Living Under Shrink Wrap -- Living Aboard a Sailboat During a Maine Winter
View from across the cove: La Luna is the mastless sailboat.

Carbon Monoxide - Staying Safe On Board During a Maine Winter

First of all -- We. Are. Safe. We maintain safe practices. 

As much as I hate the "Fire Bitch" our talking CO and smoke detector, we do not ignore her. Her batteries are changed early, and we heed every warning. Yes, it is true that I call her the Fire Bitch and I really hate her voice: "Car-bon Mo-NOX-ide! Car-bon Mo-NOX-ide!" but we do pay attention to her. I can't smell CO and I know she can.

This has been a season during which we have heard the bitch way too much. Both detectors went off so often that we purchased two new ones.  Even though we thought the issue was due to the 7 year old alarms we would still immediately vent the boat and take safety precautions. Finally EW found an exhaust leak in furnace and fixed it. Problem solved. 

Well, not so much. Recently, the CO alarm has been going off when I cook. Now the smoke detector going off when I cook is not such a surprise -- yes and EW has developed a number of one-liners as a result. In my defense, this is such a confined space and the smoke detector is less than 6 feet from the stove top so a pan-fried potato cooked crisp may set it off. (As I discovered yesterday, totally burning the rice in the pressure cooker will set it off, too.)  But I digress.

So, as I said recently the CO alarm has been going off when I cook. I didn't get it. We have an expensive and well maintained propane detector (that doesn't talk) and that wasn't going off. And the CO alarm occurred intermittently. For example, I have been drinking a lot of tea lately and frequently light the stove top to boil up a kettle of water. No issues. 

On Thursday afternoon I roasted a chicken while nothing cooked on the stove top. At about the 1.5 hour mark, the CO bitch started beeping and screaming. I felt fine. I opened two hatches and a port light and turned on the exhaust fans. Then I went to Google. 

Turns out I am a lousy housekeeper. There was an older post on a sailing site in which someone described a huge CO situation. That person had propane hot water heater, refrigeration system and stove. None of the burners on these items had been cleaned after winter storage and small bits of rust were preventing the units from burning cleanly.

Further investigation revealed this from "The Natural Handyman" 

You must have all fuel burning appliances, their vents and chimneys checked annually at the least!  Any fuel burning appliance that is misbehaving should be checked IMMEDIATELY.  Unusual odors, strange noises, evidence of soot either around the units or in your home, and partial loss of heat or hot water are all possible indicators of inefficient burning and excessive CO production.  
My warning signs were partial loss of heat and indications of inefficient burning. I had ignored those warning signs. We don't leave the propane on and must light the pilot when we light the oven; lately it had been a bit more difficult to light  - a sign that it wasn't burning cleanly.  So. Tonight we are having pizza. Today I am cleaning the stove with great attention paid to the burners. I'll let you know, but I bet this puts the Fire Bitch to rest. 

Oh, and after I clean the stove I'm going to tackle the burned rice in the pressure cooker. Oh yeah. It's going to be an exciting day.



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Another reason living aboard isn't for wimps. Death by cooking is one thing. Death by being a lousy housekeeper ...I'd have been gone a long time ago. You're my hero.

Barbara Hart

How funny! Death by lousy-housekeeping. If that does happen and I meet my mom on the other side, she is going to be pissed. She raised me much better than that. My mom was a clean freak.

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