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Old 11-05-2014, 03:18   #16
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

Yeah, our two weeks in Colon in late may and June was a eye opener for lightning. I live the stuff, but really, even I could have been happy with a bit less. Its amazing.
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Old 11-05-2014, 06:00   #17
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Lightning in Panama in the summer months is unbelievable. Come-to-Jesus, second-coming-type of lightning. You will experience types and forms of lightning you didn't know existed. You won't sleep much and you will ruin several pairs of shorts. Everyone from Florida is amazed that the lightning is so much worse than they have experienced before.

To say a higher number of boats get struck is an understatement. The last summer we were there, a full 50% of the boats in our area were struck with damage. The year before, we took a direct strike with complete damage and two side flashes with individual equipment damage.

The ratio of mono/multi strikes was 60/40 even though the presence of each type were about 50/50. To make it even more crazy, a powerboat took a direct hit surrounded by sailboats of each type.



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This is very interesting to me. When we get this boat fixed up, one of our first planned trips is downwind to Central America, and then clockwise north up to Mexico and then over Cuba and back home to the TCI.

I'm in the process of replacing all the stuff on the mast that was destroyed by the hit in the Bahamas. one approach that came to mind is to just put the absolute minimum on the mast, and put the expensive stuff on an arch over the transom. That would be a windex, lights, and a VHF antenna on the mast. Radar and wifi and GPS on an arch. I don't think I am going to replace the expensive B&G wind instruments. Knowing wind velocity and direction to a gnat's ass isn't that important to me on this boat. I don't care about a tenth of a knot one way or another. I was wondering what the best way would be to direct lightning from the mast to the ocean, basically a big ground strap right to the sea. If I can't prevent lightning, perhaps I can at least channel it, minmize damage, and plan the installation to make repairs a lot quicker and cheaper.
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Old 11-05-2014, 08:47   #18
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

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This is very interesting to me. When we get this boat fixed up, one of our first planned trips is downwind to Central America, and then clockwise north up to Mexico and then over Cuba and back home to the TCI.

I'm in the process of replacing all the stuff on the mast that was destroyed by the hit in the Bahamas. one approach that came to mind is to just put the absolute minimum on the mast, and put the expensive stuff on an arch over the transom. That would be a windex, lights, and a VHF antenna on the mast. Radar and wifi and GPS on an arch. I don't think I am going to replace the expensive B&G wind instruments. Knowing wind velocity and direction to a gnat's ass isn't that important to me on this boat. I don't care about a tenth of a knot one way or another. I was wondering what the best way would be to direct lightning from the mast to the ocean, basically a big ground strap right to the sea. If I can't prevent lightning, perhaps I can at least channel it, minmize damage, and plan the installation to make repairs a lot quicker and cheaper.
The VHF is the biggest problem. It has a relatively large conductor going straight into the boat's DC system, and it sticks way up in the air. It was the primary way the lightning damage got into our boat. Small wires like LED anchor lights, etc will be destroyed and break the path into the DC panel.

However, the alternate of putting the VHF antenna on the back rail or arch is the loss of range. Many boats in Panama take down their antenna and use a handheld during the summer months.

We have a product called a "Strike Shield" that consists of a large fitting permanently attached to our mast with a 4/0 cable going directly into the water between the hulls via the trampoline area. The end of this cable has an electrode on it with >18' of edge surface on it (the electrode is ~10" long, but has many sharp edges machined into it). The purpose of this system is to direct the main lightning strike to water before it gets into the boat and finds its way to water via punching holes through the hull.

It does not prevent strikes or damage to equipment - it is solely to help prevent structural hull damage by giving lightning a more favorable path to ground. When we were struck, it did its job, as there was physical evidence that the fittings and cable took some massive energy.

Unfortunately, that company no longer exists, but a similar system would be very easy to cobble together.

After directing the main strike to water outside the boat, the only other thing you can really do is to install high-quality clamp devices like those from Polyphasic on all your DC and AC circuits, as well as on the main panel itself. This is expensive, and we haven't installed any.

You cannot prevent or decrease the probability of getting hit by lightning with any device - only attempt to mitigate the damage it may cause.

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Old 12-05-2014, 11:37   #19
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Lightning in Panama in the summer months is unbelievable. Come-to-Jesus, second-coming-type of lightning. You will experience types and forms of lightning you didn't know existed. You won't sleep much and you will ruin several pairs of shorts. Everyone from Florida is amazed that the lightning is so much worse than they have experienced before.

To say a higher number of boats get struck is an understatement. The last summer we were there, a full 50% of the boats in our area were struck with damage. The year before, we took a direct strike with complete damage and two side flashes with individual equipment damage.

The ratio of mono/multi strikes was 60/40 even though the presence of each type were about 50/50. To make it even more crazy, a powerboat took a direct hit surrounded by sailboats of each type.

Mark
Ok, so is this just something people accept or do people just avoid areas like this during summer?
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Old 12-05-2014, 11:52   #20
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

Some people have better gods than ours. Also, not every boat is hit, so the odds are usually in your favor (although they were equal the year I described). A 50/50 year was unusual - but the odds of getting hit are still pretty high. The odds of ruining a pair of shorts during one of those storms are guaranteed.

The lightning I was discussing was primarily in the San Blas region. However, boats were also hit in Portobello, Colon and Bocas del Torro. All in all, I think the San Blas may have a bit less lightning than the other places. The Pacific side also experiences fierce lightning.

Some people claim that Cartagena has less lightning in the summer, but I know two boats struck there last year. However, that doesn't mean that Cartagena doesn't have fewer storms on average than Panama. San Andres and Providencia have fewer lightning storms, but they are outside what most insurance companies consider the hurricane safe zone.

The best place to be for lightning protection is San Diego...

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Old 17-05-2014, 14:25   #21
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

Barefoot Skinny has a funny song about "gods", but not related to lightening. I've been waiting to use his line on someone I don't mind not ever speaking to again...like a Tel-Evangelist. Mine must be OK...no stikes in 14 years. Although my H33 got tapped last year.

Colemj, where in the San Blas were you guys when you got struck?

Had some nice big boomers in San Blas a few days ago. One very close. GF hates lightening, she was not a happy camper.

Inverter crapped out the next day....maybe closer than I thought?
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Old 18-05-2014, 20:04   #22
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

Just laid out a route thru E San Blas to Sapzurro, Colombia using Bauhaus' waypoints on Navionics charts. Navionics is way off in a few places in E San Blas and lacks a lot of detail in others (better in W San Blas). Will try and post specifics as I have time.
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Old 21-05-2014, 13:53   #23
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Barefoot Skinny has a funny song about "gods", but not related to lightening. I've been waiting to use his line on someone I don't mind not ever speaking to again...like a Tel-Evangelist. Mine must be OK...no stikes in 14 years. Although my H33 got tapped last year.

Colemj, where in the San Blas were you guys when you got struck?

Had some nice big boomers in San Blas a few days ago. One very close. GF hates lightening, she was not a happy camper.

Inverter crapped out the next day....maybe closer than I thought?
We were in the West Lemmons when we had the main strike. We have had close strikes in the Cocos and Swimming Pool which took out minor electronics (and did so on other boats also).

BTW, we just sailed from the Rio to San Andres on broad and beam reaches the entire way! Even did a 200+ day! And here we were all anxious for the past few months about having to beat to windward for 400nm to turn the corner.

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Old 21-05-2014, 15:50   #24
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

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We were in the West Lemmons when we had the main strike. We have had close strikes in the Cocos and Swimming Pool which took out minor electronics (and did so on other boats also).

BTW, we just sailed from the Rio to San Andres on broad and beam reaches the entire way! Even did a 200+ day! And here we were all anxious for the past few months about having to beat to windward for 400nm to turn the corner.

Mark
Yeah, don't like idea if hanging here waiting to get popped and GF is terrified of lightening (not that I like it). Made papers for Cartegena...and of course immediately had a couple of boat issues pop up and delay us a bit, but plan to jump over very soon. Store boat there, get work done, check out Cartegena.

Wow, great luck on the run from the Rio! Must of been those new stern extensions!

We spent our whole season in the Bay Islands one year waiting for weather...not that we were trying real hard to escape. Trades blowing hard? Damn, back to the cigar bar again. ;-)
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Old 21-05-2014, 16:27   #25
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

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Wow, great luck on the run from the Rio! Must of been those new stern extensions!
Not luck or the new sterns - it is all in what you name your boat!

BTW, your H33 is still floating.

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Old 21-05-2014, 16:47   #26
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Re: Heading to San Blas shortly

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Not luck or the new sterns - it is all in what you name your boat!

BTW, your H33 is still floating.

Mark

Ah, maybe I'll try that. Vinyl letters are a lot cheaper than a bottom job and stern extensions! ;-)

Gotta get back on H33 projects soon...
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Old 06-08-2014, 09:56   #27
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Heading to San Blas shortly

Nice boat, will be in the area in February or March, 2015. Let me know if you need crew.


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