Boat In A Lightning Storm

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES

When lightning strikes, one of the most dangerous places to be in is in the water. This is because you’ll be the highest point in a vast body of water. Though the odds of being struck by lightning are low, it’s better to be prepared for this kind of situation. Certain precautions will reduce damage to the boat and more importantly, protect yourself and the other passengers. Here’s how you can stay safe when lightning strikes.

LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEM

When lightning strikes a boat, the electric charge does significant damage to the electrical components and may even cause an explosion. The boat is also likely to get punctures on the side as the charge finds a way to the water. As a boat owner, you’ll do well to invest in a lightning protection system.

The lightning protection system creates what is called a Faraday’s cage, and it functions by offering a zone of protection for anything or anyone within that ‘cage’. It’s made up of four parts:

• An air terminal, which is made of copper, will be placed at least 150mm above the other parts of the boat, typically at the top of the mast. This makes it the highest point of the boat.
A down-conductor cable is meant to provide a path from the air terminal to the low-impedance ground system.
• The low-impedance ground system is a conductive metal plate that protrudes from the body of the boat. This plate then disperses the electric charge into the water.
• Lightning can be unpredictable and create an alternative path to the sea. To form sideflash protection, other metal components should be bonded and a series of conductors should be installed outside the boat.

Although it’s still likely that the lightning strike will do damage to your boat, the extent of this will be somewhat minimised. A marine electrician should install this lightning protection system. It’s not a project you must take on by yourself.

PASSENGER PROTECTION

To keep passengers safe from lightning, they must stay as high as they can get inside the cabin. This is to create some distance from the waterline. They should also be as far away from the lightning protection system. Passengers must also stay away from the sides of the boat and avoid contact with anything made of metal.

If you find yourself in an open boat, sit at the bottom with your legs folded against your chest. Make sure you’re not touching the water. Also, keep still as any movement is said to increase your chance of getting struck by lightning.

CHECK THE WEATHER BEFORE YOUR TRIP

You should always check the weather before heading out to the water. If there is even a slight chance that you’ll come across bad weather, it will be safer for you and your passengers to just stay on land. Help is harder to come by when you’re in the middle of the ocean, so it’s better to reschedule.

With all the planning that goes into boating trips, it may seem like a waste to postpone a trip just because there’s a small chance that things may go wrong. However, if you’re not confident with the level of protection your boat has, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you do find yourself caught in a lightning storm, remember these guidelines to help keep you safe when lightning strikes. And of course, don’t panic.

 


 

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Martin White
martinw@dinga.com.au

Martin is huge on everything outdoors and is even bigger on driving and technology. He loves boats, new stuff and writing about it.