This is a good, fun and for me expensive topic.
Four weekends ago, Sunday afternoon, I was returning to the marina from the Chesapeake Bay
. My VHF radio
receiving very well, and a few of my nav lights lit when switched on. The following Sunday I had no reception
on the radio
, so I started to disconnect it to use the expensive West Marine
warranty I paid for. Just as I was getting ready to disconnect the antenna
cable I heard a call come in (I forgot to turn it off).
That meant the radio was working, but the antenna
was not. Puzzled I was, and left it alone, just in case it was healing itself and did not want me to watch. I decided to check the nav lights to see which ones were not burned out. Flip the steaming light switch and go on deck
. No light. Need to buy one. Flip that off and another on. Go on deck
and all the working lights are on. Oh, oh. Again, confused.
We go out, using a handheld VHF
radio, get out about 8 miles and a clanking at the mast head
got my attention. Enough tempting the Sirens, we turned about and high tailed it at four knots back to the marina. I had the yard put the mast
on stands for a good visual inspection
VHF antenna connectors had the solder melted out of them and they were popped apart. Anchor
light had the connectors popped out of the holders. Steaming light was crystalized and the gasket
melted to the holder. VHF antenna wire at the base was exploded at a corrosion
point, a place where a high resistance would be expected to develop; the connector solder melted. Steaming light wiring
at the base had the insulation
melted to the mast tube.
Best guess is she did not get a direct hit, the electronics
still work. Most likely a stray from a nearby lightning strike went to the VHF antenna. The VHF connectors melting and popping probably made enough of an open to prevent the energy continuing to the control panels
. But that energy then went to the nearby wiring
which was most likely damaged enough to direct the remaining energy to the mast and who knows where in the rain it snuck off to.
Currently rewiring; the anchor
light; the VHF antenna (replaced); the steaming light and foredeck light; and the wind
guages which were not affected because they were disconnected.
Lightning does weird stuff. Like I said, we did not get a direct hit.
Surge protectors are sacrificial, meaning they are supposed to be destroyed instead of your important and expensive gear
. Use them around the boat and house because they do work. Except in a direct hit, where the lightning will blast right through and over them.