I hope this story scares the hell out of you!

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by DGreenwood, Nov 23, 2008.

  1. DGreenwood
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    DGreenwood Senior Member

    I hope this story scares the Hell out of you...and I hope it scares the Hell out of everyone you tell it to...and tell it to everyone you know who is into boats.

    I was asked to check out some electrical problems on a 56' (17+meters) family cruising catamaran. When I arrived the owner had to remove a dinghy that was sitting atop the engine room hatch. The engine room is a large sealed well beneath a watertight hatch in the stern. He opens the lid and leaves me to my work.

    Down I jump. The next few minutes become a nightmare that still gives me chills.

    After a quick look around at the layout I notice a noise coming from over my head. I peer around the corner to see an Espar Hydraunic heater humming away to keep his family warm inside the boat on this cold fall day. Hmmmm...interesting ...I look at the shiny stainless exhaust exiting the hull and think...now be careful meathead (me) to not touch that red hot stainless tube while you are down here. Then I notice that the rest of the exhaust is not properly covered with heat protection...then I notice the exhaust muffler is completely rotted out and the exhaust is pouring into the space that I am occupying...then my peripheral vision started to close in and I realized I was going to pass out. The initial urge was the natural response... to sit down.

    I can't tell you the kind of terror that shot down my spine at that moment when I knew that if I did not manage to get myself out of that space in a second that is was all over for me.
    I stood up and threw as much of myself onto the deck as I could, hoping that my weak legs would not let me slide back into the engine space. As l lay there fighting for consciousness it came to me that just because I was back into the oxygen rich world that I was not assured of life. Monoxide poisoning can still take you as your red blood cells are still circulating the C O.

    I recovered...but it took weeks for me to feel better. It scared me enough to buy a Monoxide meter that I carry around like a miner and test every time I go into such a space.

    Later when I was explaining what had taken place to the owner, I realized he knew nothing of Monoxide poisoning and he would have met his end in that engine room. The father of three kids and they were headed off to the Caribbean for the winter. I shudder to think of the scene when they discovered his body in the engine room.

    I won't bombard you with all the technical details of understanding and protecting yourself from C O Poisoning, but every one should read the available literature on the topic and install and maintain a meter in their boat. If you work in the industry get yourself a hand held meter and use it.

    Many families come to grief every year because of the silent killer.

    Mine very nearly did.
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  2. Guest625101138

    Guest625101138 Previous Member

    I know a similar story with a leaky exhaust manifold in a motor sailor.

    There were two on board and one went down to attend a problem with the engine. When he did not emerge after a few minutes the second crew member went below and found the first slumped over the engine. Luckily they both survived and quickly determined the cause as they were aware of the possibility of CO poisoning. They shut the engine down until it was sealed up. The erratic engine running was likely due to fouled air being recycled through the engine.

    Poorly ventilated small spaces and IC engines or combustion heaters are a potential threat to life.

    Rick W
  3. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    masalai masalai

    A timely reminder for all to recheck their engine compartment ventilation both air in and exhaust out....
  4. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Ike Senior Member

    I'm glad you made it out ok. Reminds me of incidents where people went into compartments that had been sealed for long periods of time and died from lack of oxygen. Always ventilate any compartment you are going into if you don't already know what's in there.
  5. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    masalai masalai

    There was a serious incident in far north Queensland a couple of years ago in maintenance/repair of one of the big cats that take tourists out to the outer barrier reef.... Effective forced ventilation is a significant factor even in non engine room areas as this was just dead air in the bilges I think but then my memory is not as good as it should be in matters that only got a cursory glance....
  6. lobsterman
    Joined: Mar 2004
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    lobsterman Junior Member

    Trouble shooting the wrong problem on the boat, went almost deadly wrong for me !!! ....

    Sometimes what sounds and appeares to be like a water leak or a busted hose spraying on the engine, and creating steam, it is not what it appears to be !!!.

    When flexable exaust pipe, wrapped in insulation lets go, the noise it makes sounds very much like steam or gushing water !!!, then when the exaust wrap is wet from condensation, the broken flex pipe starts creating steam, and leaking large amounts of exaust fumes into the space.

    Although it appeared as steam, or a leaking hose, it actually turned out to be an exaust leak in flex pipe that almost killed me !!!.

    Be Safe, and Cautious everyone.
  7. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    Respect confined spaces!

    Hemaglobin carrys oxygen in our blood to our vital organs.

    It likes carbon monoxide 275 times more than oxygen!!

    With a half life of 5 1/2 hours, you're doomed.

    It is oderless, invisible and about the same density as air.

    It'll f-you up, big time.
  8. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member

    Where I work we have compulsory annual confined space refreshers & use one of these(but older) units to test compartments http://www.honeywellanalytics.com/T...ct_Impact Pro/Datasheet/Impact_Impact Pro.pdf

    for some vessels it stays in the engine room whilst opperating, the ventillation is very important & I'll often see a little spike in ppm of co once the fans are shut down after engine shut down. it measures Flams & Oxygen & H2S as well. They are expensive but cheap if they save a life.
  9. Mr Efficiency
    Joined: Oct 2010
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    Same thing applies to various kinds of large tanks that people climb into to clean them out etc. Certainly a warning well worth emphasising.
  10. WestVanHan
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    Old steel boats (?) and barges-the steel turns to rust which is iron oxide ( FeO2) and in doing so takes oxygen atoms out.

    Years ago in my area 4 or 5 guys died going into an old rusty barge-no oxygen in there.
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  11. michael pierzga
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    michael pierzga Senior Member

    Has been a couple deaths at the shipyard over the years. Asphyxiation when working inside water tanks and CO2 poisoning of an engineer inside a boat during winter from a leaking generator exhaust.

    Be alert
  12. Number4

    Number4 Previous Member

    Totally off topic, but another scary story with regards to rust, and also aluminium.
    Be careful grinding aluminium. The dust will destroy your lungs and is highly flammable.
    Rust and powdered aluminium combined will produce an exothermic reaction that burns at 3000'C.
    Thermite! It does not need any oxygen to burn, water will not stop it.


    "Even if pure, non-ferrous aluminum is used, sparks can occur during an aluminothermic reaction, also called a thermic reaction. Such a reaction occurs when an aluminum particle and a metal oxide, such as rust, are ignited by a heat source and chemically burn as a "Class D" fire (i.e., combustible metal). The reaction is similar to a fireworks explosion, can create 4,500ºF sparks, and can occur when a grinder is used on ferric material (e.g., steel) prior to being used on an aluminum material or vice versa. This type of sparking and associated fire hazard may be eliminated by restricting the use of a grinder to only one type of material. In the absence of that safeguard, if grinding under these circumstances creates sparks, then it is considered hot work and a fire watch would be required under any of the circumstances described in 1915.504(b).

    Grinding aluminum also can create housekeeping issues. An aluminothermic reaction can occur in situations where there is an accumulation of powder or dust from the grinding operation. A shipyard environment typically contains metal oxide, in the form of rust, and a heat source, in the form of welding, cutting, brazing, or grinding. If enough aluminum powder is introduced, there is a potential for a significant aluminothermic reaction. In an Australian Department of Energy "lessons learned" article, "Fireball from Aluminum Grinding Dust," an individual received first- and second-degree bums on his hands and head from a fireball that developed while grinding a piece of angle iron a few days after another individual ground the heads off approximately twelve aluminum pop rivets. This type of accident may be prevented by employing good housekeeping habits in addition to using material-specific tools.

    Aluminum dust also can be combustible or explosive if it becomes suspended in the air at the right concentration. For example, one employee was killed, and three others were severely burned in an Indiana plant that manufactures aluminum automotive wheels after a series of explosions was fueled by aluminum dust. OSHA has recognized the combustible nature of metal dusts in its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program Directive (CPL 03-00-008, March 11, 2008). In addition, OSHA has issued a fact sheet, "Hazard Alert: Combustible Dust Explosions, 790." Both of these documents describe the hazards and preventive measures associated with combustible dusts, which include aluminum. ""
  13. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    Diesel Espar?

    Is it so likely that CO was the culprit?
  14. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    That is for sure. Sulphur tanks at the Tampa port a few years ago have killed several workers exposed to H2S fumes. The same thing has happened in Italy in 2008 and other places at various times once people drop their guard and get careless.

  15. michael pierzga
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    michael pierzga Senior Member

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