This is the time of year we boaters love. Hurricane threats are gone and past, the skies are blue and clear and the heat of the noon sun is tempered by a cool breeze. What a great time to enjoy a day on the water. Unfortunately, this time of year also brings on two of the sneakiest and deadly dangers a boater can face: Hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. We all have heard the fable of the frog — if you put a frog in a pan of hot water he will jump out, but if you put him in a pan of cold water and place it over a fire; the frog will stay in the pan while the water comes to a boil and cooks him. Carbon monoxide and hypothermia creep up on us in the same manner.
The chilly breeze causes boaters to close up the windshields and portholes and raise the side curtains so they can get comfortable as they cruise along. This creates an air trap that contains the odorless gas carbon monoxide, which is always present in boat exhaust, and as we breathe it we can slowly succumb to it. Worse yet, the symptoms include confusion and poor judgment, which further contribute to one not recognizing that danger is present. Carbon monoxide binds with the hemoglobin in your blood, taking the place of oxygen and slowly asphyxiating you from the inside. Once a person becomes unconscious, they will continue to breathe the gas and slowly slip into a permanent sleep.
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