Winter Boat Living Adds Additional Dangers

PORTLAND, Maine – The Coast Guard, the Portland and South Portland Fire Departments, and the Portland Harbormaster are joining forces to educate the public of the hazards of living aboard boats during the winter.

Authorities speculate that in today’s economic climate, people who once lived aboard their boats only during the warm months and rented homes during the winter, may now choose to live aboard year round. Emergency officials have reached out to marinas in Maine to identify the number of people who plan to live on their boats this winter.

Coast Guard Capt. James McPherson, the commander of Sector Northern New England, stresses that the dangers of living aboard boats during the winter are real. “But if you take time now to prepare, you can safely enjoy the winter on the water,” he said.

He said the primary dangers include carbon monoxide poisoning and fires from using small heaters in confined spaces. “The likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning is greater during the winter because the boats will be covered in shrink wrap to protect them from the winter elements,” he said. This, he said, prevents adequate ventilation.

South Portland Fire Chief Kevin Guimond urges live-aboard residents to tell local emergency responders where their boats are docked for the winter and to mark them accordingly. “Our paramedics and firefighters can’t help you if we can’t find you,” he said.

Portland Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne also expressed concern for live-aboard residents this winter. “We want to make sure people are aware of the extra precautions they need to take once their boats are winterized.” LaMontagne said live-aboards should make sure they have working carbon monoxide detectors installed. “And fire extinguishers should be positioned throughout the boats and easily accessible in an emergency,” he said. He said live-aboard residents should also file emergency response plans with the marina and their local response agency.

Jeff Liick, Portland’s Harbor Master said that although living on the water in Maine is enjoyable, it is especially challenging during the winter. “By taking the time now to talk about some of the specific challenges that winter brings, we hope to make everyone as prepared as possible,” he said.

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