Buying a boat that was hit by lightning? - SailNet Community

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Old 12-16-2012
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Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

Would you even consider buying a boat hit by lightning? Last week I looked at a 2007 Catalina 309 (almost new, unlike my 30 year old current boat). It is in great shape- a very clean well-maintained boat. But it was hit by lightning a year and a half ago. As a result, all the electronics have been replaced (with top of the line stuff) as well as a new master AC/DC panel, new batteries, battery charger, alternator, all running lights, new frig, radios, bilge pumps, etc.

There are no noticeable pinholes, scorch marks, or damage around thru-hulls -- at least to my non-expert eye. I've asked the broker for the insurance survey that would have been done after the strike. I've also asked about whether the boat has been sailed since then. (Yes, with one long trip from MA to Maine).

The asking price is not super low, but definitely lower than comparables without a doubt -- especially when you add all the new gear. What do you think? Investigate further (i.e. make an offer and hire a surveyor as normal) or should possible lingering "ghosts" and damage make me run away
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Old 12-16-2012
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

Investigate further with a surveyor. I might even try to get a copy of the last survey.
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

I agree that you want to the original insurance survey, so that your surveyor can inspect everything that was in it. The result can go either way. New electronics could be a nice find or the boat could have prettied up delamination.
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

Missawaka,
As an Electronics tech and lake sailer, I'm no expert on the hull damage, but if the electronics has been replaced, I would crawl around and inspect the ground system on everything electric. Looking for fried connections etc. They are all hooked together somewhere. If the strike wasn't very direct, there may not be anymore damage.

good luck

Dan
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Old 12-17-2012
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

I agree with everything above. Oour boat was an indirect lightning strike last summer and now has all new elctronics as you described. There was no damage to the hull and the rig. So look at what the insurance said...especially with a surveyor and the fact that the lightening strike was disclosed is a good thing.

Dave
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Old 12-17-2012
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

I've been involved with a few lightning struck boats have have seen panels and electronics replaced but no one ever wants to replace all the conductors becuase the cost is extreme. If there was enough juice to fry a panel what did it do the the conductors under the liner ? You may not find out for a few years .... or maybe tomorrow.

As to effects on the structure I think I'd want a clean bill of health from a certified thermographer with marine experience to tell me that the laminate under the new gelcoat patches is sound.

Buying any boat involves risk, Buying a lightning struck boat is a much bigger risk and at the very least I'd be looking for a very substantial discount.
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Old 12-19-2012
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

Something to consider... A nearby lightning strike will generate a large magnetic field. If you look at this link
go down about half way and there is an easy to understand picture of the "right hand grip rule". The "I" in that figure is current and in the case we care about here, I is the lighting bolt current itself.

That magnetic field propagates with field lines as shown in that figure and if the transient field encounters conductors (orientation is important), current is generated in the conductor. This could include DC or AC wires in the boat and even circuit board traces in electronics. The currents generated can be much lower than what would damage a wire from heat but high enough to damage sensitive electronic nodes such as on the circuit board itself.

So you can’t assume there would be any conductor damage even if all the electronics were fried. I would guess (could be wrong) that in most cases of an indirect strike, the conductors are just fine.
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

60 million volts and 60 thousand amps travelling at near the speed of light.
You pays your money and you takes your chances. I know which way I'd bet.
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Re: Buying a boat that was hit by lightning?

Thanks for the replies. In the past few days, I've had a chance to talk to the head of the yard that worked on the boat (it is a very reputable yard). He personally inspected the boat with the insurance rep, and oversaw the work. He sent me (with permission of the owner) a five page, seemingly exhaustive list/bill of all work done, as well as the initial inspection report. According to him, the strike came down a stay and out through the shore cord (the boat was docked obviously). it then went into the power system of the docks and damaged other boats as well. According to his report, there was no hull damage to the boat (not surprising if the bolt travelled as he says), all wiring leading to and from all replaced items was replaced, including conductors that were affected. That's on top of all the equipment replaced, the alternator, the board, all mast electronics, all navigational electronics, batteries, plugs, bilge pumps, rudder sensors etc.

According to the boat yard, the present owner then sailed 3 more weeks at the end of that summer after the repairs were done and then for another seven weeks (including one long trip) the next summer.

Of course it is possible that the boat yard is working with the selling broker in some way (they are in different towns, but not far away). But I have no real reason to think that.

So I'm slightly closer to pulling the trigger and going for an offer/survey. Anything else I should explore?
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