So I’ll admit I’m a bit paranoid about getting hit by lightning. I’ve been hit twice, once at Cape Lookout, NC on a Grady-White 23’ Gulfstream and the second time at Three Mile Harbor on Eastern Long Island on our Little Harbor 38. In both instances we were around a lot of other boats that had anchored late afternoon, perhaps a little earlier than normal to ride out the night and oncoming squall lines.
On the Little Harbor, we were a sailboat among a lot of other sailboats so that we got hit, well that’s the way it goes I suppose. On the Grady, we were surrounded by numerous sailboats. All we had was 15 foot outriggers on the hard top which I had grounded with #4 cable to the engine block. The Grady is a well-made boat but even they do nothing out of the factory regarding lightning grounding. My take is that since I did such a great job grounding I turned us into a really good antenna to “pull down” a strike. When we were hit, my wife and I were standing under the hardtop with the curtains down. Behind us, shards of white hot metal burst onto the deck from the super heated terminal where the # 4 wire connected to the outrigger base. Our loran and depth sounder got fried through the ground wire and transducer presumably, because the power wires were disconnected. Our Icom radio
Regarding the strike to the Little Harbor, it is of course a well grounded boat with a bonding system. Even so, as the storm approached I took a battery jumper cable and clipped one end to the base of the port shroud and let the other end dangle in the water. Just after we went to bed I saw and heard that instantaneous “crack” followed by a loud “twang” which I was quite sure was from the sound of the rod rigging (like most things, it has its own unique sound). In the morning when I came up on deck, sure enough, there on the deck lay the 36” whip antenna and part of the base from the top of my mast, having been blown out of its base and bent into a 90 degree angle from being super heated. Where the battery cable had been clipped onto the rigging there was a minor scorch mark (Nitronic rod is pretty tough stuff). Other than my Xantrex Pathmaker
being fried (it was the only piece of electronics that’s really hard to get at and disconnect) all the electronics were fine as I disconnected everything going to the electronics including grounds this time.
I guess my take at this point, other than the fact that my wife especially hates sailing in lightning, is that I still would rather be well grounded than not as we’ve had well contained damage each time. I must admit that even with my small sample and relatively small amount of time I get to spend on the water, it does seem to me that being well grounded increases the chances of being hit. It’s just that I’ve heard some really horror stories regarding the damage to boats that are not properly grounded. Does anyone have any experience using one of the lightning / static dissipater products
, protecting electronics with a power conditioner
, or any other thoughts or experiences with lightning?