there are systems that are supposed to protect your boat from damage during a strike.
I think this old post in the Cruising Forum sums it up nicely: Lightning Strike!
That is a good summary, and all pretty much true. I hope some additional points help understand things.....
Bonding is a system of heavy wiring from a ground plate or keel to mast, rigging points, engine, and all major metal parts. Bonding is what helps to keep the lightning do minimal damage in case you get hit. Bonding does not do much to reduce likelyhood of a strike.
Lightning protection devices, like the Forespar thingie
, work by leaking off electrical potential. This is intended to reduce the potential for being hit. As a mechanical comparison, if you lower the ambient air pressure in a room full of balloons enough, all the balloons get bigger and eventually one will burst. The balloon that leaks is unlikely to burst. By leaking off electical potention the risk of a strike is reduced. If you do get a strike, these protection devices do not protect. For that, see bonding in the earlier paragraph.
All efforts for lightning protection only reduce risk, they do not eliminate risk. You are fooling yourself if think you're safe in a thunderstorm if your lightning protection is anything less than being deep inside a full metal boat.
On a nasty direct hit you'll find that even handheld devices may be destroyed. Best protection for backup handheld electronics is keeping them wrapped in aluminum foil or stored in a metal box. The oven is good for that until you forget to remove things and roast your handheld vhf.
Notes above are well documented facts, notes below are opinions.....
Lots of people argue on both sides of the issue regarding lightning protection. My own experience has been that those who feel that protection systems actually attract lightning have little understanding how it works and less scientific background.
There are boat manufacturers who do not bond. The most known one is probably Catalina. They include a long explaination in their documentation which cites both sides to the argument and suggests the boat buyer make his/her own decision. I suspect this is done on the advice of their lawyers. It's a CYA so that the owner who's boat is damaged by a lightning strike cannot blame Catalina for a improper bonding system.
When military stockpiles explosives, they always have a lightning protection system at the site.
The people who invest billions of dollars on cell phone towers always have lightning protection on their towers.
My general conclusion is that the people smarter and more educated than myself believe in lightning protection, so I'm sticking with them.