There are so many variables and opinions in the question of lightning but I'll try and offer a few things that I have seen/heard of.
Lightning protection: Most of what I have heard or read suggests there is not much you can do to protect your boat from a strike (i.e. lightning rod). Some boats have a heavy duty wire attached to the foot of the mast
that goes to a keel
bolt - grounding the boat as much as possible. I have seen some people use a static electricity diffuser at the top of the mast - the idea is that built up static electricity "invites" a strike. I have also seen elaborate wire configurations that attach to the standing rigging
and drape into the water
. One guy in our marina attaches a battery
jumper cable to the forestay attachement and drops the other end into the water!
What can happen: We had a strike to our vhf antenna
and it blew out the radio
...no other damage. Our dock
neighbors have been struck, blew out all the electronics
, went out through his shore power
cord and tripped our breaker at the boats panel. I saw a boat struck on a mooring
- brand new Beneteau
38 (guy had it 1 week) - and it blew pin holes in the hull
all along the waterline, totalling the boat. I have also heard of boats being hit with no damage at all.
Just my (not expert) opinion/experience. I will be interested to see what others post.