The night we almost died

I have written about installing my new stove.

I have written about Thanksgiving.

I have not written about what happened between these two events.

For background: I love to cook and Thanksgiving is when I get to pull out all the stops on a culinary fantasia extravaganza.  That is the sort of thing which requires advance prep (especially this year since we were doing parade stuff on Thanksgiving morning). To this end I planned to make cranberry sauce, turkey stock, tart crusts, and bake pumpkin for mini tartlets a couple of days before.

I arrived home with the necessary ingredients.  We ordered a pizza, opened a bottle of wine, and got to work.  I was using all three burners plus the oven; really putting the new stove through it’s paces.  By the time pizza was gone and the bottle of wine was disappearing:

  • Cranberry sauce done.
  • Turkey stock simmering.
  • Tart crust resting.
  • Carbon monoxide alarm going off.
  • Pumpkin baking.
  • Carbon monoxide alarm going off.

What?

We have two carbon monoxide alarms: a combination smoke/carbon monoxide over the nav station (which was making the noise) and digital readout version in our bedroom that shows the levels of carbon monoxide in parts per million.

Beep! Beep! Warning! Carbon Monoxide!  Beep! Beep! Warning! Carbon Monoxide!  

The cats had already fled.

We looked at each other.  I said it must be broken.  My Better Half hit the reset button.  I went back to cooking.

this sucker
this sucker

Beep! Beep! Warning! Carbon Monoxide!  Beep! Beep! Warning! Carbon Monoxide!  

Me: This is weird, why don’t you just take the battery out?

My Better Half: Woah, we’re at 95 in here!

it looked like this except it said 95 instead of 0
the one in our bedroom: it looked like this except it said 95 instead of 0

Honestly, my first thought was that the one in our bedroom was broken, too.

Me (irritated): I hate that thing; take the battery out!

My Better Half: I’m opening up the boat.

The fresh air smelled soooooo good…  We both realized that we had been breathing carbon monoxide for a while.  No, the alarm wasn’t broken.  I was actually about to kill us.

And…this is why we have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms on our boat.  It’s very difficult to self-diagnose hypoxia (insufficient oxygen) in real time.  Once we had fresh air it was like we woke up.  My Better Half is very familiar with his symptoms of hypoxia (he went through Altitude Chamber training when he was in flight school).  But this buildup happened over the course of more than an hour and it was only after he had fresh air did he recognize that he had been hypoxic.  I was euphoric (one of the symptoms) and would have happily disabled all the alarms until we fell down dead.  Cool.

So, now we know.  Each time we turn on the stove we open the portlight above it and sometimes the main hatch, too.  We bought another carbon monoxide detector that we keep right next to the stove.

this little guy? we worry about this little guy.
this little guy? we worry about this little guy.

It provides a digital readout of PPM in real time.  We keep watch and if the levels start to climb we will open the boat up more.  The one in the bedroom is still there and we can watch as any death gas travels from the stove to where we sleep.  We open up the portlight in there if that happens.  Better safe than sorry.

Were we stupid?  Yes.  Did I know to ventilate an enclosed space when I was cooking?  Yes.  Have people been cooking with propane in boats, campers and RVs for a long time?  Yes.  Does that excuse being stupid?  No.

Buy a carbon monoxide detector, maybe three.

4 thoughts on “The night we almost died

  1. Noted. I intend to cook in our camp trailer a great deal this winter to be near my horse. This has reminded me that we disabled the smoke detector last time out because it was indicating the battery was low. A routine check of the functionality of our CO2 monitor sounds like a good idea as well.

    Like

  2. Noted. I intend to cook in our camp trailer a great deal this winter to be near my horse. This has reminded me that we disabled the smoke detector last time out because it was indicating the battery was low. A routine check of the functionality of our CO2 monitor sounds like a good idea as well.

    Like

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