Lightning strikes sailboat

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ResearchMed
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Lightning strikes sailboat

Post by ResearchMed »

Yikes.

CNN is reporting (and showing dramatic video!) of lightning striking a sailboat. :shock:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/07/us/light ... index.html

I used to sail quite a bit, ages ago, on both USA coasts, and I *thought* that there was some sort of contrivance (wiring?) such that any such strike would go straight through to the the water, and not fry the boat (or occupants).

[This sailboat had no one on board, thank goodness.]

Is this as risky as it seems from this episode, or is something done differently or not done on this boat at this time, such that such a catastrophic strike occurs?

Sure, one wouldn't want to head out for recreational sailing in a thunderstorm, but there are times during longer voyages when... one is just caught in a storm...

ETA clarification: Apologies for my wording. The "ages ago" referred to my previous, more active sailing days, when I was actively asking about safety issues like lightning (especially that!).
Also to be clear, this does not involve our *own* sailboat these days. We charter one.

More recently, we still sail, including within the previous several months. However, for quite a few years, I had stopped asking about "lightning strikes", having previously become convinced that it was not, in fact, something to worry about.
(A few months ago, during one of our recent sailing excursions, some serious clouds began to approach, so we changed course, and then headed back early just in case.)
And then I just saw this CNN piece, which rather suggested otherwise :shock:

I would still be grateful for any recommendations/suggestions about what to do to prevent something like this happening.
And we thank those who already posted comments about what might be involved, etc.
That sets our minds at ease... a bit... for now...

We might be planning a several day sailing trip, where it might not be possible to just "get off the boat" if bad weather suddenly appears... although this CNN video certainly gives us both pause...

Point is, this was not at all a "Hey, look at this weird curiosity"!

ETA #2: Thanks David Jay; I've fixed that. But yes, IF we all stay off that lighter sailboat, none of us would be at risk :happy

RM
Last edited by ResearchMed on Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:21 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Turbo29
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

Post by Turbo29 »

It's my understanding that car occupants are safe because a car is mostly metal and forms a Faraday cage.

Not sure what small boats are made of (wood, fiberglass?) but probably not metal. So in a boat the occupants would not be protected.
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

Post by neilpilot »

When I sailed my friend’s 36’ Jeanneau had a rod positioned on the mast extending about 1’ above the top of the antenna. There were 2 metal hull plates below the waterline. Those plates needed replacement after 5-7 years in saltwater.

Actually had a strike one nite while we were anchored in a bay at Corsica. The mast light was destroyed but there was no other damage, except that the rod was welded to the mast cable.

https://www.boatingmag.com/gear/how-to- ... g-strikes/
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

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neilpilot wrote: Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:14 pm When I sailed my friend’s 36’ Jeanneau had a rod positioned on the mast extending about 1’ above the top of the antenna. There were 2 metal hull plates below the waterline. Those plates needed replacement after 5-7 years in saltwater.

Actually had a strike one nite while we were anchored in a bay at Corsica. The mast light was destroyed but there was no other damage, except that the rod was welded to the mast cable.

https://www.boatingmag.com/gear/how-to- ... g-strikes/
That's the sort of thing I had understood.

Any idea of what happened here? Boat was touching dock, making an easier "path" or such?
But most docks are wood...

And were you on board when that happened!?? :shock:

Thanks.

RM
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

Post by Taylor Larimore »

Research Med:

I have spent much of my life sailing. It seems that the mast offers a "cone of protection." Sailboats go around the world all the time and are often struck by lightening knocking-out electronics. Nevertheless, I never heard of anyone being killed by lightening in a sailboat on open water.

One time many years ago, I was racing from Miami to Bimini in a 40' sailboat when, in the middle of the night, we had the most lightening-intense thunderstorm I was ever in. Lightning was hitting all around us lighting up the sky and making the water hiss. We were untouched.

I have never been afraid of lightning in a sailboat in open water since.

I emphasize "open water" because I once heard of a sailor being killed in his sailboat that was hooked-up to the dock's electrical outlet.

Best wishes.
Taylor
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

Post by ResearchMed »

Taylor Larimore wrote: Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:23 pm Research Med:

I have spent much of my life sailing. It seems that the mast offers a "cone of protection." Sailboats go around the world all the time and are often struck by lightening knocking-out electronics. Nevertheless, I never heard of anyone being killed by lightening in a sailboat on open water.

One time many years ago, I was racing from Miami to Bimini in a 40' sailboat when, in the middle of the night, we had the most lightening-intense thunderstorm I was ever in. Lightning was hitting all around us lighting up the sky and making the water hiss. We were untouched.

I have never been afraid of lightning in a sailboat in open water since.

I emphasize "open water" because I once heard of a sailor being killed in his sailboat that was hooked-up to the dock's electrical outlet.

Best wishes.
Taylor
Ah... I wonder if that was what happened here...?

Fortunately, no one was on board, but still...!!

Thanks.

RM
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

Post by neilpilot »

ResearchMed wrote: Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:19 pm
neilpilot wrote: Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:14 pm When I sailed my friend’s 36’ Jeanneau had a rod positioned on the mast extending about 1’ above the top of the antenna. There were 2 metal hull plates below the waterline. Those plates needed replacement after 5-7 years in saltwater.

Actually had a strike one nite while we were anchored in a bay at Corsica. The mast light was destroyed but there was no other damage, except that the rod was welded to the mast cable.

https://www.boatingmag.com/gear/how-to- ... g-strikes/
That's the sort of thing I had understood.

Any idea of what happened here? Boat was touching dock, making an easier "path" or such?
But most docks are wood...

And were you on board when that happened!?? :shock:

Thanks.

RM
We had just gone below to get out of the weather, were boiling water for coffee, and it sure was loud. Also a very bright flash and the radio and radar lit up. But the electronics seem uneffected except for the anchor light on the mast.
Last edited by neilpilot on Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

Post by Jazzysoon »

From https://www.boatingmag.com/gear/how-to- ... g-strikes/

There is no absolute protection against lightning aboard a boat. But there are steps you can take to avoid or minimize damage. The most likely targets are antennas, fishing rods, towers, T-tops or any elevated electrically conductive surface. You can't prevent a lightning strike, but you can create a safe path for lightning to travel.

I live in Midwest, lots of electrical storms, one time motoring back up Mississippi on 37 ft ketch, we came upon a lighting storm, no place to anchor/go ashore, could feel the lightning strikes as they traveled across the water. One key is not to be touching anything metal like stays to hold on to. Other time waiting at marina for electrical storm to pass so we could start races and a boat came in saying they had just missed it, we had to point to them they had 2 2foot holes in the bow (above the waterline), so they had been hit. Friend of mine is in the marine industry, I know of at least 10 boats he's had to report that were totaled due to over 1000 pinholes from being hit by lighting, (most were anchored out, no one onboard at the time, owner came to use the boat and it was a bit low in the water ie sinking)
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

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This topic has been locked. General discussions are off-topic for forums with "Personal" in the title. Please see Personal Consumer Issues:
Note that topics must be directly connected to your (or your friend's or family's) life as a consumer. General comments or complaints about these topics will be locked or removed.

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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

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On further review, the topic is unlocked. Discussion of how one might minimize lightning damage on one's own boat or during one's own boating activites are on-topic as a personal consumer issue.
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Re: Lightening strikes sailboat

Post by David Jay »

There are lots of ways to lighten a sailboat. Almost anything that isn’t nailed down can be removed. About the “striking” part, I think that striking the movable ballast (crew) will likely lighten the craft, as they will refuse to sail with you.

Oh, wait, you’re talking about lightning. Never mind...
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Re: Lightning strikes sailboat

Post by LadyGeek »

^^^ :D

That reminds me of when my husband and I were on vacation in Central Quebec several years ago (10 years ago, perhaps) on a fly-out fishing trip. Basically, they fly us out in a float plane (De Havilland Beaver or Cessana 180) and drop us off in the middle of nowhere for a week. No electricity, but we have a cabin with propane, a boat with gas.

This was the middle of summer and thunderstorms show up sometime after 12:00 PM. The only warning you get is a slight hint of a darkening sky. That gives you about 15 minutes before you get slammed with a full-force thunderstorm.

Being the only people out in the middle of a lake means that our fishing rods become the lighting rods. Lowering the rods won't help, as the plexiglass / metal boat became the next lower lightning rod.

It became a daily race to see how fast we could go full-throttle back to the cabin. A few times, we got caught in a deluge and incredible storm. That was an experience I'll never forget.

The actionable part - Stop fishing and lower your rods when a storm approaches.
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