I've installed protection systems that have actually been hit; there is no way they can be fitted to a small boat, the power is simply too great.
Part of my job is to repair lightning damaged boats. I get to go aboard lots of them and then work with the insurance adjusters to make sure my customer does not get screwed over.
What I see (generally)
Fuzzy disipators DO NOT prevent strikes -
IMHO they are as close to snake oil as we can get today. I have plenty of boats that are hit with them one of them twice.
A shorter mast does not prevent strikes nor seem to limit them -
I have plenty of small power and sailboats hit amongst hundreds of considerably taller spars with regularity. Lighting goes where it wants and the height of your mast does not seem to dictate anything.
Bonded well Earthed boats suffer less hull damage -
One of the first things I look for is a path to Earth for the lightning. When it is non-existent or the wires too small and corroded there is almost always considerably more hull damage. When the mast to Earth wires are large, clean and well installed I rarely see hull damage.
Carbon Fiber spars are easily destroyed and EXPENSIVE -
My friend Kim's boat was hit and the spar damage alone was over 80k. They had a good Earth bond and the hull was fine but the spar was still destroyed and unrepairable.
Bonded boats are hit slightly less -
I see less strikes (in my data pool) of well bonded/grounded boats that are hit by lightning than I do of unbonded/ungrounded boats. The unbonded/ungrouded boats tend to get hit more. The spread however is very small and mine is about the same spread Dr. Thompson sees and pretty much inconclusive. The edge however still sides with well bonded boats being struck slightly less.
Frustrating Fact -
Even large insurance companies like Boat US DO NOTHING to collect data on strikes to even begin to tell us what may or may not work to minimize damage. They HAVE this capability!!!! I have been pushing Boat US, through Beth Leonard, to come up with a form for the adjusters so that data can be compiled on a larger scale but she's been busy and I have too. Even with that I don't know what she can do to change this situation. My personal strike data seems to line up with Dr. Thompson's but these are still fairly small samples. Insurance companies have access to much more potential data.
You can not prevent a strike -
You can however take steps to minimize hull damage by having a well bonded/Earthed boat.
You can not protect electronics -
I've seen all kinds of cockemammy schemes drummed up, and the electronics still get fried. Even when not plugged in. A Faraday cage is your only bet but this excludes most installed gear..
Many insurance companies will try to "weasel" their way out -
Do yourself a favor and hire a COMPETENT marine electrician who specializes in or is very familiar with lightning strikes. You will pay them to go over your boat ahead of time and to be there to meet with the insurance adjuster. Most of these adjuster/surveyors know squat about electronics, wiring etc.... Defend yourself, be prepared, and it will PAY YOU BACK.
I just had a claim go through on a boat for a customer hit in September. The damage claim was 90% of the "agreed value" of the vessel. Because my report was thorough and completely documented with pictures, replacement models, estimated labor with details, there was nothing denied what so ever.
The adjuster showed up and we went down the estimate list and he just checked stuff off. Done..... Owner had the check two days later. The $300.00 he paid me for my time and report was peanuts compared to what it would have cost him had he gone it alone with the adjuster.
In August I met with an adjuster who was denying the alternator, regulator, Link 2000, tachometer and 3kW inverter charger. The owner had been battling with them for six months. In a three minute meeting with the adjuster/surveyor he had signed off on all of it. Owner sent me a check for $200.00 more than I billed him for as a very nice "thank you".....
It should not have to be this way but today it very much is a fact of life that you need to defend yourself against your own insurer....