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post #1 of 18 Old 2 Days Ago Thread Starter
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Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

We just got our insurance renewal from Pantaenius Insurance. In the past, they waived the deductible for lightning damage claims. Now, they have a very specific lightning damage clause that is extremely interesting.

Here are the highlights:
1. If the boat suffers lightning damage below 30.5N, and during the time periods of June 1-July 14, and Nov 1-Nov 30, then the deductible will be 5% of agreed hull value (this is much higher than our normal 2% deductible).

2. If an electromagnetic field balancing or deionization type lightning suppression system has been properly installed by a specialist onboard the insured vessel and is fully functioning at the time of loss, the lightning deductible stated above shall be reduced to the amount of the standard hull deductible. (this is exact wording from the policy)

To my knowledge, this is the first time an insurance company has specifically isolated certain regions and certain times for lightning liability. I find those carve out time periods suspicious, since they also coincide with annual snowbird boat migration on the US East Coast - particularly the low lightning risk month of November. Otherwise, I don't think there is much difference in summer lightning activity in Florida between June 1-July 14, and July 15 onward.

More interesting, is that this is the first time I know of that an insurance company has given endorsement and incentive to boats with lightning protection systems. We have one, and I ask every year if we can get credit for it on our insurance premium - with no luck. We still don't get credit, but we do now get a price advantage if a claim is filed.

Until now, one argument against the effectiveness of lightning protection systems is that if they worked, insurance companies would notice and provide incentive to have them.

Looks like at least one has.

Mark

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post #2 of 18 Unread 1 Day Ago
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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

What type of lightning protection system do you have?


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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

It was called Strike Shield, but the company folded awhile ago. It consists of a down conductor, a large fitting on the base of the mast, a 2/0 cable with an electrode on the end containing ~18' of edge surface. The cable connects to the mast fitting and goes straight down to the water. The purpose is to direct as much of the strike as possible through this path, and not through other uncontrolled paths that could cause structural damage. It isn't designed to prevent a strike, or save electronics, etc - only to save the boat itself.

We took a direct strike and it seemed to do its job, as evidenced by scorch marks on the heat shrink covering the cable fittings, newly clean bright edges on the electrode, and no other evident exit path through the boat. We did lose all electronics and most electrics. Through careful forensics, the latter damage was done through the negative DC bus via the VHF coax (the VHF actually blew its faceplate across the cabin, and the antenna vaporized with little drops of molten stainless stuck to the mast top and ceramic all over the deck). The visible damage inside electronic components was mainly blown diodes from reverse bias current through the negative bus.

The refrigerator survived and it sits directly at the base of the compression post connected to the mast - go figure. So did the SSB, but it has an antenna not connected in any way to the rigging, and is on a separate and isolated battery. We had an old iPod in an interior cupboard not around anything metal and far away from the mast that had a pinhole blown through its screen and was dead. All other consumer electronic devices, computers, hand held VHF, GPS, etc were sitting around in the open in various places on the boat and were undamaged.

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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
1. If the boat suffers lightning damage below 30.5N, and during the time periods of June 1-July 14, and Nov 1-Nov 30, then the deductible will be 5% of agreed hull value (this is much higher than our normal 2% deductible).

USA East coast only? Or West cost too? USA only or other regions too? Caribbean? Malaysia? etc etc

USA East Coast 1st June to 14th July has those early TD's, TS's and hurricanes that do up the Florida coast. Would that be the factor?

Interesting policy change.

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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

Interested folks might check out Marine Lightning Protection Inc., which is Ewen Thomsonís company. I donít have any connection to the company, but had a conversation with Ewen almost 20 years ago after my first lightning strike. He was still at university then. Interesting guy and apparently has done his homework.

My first strike did not appear to be a direct strike, while on the hard. Nonetheless, it took out all my electronics, including the SSB and a wheel pilot control box that was sitting on a shelf, not electrically connected to anything.

My second strike was a direct hit and blew off and shattered the VHF whip at the top of the mast. The pieces of the whip were hot enough to scorch the wood on the floating dock (thank god for a wind shift and 40+ winds that kept the debris off the deck.). My boat has the shrouds and mast connected to a dynaplate and there is the counterpoise for the original SSB. The heavy gauge cable from the mast to the thruhull to the rather small dynaplate (compared to colemjís) showed signs of the insulation softening due to the discharge. Nonetheless, the electronics were gone (again!) and so were the brand new AGM batteries that no longer held a charge a few days later. The boat was hauled and the rig taken down for inspection. There did not appear to be any hull damage and the thruhulls were intact. The only scorch mark was on a spare halyard.

Lesson learned: keep a good insurance policy that provides for replacement of electronics (no depreciation).
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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

We bought a catamaran a year ago that had lightning damage. It has a lightning dissipater mounted on the carbon fiber mast with a cable run down to the bridgedeck. Thereís enough cable to pass through the bridgedeck and reach the water but it wasnít mounted that way.
The lightning melted the vhf antenna and scorched the dissipater. We lost the vhf and stereo as the stereo shared the vhf antenna. Strangely enough there was no other sign of lightning damage in either electronics or wiring. The lightning exited the inside of both hulls at and below the waterline. Why it exited there I have no idea, and I also canít find a definite path that the lightning took.


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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

never really understood the physics of why cats are twice as likely to be struck.

Mr. Thompsonís system is hugely expensive with multiple hull piercings just below water line and extensive work to create a virtual faraday cage for the whole boat and rig. Wonder if any effective alternatives?

If I lived in Florida would have a French aluminum boat like a Boreal. See about not using marelon thru hulls. Just go below in t storms.

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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

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Originally Posted by MarkofSeaLife View Post
USA East coast only? Or West cost too? USA only or other regions too? Caribbean? Malaysia? etc etc

USA East Coast 1st June to 14th July has those early TD's, TS's and hurricanes that do up the Florida coast. Would that be the factor?

Interesting policy change.
I don't know. It is a specific endorsement applied to our policy that covers US East Coast and Caribbean Sea. I am only guessing that they have specific endorsements with custom language for other areas, as well as not applying the endorsement for areas where it is not necessary.

Mark
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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

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See about not using marelon thru hulls.
What is wrong with Marelon and lightning? Our boat that was struck is full of them and it wasn't an issue. The problem with metal thruhulls is that they do provide a preferred path to ground, where Marelon looks electrically just like the rest of the plastic hull to lightning.

Mark
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Re: Lightning, Lightning Protection, and Insurance

Iirc, marelon is zytel...or similar to zytel.

You can pull up lightning maps. Its interesting
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