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Old 26-07-2022, 09:49   #1
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Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

Planning on living aboard in Florida starting this winter. I've been looking at the forums and doing some research about lightning, and the majority seems to be focused on what to do while underway, or how to properly ground your boat.


Does anyone currently live aboard in a tropical and/or lightning-heavy area? Do you do anything in particular when there is lightning around? For instance, maybe sleeping in the aft berth instead of on the settee (maybe this doesn't matter unless you have a keel stepped mast)? Do you leave completely and sleep in your car?


How concerned should I be about lightning while living aboard?
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Old 26-07-2022, 10:45   #2
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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Originally Posted by bigpizza View Post
Planning on living aboard in Florida starting this winter. I've been looking at the forums and doing some research about lightning, and the majority seems to be focused on what to do while underway, or how to properly ground your boat.


Does anyone currently live aboard in a tropical and/or lightning-heavy area? Do you do anything in particular when there is lightning around? For instance, maybe sleeping in the aft berth instead of on the settee (maybe this doesn't matter unless you have a keel stepped mast)? Do you leave completely and sleep in your car?


How concerned should I be about lightning while living aboard?
You need a mast bonded to a grounding plate that sits straight under the mast, regardless of deck stepped or keel stepped. Youíre pretty safe inside the boat, while I wouldnít touch the mast (cone of protection)

I worry more about shore power. We installed this to at least limit damage when a surge comes through the shore power cable. Completely unplugging the cable (flipping a breaker isnít good enough) is better but thereís too much lightning to make that a realistic procedure. You need lots of power to run the A/C because itís too hot in the summer to do without.
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Old 26-07-2022, 11:26   #3
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

Although I am sure it happens, I have never heard of anyone seriously injured when inside a boat struck by lightning, and I know several people who have been in that situation.

Odds are very high the boat’s electrical and electronic systems are going to be seriously damaged however.
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Old 26-07-2022, 11:27   #4
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

Florida, lighting strike capitol of the world.
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Old 26-07-2022, 12:37   #5
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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Although I am sure it happens, I have never heard of anyone seriously injured when inside a boat struck by lightning, and I know several people who have been in that situation.

...
A few years ago, a small sailboat, I think it was around 25ish feet, was sunk after a lightning strike in the Florida Keys. Divers found the remains of the young man in the cabin of the sunk vessel some time after the sinking. The man had called his mother and said he was on the way home due to the weather. Another boater saw his sailboat get hit by lightning.

Best guess is a side flash got him, or he was leaning against the mast, but nobody is ever going to know what really happened.

Later,
Dan
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Old 26-07-2022, 13:10   #6
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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A few years ago, a small sailboat, I think it was around 25ish feet, was sunk after a lightning strike in the Florida Keys. Divers found the remains of the young man in the cabin of the sunk vessel some time after the sinking. The man had called his mother and said he was on the way home due to the weather. Another boater saw his sailboat get hit by lightning.

Best guess is a side flash got him, or he was leaning against the mast, but nobody is ever going to know what really happened.

Later,
Dan



So what's the resolution? Is it basically just rolling the dice to liveaboard in FL? Hope that only the electronics get fried?
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Old 26-07-2022, 13:24   #7
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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So what's the resolution? Is it basically just rolling the dice to liveaboard in FL? Hope that only the electronics get fried?
Do what Jedi suggested and there are other things one can try such as Marine Lightning Protection Inc.. There a conversations about this in the forum.

It is uncommon for people to be hurt or killed by lightning on a boat but it does happen.

Later,
Dan
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Old 26-07-2022, 13:50   #8
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

If you have a metal boat, steel or aluminum, the theory is that you are protected by a Faraday cage. Donít touch the metal and you ought to be fine. Now if you have a carbon fiber spar, ...well you look like a potato with a big aluminum nail in the middle...you cook faster.
The manatee crew dressed as space aliens by wrapping themselves in aluminum foil one Halloween. Luckily there were no thunderstorms that night. Now theyíve learned more about lightning and at the first clap of thunder, they all jump into their Gumby suits calling it an abandon ship drill. Aluminum beer cans get jettisoned as well. Cant be too careful.
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Old 26-07-2022, 14:00   #9
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

I was club racing in Oklahoma, in a Santana 525 which has a reverse transom and the outboard was mounted on a strut that you placed in a receiver on the transom. We rounded the weather mark to head back for a downwind finish and there was a black cloud coming at us. The spinnakers were glowing in the sun against the cloud. When it got close, told the crew that we would drop the chute when the lead boat did. It turned out the wind hit the whole fleet broadside with 50+ wind sheer, hail, dense rain and lighting. It was crazy with boats getting knocked down and people in the water. I set up the outboard while the crew tended to sails. I started to a dock at a cafe about 2 miles behind us steering with the motor and holding onto the back stay for balance. Lightning hit the mast and went thru my left arm and out my right. It hurt like hell. The mast head instruments melted like a candle and left aluminum drips running down the mast before they cooled. So we kept going to the docks and as I approached the slip, some other sailors who had already tied off, were helping others and myself tie up. Just as I was entering the slip, another bolt of lightning hit close by in the lake and the shock went thru me from right to left. Terrible experience!. I'm in construction and was talking to an electrical engineer about the event, and he said that because I had an arm above my body and below, that it created a path to ground. He also explained that fresh water conducts a lot farther than in salt water. Any way, I was left with a copper taste in my mouth for a few hours, like I had been sucking on a several pennies. I've been in the Tampa area for 15 years and have only been struck once. It knocked out the chargers, batteries, radios and instruments. I was not on the boat at the time.
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Old 26-07-2022, 14:07   #10
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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I was club racing in Oklahoma, in a Santana 525 which has a reverse transom and the outboard was mounted on a strut that you placed in a receiver on the transom. We rounded the weather mark to head back for a downwind finish and there was a black cloud coming at us. The spinnakers were glowing in the sun against the cloud. When it got close, told the crew that we would drop the chute when the lead boat did. It turned out the wind hit the whole fleet broadside with 50+ wind sheer, hail, dense rain and lighting. It was crazy with boats getting knocked down and people in the water. I set up the outboard while the crew tended to sails. I started to a dock at a cafe about 2 miles behind us steering with the motor and holding onto the back stay for balance. Lightning hit the mast and went thru my left arm and out my right. It hurt like hell. The mast head instruments melted like a candle and left aluminum drips running down the mast before they cooled. So we kept going to the docks and as I approached the slip, some other sailors who had already tied off, were helping others and myself tie up. Just as I was entering the slip, another bolt of lightning hit close by in the lake and the shock went thru me from right to left. Terrible experience!. I'm in construction and was talking to an electrical engineer about the event, and he said that because I had an arm above my body and below, that it created a path to ground. He also explained that fresh water conducts a lot farther than in salt water. Any way, I was left with a copper taste in my mouth for a few hours, like I had been sucking on a several pennies. I've been in the Tampa area for 15 years and have only been struck once. It knocked out the chargers, batteries, radios and instruments. I was not on the boat at the time.



Interesting. So it seems like living aboard a boat just comes with the chance of the boat being struck.


So far the best resources I've found are this video:

and this document: Lightning Attenuation Onboard


The thought of needing to possibly replace thousand of dollars in electronics on whim isn't very attractive.
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Old 03-08-2022, 07:21   #11
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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So what's the resolution? Is it basically just rolling the dice to liveaboard in FL? Hope that only the electronics get fried?
Yes, but its a VERY big die with many many numbers on it, and only one if them is yours.
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Old 03-08-2022, 08:38   #12
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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...

and this document: Lightning Attenuation Onboard

The thought of needing to possibly replace thousand of dollars in electronics on whim isn't very attractive.
Kasten, and the link I provide above, have good information but I would search through Cruising Forum for other discussions about lightning. The topic pops up frequently and their are ways to protect the boat as had been mentioned in this discussion.

A lightning hit can do nothing, fry electronics or even sink the boat. My dad's boat was hit, but back then, one only had a depth sounder, wind instruments, and a VHF. All three were fried but the boat was fine.

Later,
Dan
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Old 03-08-2022, 18:33   #13
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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So what's the resolution? Is it basically just rolling the dice to liveaboard in FL? Hope that only the electronics get fried?


Itís part of the risk. Like forest fires and bears for campers, sharks for surfers, failed chutes for sky divers. Manage the risk as best you can, have a good system for unplugging sensitive electronics during wild lighting storms, stay inside, away from the mast, have a good sense of Faith, pray frequently, have fun and live your dream.

Thatís my plan and I canít wait to get back to Florida and beyond to live out my days aboard.
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Old 03-08-2022, 19:06   #14
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

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So what's the resolution? Is it basically just rolling the dice to liveaboard in FL? Hope that only the electronics get fried?
Considering you chances of winning the lottery are greater, why worry?

Having been in Florida 13 years now, the only boat I know ever to be hit was in Rhode Island. Still don’t know anyone who won the lottery.

Proper grounding works. And our marina has surge suppressors similar to home devices on every pedestal.
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Old 03-08-2022, 19:31   #15
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Re: Liveaboard in Florida - lightning

Living on a boat in a high lightning area like Florida will be scary. Thunder storms will come frequently and lightning will be seen.

You can and should take precautions such as heavy grounding cables from the mast (and shrouds) to a plate or lead keel but honestly lightning is not predictable; no matter what you do you are still vulnerable. I think you will be relying on luck. Fortunately few people are killed or hurt even when their boat is struck.

There are other places where lighting is common. We've been in a few. Lucky for us we've not been hit or damaged (yet, Mexico also has a lot of lightning).

Once in Durban five boats in the marina were hit and damaged including the boat in the next slip to ours, a bigger sailboat than us with a taller mast. No injuries but all their electronics wiped out. We were un-damaged although we'd placed a computer and GPS in the oven and then later couldn't find them, and thought they had been stolen. What a relief when we opened the oven and found them.

So my advice if you choose to live in a high lightning place is do all the precautions then cross your fingers and hope for the best, your chances are good that you'll be OK.
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