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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 07-06-2009
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Lightning strikes once.


After a pleasant afternoon of club racing off Cape Canaveral yesterday I was exiting the Canaveral Locks in the early evening and took a direct lightning hit to the top of the mast.

There is now a small burn mark on my cockpit sole a foot in front of where I was standing (something hot landed there), and the only piece of the VHF antenna we could find was about 3/8" long and smoke black. The rest of it disappeared.

After the strike I saw a long plume of black smoke coming from the top of the mast. The powerboats trailing behind me suddenly gave me extra space.

All aboard are fine, as I had just moments before sent the two crew below because the weather was so crummy. They described the scene in the cabin as being equivalent to a dozen halogen lights flashing on at once.

I am scheduling a meeting with the insurance surveyor now and wondered if anyone has some advice on what I need to consider when I do the inspection. The boat will be pulled ASAP to check for damage underwater, I want a full rig and electronics inspection, in addition to a stem to stern look, but what in particular needs to be carefully examined? The boat is pretty well bonded, and the seacocks are all Marelon
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Old 07-06-2009
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Richard--

Some friends of ours went through the same thing with their Beneteau First 42, Ocean Angel, last year in Bradenton. If you will PM me with your email address we can put you in touch with the owner--a NAMS surveyor and Public Insurance Adjuster--who, I'm sure, will be willing to provide some information and advice.

Also, for the sake of discussion, did you happen to have a lightening arrestor on your masthead?

s/v HyLyte
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Old 07-06-2009
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All that's on the top of the mast is a windex, a tricolor light, and, until last night a whip VHF antenna. I've read mixed reviews on the various lightning devices, but I'm open to putting one on. There is certainly plenty of opportunity for another strike in Central Florida, which supposedly gets more lightning every year than any other place in the continental U.S.
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Old 07-06-2009
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I found out today that a magazine article I had written on my lightning experiences has just been published in Outlook By The Bay Magazine ("for Bay Boomers and Beyond ..."). If you'd like to read the whole scenario surrounding my "Shocking Experience", click here and jump to page 22 of the .pdf document (which is page 20 of the magazine.)

Larry
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Old 07-06-2009
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Richard, pretend that your nemesis has just called you and told you that he hid ten grams of coke on your boat and the DEA is on the way to find them.

Now, you've got a job ahead of you pretty much the same as doing a strip-search of the boat looking for any small packet that shouldn't be there.

Lightning damage can affect ANYTHING on the boat. Got keelbolts? Got an internal ballast? Doesn't matter, there may be pinholes below the water line anyplace that metal was close to the hull. Any Marelon fittings that had metal or metal-reinforced hose running to them, may be partly meleted, you'll need to work each one and eyeball it.

Engine, charging, starting systems may all have taken damage, internal or external. Every foot of every wire and fuse and breaker on the boat needs to be examined, as does the steering gear and everything beneath the cockpit. Every light bulb needs to be tested, along with every instrument for every function.

And of course, a full rigging inspection to see if anything got welded or vaporized--including the masthead sheaves.

Lightning is funny stuff, sometimes it comes and goes and leaves no trace. Other times, a month later you'll find things simply welded--or missing--where it snuck in and blew them away.

Odds are your insurance surveyor will NOT want to spend the time getting that intimate with your boat, so don't be in a rush to sign off ay 'final' claims.

Oh, and your VHF? Even if it still works--the finals could be blown, after the new antenna and cable are installed (replace the entire cable run) do an actual test to make sure it still works at full power transmit.
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Old 07-06-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lcohan View Post
I found out today that a magazine article I had written on my lightning experiences has just been published in Outlook By The Bay Magazine ("for Bay Boomers and Beyond ..."). If you'd like to read the whole scenario surrounding my "Shocking Experience", click here and jump to page 22 of the .pdf document (which is page 20 of the magazine.)

Larry

Nice article. Glad you didn't panic and let the lightning strike ruin the day. Reading this makes me hope it never happens to me, but reinforces that a lighting strike is not the end of the world. Thanks.
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Old 07-06-2009
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Quote:
I've read mixed reviews on the various lightning devices, but I'm open to putting one on. There is certainly plenty of opportunity for another strike in Central Florida, which supposedly gets more lightning every year than any other place in the continental U.S.
I have read the same reviews. We have had a bottle brush on our masthead since we arrived in Florida (in '92) and thus far have been spared while, during the interval, several yachts around us have been struck. I was convinced of the worth of the devices by an engineer from FP&L that used to have his boat moored near us. When asked about the device his response was that he couldn't say for sure but that after adding them to their poles, they did see a major reduction in strikes. Given that the devices are relatively inexpensive, they can't hurt and might help, which is good enough for me.

Regards,

s/v HyLyte
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Old 07-06-2009
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Richard,
You know where the lightning hit but you need to determine the place(s) it exited. There will be holes and melting where it did. Plus all your electronics need to be thoroughly checked. Even if they weren't slagged the proximity of that much current can change the properties of the boards, connections, in fact any part of the beasties could be vulnerable. Also your light bulbs, especially the tricolor at the top of the mast might be damaged. Moving metal parts may no longer move.
That being said, lightning is unpredictable. I had lightning strike down the companionway of a boat I used to own and all it did was set the floorboards on fire. A friends of my took a strike while underway which slagged $20k worth of electronics.
You never know
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Old 07-06-2009
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I've seen the effects up close and they are indeed unpredictable and the damage can be hidden. A brand-new Hunter 42 took a strike at a mooring at our club a few years back and our wife and I happened to see it. The top of the mast was pretty well vaporized to judge by the eight-foot dark-brown plume left hanging in the area, and several coin-sized holes at the starboard bow, linked by spidery black scorch marks, showed where the lightning left for the water.

And yet the boat started right away, and no electrics were damaged...just the hull. The boat had the holes literally taped shut and went back to the factory for reglassing.
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Old 07-06-2009
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Good information on minimizing lightning damage. From University of Florida

Jack
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