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The spring storms have started and that brings lightning. While the odds of being struck by lightning are low, if it happens the damage can be devastating. The best advice is to not go out on the water if thunderstorms are predicted. If you are out on the water and a thunderstorm is approaching, get off the water immediately.

If you are not able to get to shore, count the seconds between the flashes and corresponding thunder, then divide by 5 to get a rough idea of how far away a storm is. Lower antennas, bimini, outriggers, stow fishing rods and do not use the dash VHF or touch any metal objects. Get low in the center of the boat and wait until all is clear before checking for damage if you suspect a hit occurred.

A direct lightning strike on your boat can disable your power, melt your electronics and turn antennas into burnt fiberglass splinters. A boat owner can protect their boat by having a lightning protection system. A direct ground wire connecting the engines, stoves, air conditioning compressors, railings, arches (all equipment and metal parts) can prevent serious injuries and damage to your hull. A direct strike will go to ground through all the equipment and metal parts on your boat. You may still get some damage but it’s unlikely any serious injuries will occur. Consult the experts, usually done by a marine electrician, and you will be assured the work is done to ABYC standards.

Always carry non-electronic signaling devices such as hand-held flares to signal your need for assistance. A hand-held VHF will also be suggested to use instead of your dash mounted one.

Don’t make the mistake of believing lightning won’t strike you – take the time to insure you will survive if it does.

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3 Responses to A Direct Hit

  1. Ed C. says:

    Correct, 5 seconds per statute mile. In FL, meteorologists say strikes can reach out 10 miles, so if you see a lightning flash and count 50 seconds until you hear the thunder, you better take cover.

  2. Mark says:

    “count the seconds between the flashes and corresponding thunder, then divide by 5”

    what does that number tell you – what are the units associated with that calculated value?

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