A lightning strike on a boat is a rare but not impossible phenomenon. Let's talk about how you can protect yourself and your boat!
In general, there is a 1:1000 chance that lightning will strike the mast of your sailboat, catamaran or trimaran. In different places on the planet, the probability may differ - in the USA, for example, it is higher and is already 4:1000.
Such data is obtained annually only on the basis of the number of insured boats that have been struck by lightning. The actual probability of hitting among all boats may differ, but it is unlikely that it is drastically. Experts believe that the actual statistics are slightly higher.
What affects a lightning strike?
There is a common opinion that if we are talking about such a natural phenomenon as a lightning strike, then there cannot be any specific reasons. Like, what is the length, what is the width, what is the height of the yacht - this is a natural phenomenon, an accident. However, in this matter, everything is not so clear.
The only thing that can be said with certainty is that it is unlikely that any measures that are aimed at reducing the likelihood of lightning striking the mast will be able to completely secure your boat. Still, lightning is a natural phenomenon, the strength of which cannot be predicted.
If we are talking about which boats are less affected by lightning, then monohulls will be the undisputed favorite. According to statistics, the probability of a lightning strike is about 2-3% from all cases per year. Catamarans and other multihulls were less fortunate - about 3-6% lightning strike probability.
The height of the mast also has an effect. The higher your mast, the more likely you are to be struck by lightning. This is especially true for metal masts and yachts with metal hulls. If your boat is made of fiberglass, then the chance of being struck by lightning is much lower. Regarding the length of the yacht, no reliable data was given.
How to protect yourself and the boat?
Let's say right away - engineers have not yet learned how to prevent lightning from entering a boat. But there are a few simple tricks that will help you avoid costly repairs.
The most sensitive parts of your yacht are the electrical appliances. Chartplotters, batteries, motors - we can go on and on. To be on the safe side, you should make sure that all of these items are properly grounded in case lightning graces your boat. Usually both devices and the mast / masts are grounded at once.
When the issue with grounding is resolved, you can use special devices. Power surge suppressors (aka TVSS) are used in aviation, telecommunications equipment, and can often be found in homes.
TVSS are built into the electrical system of the boat and work on the principle of a fuse, which removes it in the form of heat in the event of a sudden power surge. TVSS and other fuses are the only really effective way to save electronics along with ground.
It is also recommended to insure the boat. It is important that a lightning strike be among the insured events in order to accurately receive compensation in case of an unfavorable development of events.
A storm has begun - what to do?
To begin with, let's make a reservation that the best option, of course, will not fall into stormy conditions with a thunderstorm. To do this, it is enough to take your cruise planning seriously and follow the weather forecasts. But what if the storm caught you suddenly? Or is the yacht in the marina and a thunderstorm has begun?
If you are on board a boat at sea and you see that a storm has begun with a thunderstorm, then the best option is to lower the antennas, outriggers and any other oblong metal objects as soon as possible. If you have a metal steering wheel and you need to steer the boat, then do it with dielectric rubber gloves.
You should also, if possible, get away from metal surfaces and limit the contacts of your body with conductors - metal handrails, other parts of the body. If your entire boat is made of metal, then keep rubber boots in reserve. Try to turn off as many electrical appliances as possible.
If fortune is not on your side and lightning still struck the boat, then you should check the boat for damage. The main thing is to remain steadfast and not panic.
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