Boats are built to keep water out, but this also makes them good containers for gases and fumes - especially carbon monoxide. ‘Black-spot’ colour-changing CO indicator cards are not good enough: they do not give an instant warning of dangerous CO levels and have no alarm to wake you up. CO alarms are designed to protect you from CO produced by incomplete combustion of any fuel (including LPG, coal, charcoal, wood, paraffin or diesel used in domestic appliances such as cookers, boilers, stoves, etc.), or from exhaust fumes from a boat’s engine or generator. The main causes of CO build-up in a cabin are faulty, badly maintained, or misused appliances and escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves.

Solid fuel stove fails

The failure of a solid fuel stove was reported at a recent BSS meeting. The base-plate of the stove had cracked badly on three sides and allowed air into the stove under the ash-pan. The stove went into thermal runaway because of the extra air getting in, but fortunately the owner was present and able to monitor events until the fuel burnt out. The maker of the stove has said this is not a unique event, and that there are several reported every year. It is reported that the cause is corrosion in the joint gaps around the base plate. The ‘rust’ swells, putting tension into the castings. Subsequent heat from the fire cracks the cast iron material. The corrosion comes from dampness in the acidic ash, either from rain or condensation, when the stove has not been in use. Stoves that are not in regular use are obviously vulnerable. The advice for when when a stove is not in use is:

·       Clean out the bottom of the stove;

·       Do not leave the chimney open to rain;

·       Leave the ash-pan door open so that there is a flow of air.

Now the end of the fire season is coming, it is obviously a good time to have a good clean out and make sure that rain and condensation are not getting in. If you have had a similar experience, please let us know.

David Fletcher

The BSS has made an announcement supporting Beko, in its on-going campaign to find and fix dangerous older models of Beko, Flavel and Leisure gas cookers that can produce potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide, if used incorrectly with the grill door closed. Beko and BSS are asking everybody for help to try and find the remaining cookers.

Further information is here

Don’t burn damp logs

- new advice from the Boat Safety Scheme

Boaters using damp wood and logs in their stoves could risk increased costs, stove damage and carbon monoxide poisoning. To burn effectively, wood needs to be dried out, or seasoned, to a maximum of 15-20% water content. A fresh 1kg log with 60% moisture may be able to give out just under 2kW of heat, whereas a 1kg log dried to 25% roughly doubles the heat output to about 4kW. You should use wood that burns easily and cleanlywith a good heat output, feels dry and has a hollow sound when tapped. Suitable wood often has cracks in the end where it has dried out.Wood fuel should be kept in a dry, well-ventilated area.

The Fire Kills campaign is again encouraging people to test their smoke alarms when they change their clocks this coming clock change weekend. The snappy tagline ‘TICK TOCK TEST’, will help remind us all of the need to test our smoke alarms at this time of year.

Smoke alarms save lives, but only if they work.  With over 130 boat fires on Boat Safety Scheme records last year, including one fatal fire and many others losing their possessions and sometimes homes, it is essential that people test their smoke alarms regularly.


What we have been saying to our members