Iíve got a question for Kevin Hughes in light of the information he offers in his articles on lightning protection (see Lightning Examined). I have found a lot of information about lightning protection systems and rules for behavior, but there seems to be no information regarding what to do if you sail on small, inshore boat with the possibility of unstepping the mast down before a storm. What do you think of this approach? Should I put down the mast while in thunderstorm or not?
Kevin Hughes responds:
I can answer your questions by stating just a few facts. Any object floating on a good-sized body of water in a thunderstorm will be a potential target for a lightning strike no matter how small. Taking down the mast of a small sailing vessel will not do much to reduce the chances of being struck. Think of this scenario: a man standing in an open field is just as likely to be a target for lightning even if he lays down. It's the same with a boat afloat on the open sea, or on a lake.
The main function of a lightning protection system on a sailing vessel is to get the electrical charge off the boat in a quick and safe manner. The only way to ensure that you wonít get struck is to not be in a thunderstorm. I hope this information helps.