Posts Tagged ‘Marine Lightning Protection’


Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Through the years we’ve been; shall I say, lucky.  Not sure luck it the right word, but maybe, just maybe we might also have the boat protected the smartest way possible from lightening, luck that Thor hasn’t found us or it’s simply that we’ve not pissed him off, yet!  But; we’ve not been hit by lightening, yet. Knock on Wood!

However; early this am we had one of those tropical rain lightening storms.  A few weeks ago while in the Suburbs of the Swimming Pool (Eastern Holandes Cays)we had one too. mvArgo (MV is Motor Vessel) counted 21 strikes inside of one minute.  Discussing the storm later the cruisers had commented  “There was enough lightening we might have been able to read by it”.  Almost, but not quite.  At least this time I never tried to read by the lightening. I’ve been known to try to read by moon light in the middle of the Caribbean but that too didn’t work. One boat then received a strike; mvDomino. Domino had the newest greatest lightening protection system designed by I believe Marine Lightning.

This am svPanda (sv is Sailing Vessel) took a strike. They’re anchored about 100 m away from us. He lost his VHF antennas a solar / wind charger controller and a few other things he expects to find.  Today he begins his move to Poroabella where he can effect repairs. So far this year in the San Blas there have been 6 boats struck. Nine boats if you count the Electromatic Pulse (EMP) from a close strike. Three boats had formed a triangle while anchored in Cocos Bandero  and a bolt landed smack dab in the middle causing damage to each of them. Not major damage,  but damage out here can still be significant! Repairs are days away.

The closest we’ve been was with svPanda; however, years ago we had a  VHF that acted funny for about 2 months when we had a close strike at Allans – Pensacola Cay in the Abacos. Funny, after the 2 months and for the rest of the radio’s life  it worked great. BTW that was a Standard Horizon radio circa 1980. That radio lasted 15 years for us. This time, we had a reset light come on on our Propane panel and I needed to reset the EMON (from Ample Power). No biggies. Knock on wood.

A couple of things I’ve done different then the majority of boats we know.  And of course discussing lighening with cruisers is like the major religions talking about God, few agree. One difference is I have the Ground Plate from  Moonraker in Austrailia and the second is that I’ve run rather LARGE tinned electrical cable from the mast step to the plate. Size 2/0.  That, is big cable. On our last boat Principia I had a union in the VHF that had the shield grounded and I loved that set up. For a short time I had duplicated it on Elysium however when we were in Annapolis and I added the AIS I found I had to remove it. A great many of the boats that have been hit by lightening have had the strike enter via the VHF. The antenna splitter  for the AIS just doesn’t like the shield being grounded! So my VHF  is my biggest worry. One boat that was recently struck had the very fancy Lightening System put in by  Marine Lightning.  That appears to not have worked. However I always try to learn from others errors. I’ve not enough time or money to suffer them all on my own.

The mvDomino (Domino is a power cat) has two electronically controlled diesels. Because of the strike both of the control boards on the diesels became worthless, thus the diesels.   Note to self:  Any needed  repower stay with the old style diesels that once you get them started they’ll run till they’re out of fuel!  The strike too came in through their VHF antenna. The other thing I’m glad about;  and this hasn’t been planned but still exists, is that we anchor 99% of the time with all chain. The chain runs over the bow rollers in a SS bow pulpit with all the lifelines attached at the forestay. So in a poor way the entire rig is grounded then via my anchor setup.  I don’t subscribe to the idea that everything in a boat should be bonded. I don’t have ground straps running to all our seacocks nor do I have ground straps running from each chain plate. On our last boat all the metal fittings stood alone and since we had been in some horrendous storms with Principia, as I said, I’ll try to keep it the same. What’s the saying; “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”!  If it appeared to work then I hope it will work now.

Sorry that I have no pictures of the lightening storms in the San Blas.  I don’t  think my camera will take those very well and anyway I’m too busy trying to count the seconds between flash and boom.  Sad thing is that here I can’t finish counting from one flash to one boom before the next flash lights the sky.

Sail Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long