The first (I'm hoping only) major winter storm of the northeast is almost here! Most areas in Maryland are now under a blizzard warning. If there are power outages, the people fortunate enough to have generators will be bringing them out. Unfortunately, with the generators comes an increased risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. People with heat sources other than heat pumps are already at risk for CO poisoning and, I hope, have CO detectors already installed. Warnings of this silent killer have been more widely publicized in recent years but with a background in EMS and firefighting, I feel it bears repeating and emphasis.
Why do you have to be concerned with CO? The gas is called a silent killer because it is essentially undetectable to the human senses. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless - It can even go undetected by basic medical technology. A couple of minutes spent in a CO rich environment can cause someone to go unconscious and die.
Where/When do you have to be concerned about CO poisoning? CO is formed from incomplete burning of carbon containing fuels such as kerosene, propane, gasoline, wood, coal, etc. In the marine environment, this includes the gasoline engine, gasoline generator – diesel does form CO as well but not nearly as much as gasoline. Here on land, CO is formed by gas heat, woodstoves, furnaces, generators, automotive engines, etc. Any of these types of engines should be in a well ventilated area and the exhaust, especially (since that’s what contains the CO), should be well ventilated. CO poisoning occurs when any of the above are burned in or near an enclosed space.
How does CO poison? See that O in CO? That’s O as in Oxygen. CO binds to hemoglobin in your blood where oxygen normally does. In fact, CO has a higher affinity (greater attraction) to hemoglobin and will beat oxygen to the punch every time. This in turn robs the body of oxygen which is essential to life. Initial symptoms of low-level exposure present like the flu – dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue. Increased exposure leads to vomiting, mental confusion, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness, and death. Once symptoms start, the person should move out of the CO rich environment to a well-ventilated area and seek medical attention promptly. It is also advisable to call the fire department if you are unable to stop and/or find the source of CO and if you are unable to safely ventilate the area yourself.
Because CO binds to the blood in the same way that oxygen does, it will show up on noninvasive monitoring devices (pulse oximetry) as oxygen making someone seem perfectly oxygenated when, in fact, their body is deprived of oxygen. For this reason, if you have mild symptoms and the medical personnel are not aware of the possibility of CO poisoning, be sure to let them know so they can take a better health assessment and use the correct device to monitor the oxygen and CO in your blood.
What can you do to prevent CO poisoning? Always make sure that your engines, generators, furnaces, etc, are installed properly, maintained regularly according to manufacturer’s requirements and that they’re installed in a well-ventilated area. As far as woodstoves and fireplaces are concerned, make sure your chimney and flue is inspected and cleaned out on at least an annual basis to check for possible cracks, holes and clogs that could cause CO to pour into your house. Generators should be used outside of the house - not even in an attached garage with the door open. If using a generator, appliances should be plugged directly into the generator unless using a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Also, be sure to install a CO alarm - they work similarly to a smoke detector - in your home and boat if there isn't already one.
We were given a lunar calendar for Christmas this year which is a really cool tool to have! We decided to display it near our tide tables since the moon plays a large role in the tides. I'm not sure about you but I've never known exactly HOW the moon affects the tides so I decided to do some research. As it turns out, NOAA has a great educational kit about tides online - I learned most of the following from their site.
Of course the moon is not the only factor that affects the tides - the sun affects them too - as well as wind and weather. However, since we received a lunar calendar and the moon seems to have the most effect on the tides, I'm only going to tackle the moon for now.
After reading up on the NOAA site, my understanding is that tides are just really big waves that originate in the oceans and travel toward the continents (which affect the tides as well because the land gets in the way). The gravitational pull of the moon is what causes those waves. Whichever side of the earth is facing the moon has a bulge or peak of this huge wave due to the gravitational pull from the moon. Conversely, there is also a bulge on the exact opposite side of the earth at that point because where gravity won out over inertia on the other side, inertia wins out on the side facing away from the moon. Basically, every time our side of the earth faces the moon, it starts a high tidal wave in our area. But how does it work out to twice a day?
Maybe it's just me, but I really only have ever paid attention to the 24 hour solar cycle and haven't mentally retained any other cycle lengths such as the Lunar cycle (amount of time for the moon to revolve around the earth) which is 24 hours and 50 minutes. If you divide that in half (one for facing the moon and one for facing the opposite direction), you get 12 hours and 25 minutes which allows you to have almost two full sets of tides in every day - also known as semidiurnal tides. Theoretically, this would be the same around the earth but since there are large continents that don't allow the water to flow freely, it's not the case. The west coast of the US has a mixture of semidiurnal tides and diurnal tides - only one full set of tide per day. Here in the Chesapeake, we have semidiurnal tides as does the entire east coast.
The supplemental information that came with the lunar calendar only had one piece that pertained to tides - the perigee and apogee. Perigee is the point in the moon's elliptical path around the earth where it is closest to the earth and Apogee is the point where it is furthest from the earth. At these two times in the moon's orbit, high tides can be higher than normal and low tides can be lower than normal. The tides can be also be exaggerated when we have a new and full moon because the moon and earth are lined up with the sun.
After reading and understanding the changes the Lunar cycle has on tides, I’m interested to see what the additional effects the Sun and weather have as well… stay tuned!
Hello, my name is Margaret “Meg” Roney, thanks for stopping by our blog! While I’m no expert on boating or boats, I have spent many summers on both power and sail boats, detailed boats, and have worked here for MathewsBros for almost 5 years. I also have a natural curiosity which causes me to ask many questions about how things work and why things were done the way they were while I’m taking our Daily Pictures. So, I am still learning every day and who better to learn from than Pete Mathews (my brother in-law) who’s been in business for 20+ years, Dave Iglehart who’s been working on boats for 20+ years and my fellow employees who have been working here (some for 10+ years)!! Outside of work, I’ve recently rescued a Boxer/Lab puppy so she keeps me very busy!