them sooner if I’d known they had an “expiration date” of 2017.
Similar to an electric bilge pump CO detectors should always be powered on, but since the current draw is only about 25 milliamps per unit it’s no problem letting them run 24/7. This meant running a separate, fuse-protected circuit directly off the hot side of the battery bank. Behind the drip rail that runs under the port lights along either side of the boat is a handy little teak chase way that’s perfect for concealing wires. That’s where we ran all the LED strip lights, and also hid most of the wire for the future panel relocation at the nav station. I pulled #18-2 marine grade safety wire from the battery box to just aft of the port settee for the first detector, and then up the side of the boat and through the hanging lockers to the forward bulkhead in the sleeping area for the second. A .25 amp fuse off the positive battery terminal provides the over-current protection for the power supply.
The next electrical project I tackled was the new propane control and detection system. Every boat should already come equipped with a switch that controls the remote gas valve inside the propane locker, as did ours. However, this cool little unit has sniffers that monitor for propane fumes, and when detected turns on an alarm and automatically shuts down the supply valve. Yet another spendy piece of safety equipment even with our Port Supply discount, but well worth the peace of mind knowing that we’re not going to die in our sleep of asphyxiation. Mounting the first sensor in the propane locker was easy and I simply ran the wire through the lazarette to the control box near the existing breaker panel. I wanted the second sensor mounted low in the stove recess near the gas supply and that was a bit more work. I had to disconnect the hose and pull the 75lb. stove out of the way to run the wire through each of the cabinets in the galley, drilling holes and making a big mess along the way.
Safety on a sailboat is an important thing, especially if it’s also your primary residence. Life lines and grab bars keep you from going overboard, and PFD’s help you float just in case you do. Propane tanks should always be stored in a separate, draining locker vented to the outside and have an electric control valve with a remote switch NOT located directly over the cooking appliance. Strategically placed fire extinguishers should always be within easy reach if the unthinkable should ever occur, and smoke/CO detectors aren’t a bad idea either.