Forums > Sailing General

Lightning strike or not?

Created by sirgallivant > 9 months ago, 14 Nov 2017
NSW, 1192 posts
14 Nov 2017 7:28PM
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Arriving to my boat today l found mayhem and distraction.
The new masthead VHF areal missing, cable sticking out. Pic.1
The switchboard panel blown to bits, the volt meter's face was on the floor, a push switch blown on the chart table, it's fuse scorched bad. Pic.2-3
The solar panel smashed to bits, Pic 4-5-6
One GPS on the chart table dead, the cockpit chart plotter, though turns on but only voltage shows everything else is dead.
Commercial radio, dead.
27mhz radio dead.
Out of the 9 new led cabin lights 4 destroyed.
All navigation lights dead bar the steaming light.

I started the engine, after checking the batteries and the switchboard, gave it a good run, it works fine, alternator charging, batteries holding charge, hot water ok.
So far that's all l found.
So l went sailing.

What might have caused this mayhem if not lightning?

131 posts
14 Nov 2017 4:58PM
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Sounds like lightning damage,any blobs of melted metal on deck, any lightning in the area at the time? I bought a boat that had been hit and it also had lost the vhf aerial,plus destroyed all electronics,batteries,and blew the oilplug out of the gearbox. I think it earthed through the motor and out to the shaft and prop. Was still able to sail it back to nz after replacing a few things and didn't find any structural damage. Funnily the vhf worked but only on local fm stations commercial radio! Try and see where the voltage has gone after hitting the aerial. It will want to find a path to earth

QLD, 1075 posts
14 Nov 2017 7:25PM
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Sounds like you've been struck by lightning to me

QLD, 10660 posts
14 Nov 2017 8:33PM
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OK, so you have had your once. You need never worry about a lightening strike again. Of course that is only certain if you never move the boat from her current location.

You should have a good hard look at your rigging. It may be all welded together.

What has your insurance company to say about it??

WA, 110 posts
14 Nov 2017 6:34PM
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Does your insurance cover Lightning strike? We had a really spectacular lightning storm on Monday night here in Perth. 2000 strikes over a one hundred kilometres radius. Will check my boat ASAP.

This was taken by a guy coming home from work on Monday night. Happened to have his camera with him.
Salty Fish Photography by Matt Lichon.
Has to be one of the best lightning photos I have ever seen.

VIC, 65 posts
14 Nov 2017 10:08PM
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So, there is some consolation for my boat having the shortest mast in the marina??

642 posts
14 Nov 2017 7:48PM
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Pull the boat straight out of the water now like tonight.
All that charge only went one way.
And the easiest way out is skin fittings and keel bolts.
Time for a very close inspection.
It is not the stuff above the waterline you need to worry about.

NSW, 1192 posts
14 Nov 2017 11:31PM
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Will see what tomorrow brings.
I went for a sail today, all seems fine.

Rigger l am going to call tomorrow, insurance too.

The boat has a 2" wide brass earth strap. That must have taken the brunt of the hit.

The keel bolts look fine. Even the float switch is working.

214 posts
15 Nov 2017 3:38AM
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Can you protect a boat from this kind of damage with an earth from the mast to the keel? I ask because my boat has nothing it does live on a trailer

QLD, 38 posts
15 Nov 2017 5:59AM
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There is debate on whether earthing a yacht via an earth strap is beneficial or not. Sure it gives the charge somewhere to go but is unlikely to contain the huge amount of energy that a lightning bolt expends.
It also makes your boat a more likely target as you now have a tall lightning rod that is directly earthed.
I've often wondered if the solution would be to have a boat eathed with a large conductor but have a small gap in the curcuit somewhere.
This way your mast is not directly earthed but a strike would easily find and jump the small gap. (Perhaps)

NSW, 1192 posts
15 Nov 2017 7:38AM
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Glenn, it is made like that. Not straight mast to keel, it is actually hull to keel.
It is a keel stepped mast to start with.
You could see it on the foto, it is coming from the hull under the engine to the keel.

QLD, 400 posts
15 Nov 2017 8:14AM
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be cautious i had to repair an adams 8 once that had been struck by lightning and blew a hole in the bottom

NSW, 745 posts
15 Nov 2017 9:39AM
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Sorry to hear. The VHF antenna missing makes lightning sound like what happened. Theres a website somewhere that records lightning strikes maybe it will show one where you boat is.

The theory I heard about grounding the mast is it depletes the ions in the air around it making it less likely to strike there - unless its the highest object in the vicinity which reverses that benefit. So in a marina full of yachts probably good to ground mast, at sea maybe not. A big switch might be in order.

If I can fix anything Sir G bring it over to my office.

642 posts
15 Nov 2017 7:42AM
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My own experience was that after a big direct hit, no wind gear, face of cockpit instruments melted, but batteries ok.
Checked everything so all good otherwise.
A few months later, lifted the boat for regular antifoul.
Boat had stainless pins (so an alloy) holding the mast base in place which came up from the bottom but where recessed slightly and filled over.
There a 8 perfect holes where the filler and dynel had covered the head of the pins.
The pins heads themselves where completely honeycombed,
The strike had fryed the pin heads (presumably with a bit of moisture and dissimilar metals) and blown the filler and skin off to get out.
My thoughts would be a poor quality skin fitting with questionable composition may suffer the same fate hence the immediate check.
This boat has no skin fittings as the time save engine intake.

NSW, 169 posts
15 Nov 2017 12:51PM
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Personally I think the most likely culprit is an ex-girlfriend.

NSW, 314 posts
15 Nov 2017 3:13PM
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Select to expand quote
FelixdeCat said..

Personally I think the most likely culprit is an ex-girlfriend.

Or a large pelican......

NSW, 169 posts
15 Nov 2017 5:24PM
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No she was a goose

NSW, 1192 posts
15 Nov 2017 9:21PM
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Bollocks, you two!
Been up the mast today, nothing melted or like, only the end of the vhf cable burned, scorched.
The brand new led masthead light blown and so is the mid-mast streaming light-deck light combo.
Found a rig problem thou, so it was worth the excitement in 20 knot winds.
Talked to insurer, they said ok to claim, waiting for return call.
This is gonna be epic.

QLD, 1118 posts
15 Nov 2017 9:20PM
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Hope the claim process goes smoothly SG, too many insurance co horror stories for my liking. So what did you find wrong?

NSW, 1192 posts
16 Nov 2017 8:09AM
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Yeah, especially after shooting my mouth off in the thread 'Youi 0 QVB 10' Haha!
I have to talk to the rigger first, about what l found.
Now l am going down.
Diving on the yacht. See what l find bar slime.

NSW, 784 posts
16 Nov 2017 7:53PM
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Are you using joe walsh? I found him a really nice guy easy to deal with and knowledgeable.

NSW, 1192 posts
17 Nov 2017 12:41PM
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I don't and l didn't.
Use Tempo Spars.

The diving brought no new problems. Cleaned the bottom, all's well.

Got a claim number, waiting for the trades people to get their arses in gear.
It is coming up to the silly season so l don't expect quick responses, but hope for the best...


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"Lightning strike or not?" started by sirgallivant