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post #11 of 41 Old 09-05-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

Electricity will find the shortest path to ground. In many cases, that's through metal, but in some cases it may be through salt water, rain water, etc. Fiberglass isn't much of a conductor, that's why you can stay inside the boat and not have to worry, even if the boat is struck. Yes, the electricity/lightning may pass through the electrical system (especially if the mast-top antenna is struck), but unless you're touching two somethings and form a conductive path to ground, the lightning will largely leave you alone. Air is an insulator. Wood is an insulator. Fiberglass is an insulator. Surround yourself with those (like you would in the cabin of the boat) and you significantly increase your (already very good) survival odds. You may have a fire due to excess current going through wires or electronics, but that's different from dying from a lightning strike.

Impure water (e.g., rainwater, salt water, lake water) is a good conductor. Surround yourself with impure water when lightning strikes, and you significantly decrease your survival odds.
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post #12 of 41 Old 09-05-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

The chances of getting hit by lightning as a person are about 1 in a million. A boat is about 1.2 per 1000 so it is better than the lottery. Go sailing, and if it is a big storm you should be home anyway.
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post #13 of 41 Old 09-05-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

tomandchris, that's not a fair comparison, though you did express it clearly. You're comparing the odds of a boat getting hit to the odds of a person getting hit, when the more accurate comparison would be the odds of a person onboard a boat getting hit.

I do agree, if there's a big storm, you should be home anyway. But some big storms come up out of nowhere, and for some on here, the boat IS their home.

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post #14 of 41 Old 09-05-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

I think that in most cases, a strike hits something higher than any people and then travels downward via some conducting path. Unless there is a side strike from that conducting path to another, or if the person provides a good conducting path to ground, there is no reason a person would be hurt. The best strategy is to avoid touching two metal things at once. For example, avoid touching the wheel and stern railing at the same time as they might be at different voltages.
I almost believe I am fated to be struck by lightning so whenever it is striking close by, I make sure my feet are close together (to avoid being a conductor between two diff voltages). Do what people who work with high voltage do, keep one hand in your pocket to avoid touching two diff metal objects.
Should you go in the cabin? I'm not sure. A tiny bit of fiberglass isnt much of a barrier at 10 million volts. OTOH, you might argue that the wet outside of the fiberglass acts as a Faraday cage(but its FRESH water from the rain so has lower conductivity). Being in the cabin typically does get you lower but unfortunately gets you closer to the mast.
My solution is to use a good lightning ground conductor from the mast going directly overboard. For the same reason, I do not like using the engine and prop as the lightning ground, it is too close to people. Do stay away from the permanently mounted VHF as its antenna is likely to be directly hit. I want to make a "shorting connector" for the antenna connection at the base of my mast that I can put in when a lightning storm is approaching so the inner conductor is shorted to the mast (and then to the lightning ground).
I disagree with one poster who said one cannot alter the path of lightning once it hits a boat. You can alter it and you should try to do so. Unfortunately, the path it takes is a matter of probability and there is always a small chance it will go the way you do not want it.
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post #15 of 41 Old 09-06-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

You are normally pretty safe as the rig tends to protect you.
The boat normally gets all of its electrics fried though.
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post #16 of 41 Old 09-06-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

What are the thoughts on lightning protection? I ripped most of mine out while doing a refit, mainly because it was in the way.

Now that I'm reassembling everything I'm wondering if its really worth it to tie all the chainplates together at the keel with the pathetic little copper wire.

Edit: Decided to search other threads.......not any easy question, lots of opinions.

Last edited by Freerider; 09-06-2013 at 08:59 AM.
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post #17 of 41 Old 09-06-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freerider View Post
What are the thoughts on lightning protection? I ripped most of mine out while doing a refit, mainly because it was in the way.
Could you use a diffuser, like airplanes have? Take some heavy-duty wire (maybe a use for old rigging), put a really strong spring-loaded clamp on one end (like battery jumper cables - those might work if long enough), clip one to port & starb'd shrouds and maybe backstay, let the end (the longer the better) trail in the water. It is in effect what lightning rods on homes are.
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freerider View Post
Decided to search other threads.......not any easy question, lots of opinions.
Welcome to Sailnet. In the end, you have to do what you think is right/acceptable for you and your boat.

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post #19 of 41 Old 09-06-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

A boat from our marina (Nonsuch 30' I think) was hit last year. I don't know if the people were aboard (I think they were). I didn't hear that the crew were injured.
The boat was hauled and spent the rest of the season on the hard.
Electronics, as has been mentioned, were all fried.
What was surprizing to me was the damage to the fibreglass. There was significant damage. Not the dramatic blown-out hull that I would have thought - hundreds (thousands) of pin-holes throughout the glass.

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post #20 of 41 Old 09-06-2013
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Re: When Lightning Strikes

Just found this:

Lightning protection primer

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