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Old 12-08-2010, 10:41   #1
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Lightning Strike

I got a call from my wife this morning, she has been running down the east coast with 2 friends from Connecticut to Florida on the 44' sailboat we have just purchased. Last night at 10pm they got struck by lightning 25 miles off the oregan inlet in North Carolina. They had a small fire and lost all power including nav and and communications. The coast guard brought them in and the boat is in a yard, everyone is OK. In all the years I have owned boats I have been lucky enough to never have been hit by lightning so I am interested in others opinions regarding the type of damage to look for. Obvious would be the electrical system, antennas, electronics etc. But from what I hear there is transmission fluid in the builge even though the engine ran fine coming in to the yard. Anyone out there had this type of experience chime in. Cheers
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Old 12-08-2010, 11:00   #2
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I have not been as fortunate as you having once been hit while sailing. The boat has to be hauled. The stick has to come out. Inspect everything including the head sail for burning and the furler sections for being welded together. Of course anything electrical, even my nav light bulbs were blown. I have listed some of the more unusual damage. A good surveyor should go over everything.
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Old 12-08-2010, 11:07   #3
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I agree with Vasco. The boat should be hauled and the entire hull inspected for possible exit holes caused by the strike. Your insurance company should insist on this as mine did when I was hit in 2001. Underwater damage to thru hulls and pin holes are a possibility.
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Old 12-08-2010, 11:55   #4
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hello rourkeh, We took a lightning strike this year at the dock. We were not aboard at the time. We are up to about $20,000 so far in electical, electronic damage including the windlass, AIS, 2 plotters, auto pilot, h2o maker etc. When testing the engines we have been notified about tranny fluid in the bilge also. We are not sure what to make of this as our boat is on the east coast and we are on the west coast while all the eval is being done. if we get any more info we will contact you
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Old 12-08-2010, 12:16   #5
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Originally Posted by stacy View Post
... our boat is on the east coast and we are on the west coast while all the eval is being done. if we get any more info we will contact you
You need an OWNER's representative, on site, to ensure that every fault possible is identified and attributed.

As others have said or implied, dammage is possible ANYWHERE. A knowlegable & experienced eye should review everything, and accept NO MYSTERIES. EVERYTHING UNUSUAL must be identified, and an etiology determined.

Failing obvious "other" causes, all faults will be attributed to lightning.
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Old 12-08-2010, 12:20   #6
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You need to hire a certified surveyor to examine the entire boat out of the water. Insurance should cover the cost.
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Old 12-08-2010, 12:25   #7
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Bad night all up and down the coast. 1/2 dozen boats pulled into the Hinckly yard in Portsmouth with lighting damage. Missed me thankfully.
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Old 15-08-2010, 17:52   #8
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Just took a hit on 8/13 while at my mooring at Coosaw marine in Beaufort SC. Had recently installed all LED nav lights lost all of them, fried VHF, and three switches in DC panel, amp meter, volt meter. Found no other damage yet. Inspected all through hull fitting and found all to be in good shape. Also lost vhf ant and windex both melted and gone.
Now wonder if the new LEDs were worth the money since bulbs would have been a lot cheaper and a lot more easy to replace.
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Old 16-08-2010, 09:26   #9
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Hellacious storms around Beaufort this weekend! We were on our boat at Marsh Harbor, where we keep it full time. We took an indirect hit on July 1 (not on the boat at the time). We're waiting on Raymarine to fix all of our electronics now. I was really hoping we didn't take another strike in the storms this weekend.

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Old 16-08-2010, 10:24   #10
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were these boats lightning"protected"???? just curious--we sailed throught lightning storms for a near year in the gulf, never suffered a hit nor a near hit--we were fortunate--so i am wondering if the hit boats had "protection"...we did not......
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:16   #11
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My boat was not lightning "protected". From what I've read, I don't really have confidence that protection buys you anything. Lightning is random and can get you regardless of any protection device. I don't have a lot of first hand experience, just reading, but I've heard enough anecdotal stories to make me question whether paying money for some gizmo actually helps. Except maybe to tell yourself that you did take some action and that's the best you can do. I dunno.
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Old 16-08-2010, 12:10   #12
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I have read quite a bit on "lightning protection" and the common consensus seems to be that you cannot make the lightning "go away", all you can do is ensure that WHEN it hits, the damage is minimised.

The advice is simple - use a lightning conductor and a grounding plate in the sea of 144 sq inches and ensure that the cable has no bend radius tighter than 8 inches. That seems to be the overall view.

The thing that struck me as odd is it recommended attaching your engine to the conductor. Apparently because of the shaft and propellor being in water you are best ensuring that no "side flash" from your dispersal plate can "run" back up the shaft.

It also recommended putting the electronics in a faraday cage. In an emergency the microwave or oven should do.
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Old 16-08-2010, 12:28   #13
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Lightning protection is not lightning prevention. There are reference that rod and grounding has an "attraction" factor, but I would rather have a good ground than sporadic EMR splatter bouncing around the electronics or trying to find a path out of the boat through the hull. A sharp long rod + copper 4 guage from mast to grounding plates...possibly from shrouds too. There was a doo-hicky wire brush ionizer thingie that used to be sold as a means to prevent strikes on the masthead, but I dont see it around anymore and I dont give it any credit.

Lightning arrestors and lightning protective gaps are another added solution to your electronic components.

Does any of this work? Beats me. But I would think giving the lightning a shortest path out of your boat would give you a fair chance.

PS: also your VHF should be grounded separate from your other electronics
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Old 16-08-2010, 12:44   #14
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Here is a link to a page with various article some of which appear to have ABYC endorsement or advice.

Lightning Protection on Sailboats

The papers seem to be from a variety of sources. I have looked at other stuff that says the same kind of thing but this one seems to have most of the "common advice" in one place.

This study http://www.kp44.org/ftp/A_CriticalAs...Boats_IEEE.pdf has fuzzy graphs on page 2 that show the difference between having lightning protection and having none. The very worst thing is to be in fresh water with no lightning system in place.
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