According to reports from our BoatU.S. Marine Insurance claim files, the odds of your boat being struck by light- ning in any year are about one in 1,000. Some states, such
as Idaho, have no lightning claims (no
surprise). But for those of you with boats
in Florida, nobody has to tell you that the
odds there are greater. Much greater.
Thirty-three percent of all lightning
claims are from the Sunshine State, and
the strike rate there is 3. 3 boats per
1,000. Not surprisingly, the majority of
strikes are on sailboats (four per 1,000),
but powerboats get struck also (five per
10,000). Trawlers have the highest rate
for powerboats (two per 1,000), and
lightning has struck houseboats, bass
boats, and even PWCs. Lightning-strike
repairs tend to be expensive and time-consuming, but there are things you can
do to lessen the damage after a strike.
You can run, but you can’t hide
Volumes have been written about methods to mitigate damage or even avert
How likely is it that your boat
will be struck by lightning?
Spring and early summer are the most active times for thunder and lightning storms.
Here’s the good news and the bad
BY CHARLES FORT
a lightning strike. Lightning, however,
doesn’t seem to read them. As an example, one boat, fitted with a popular “fuzzy”
static dissipater at the top of the mast,
was struck twice in one year. Ironically,
the second time the bolt hit the dissipater, it happened even though the
VHF antenna right next to it was higher.
Lightning is unpredictable. While you
can mitigate the damage from a lightning
strike, there is nothing you can do to prevent one. So here we’ll focus on what to
do if your boat is hit.
The extent of damage
isn’t immediately apparent
The first thing you should do if your
boat is struck is call your insurance
company and get your boat short-hauled
as quickly as possible for a quick hull
assessment. The reason is that when
lightning exits your boat, it can leave via
a thru-hull fitting or even through the
hull itself. Even if the force of the bolt
doesn’t blow out a thru-hull or cause hull
damage, it may cause a gradual leak that
could go unnoticed and sink your boat.
As part of its “sue and labor” provision,
BoatU.S. Marine Insurance will pay to
have your boat short-hauled to check for
damage. The short-haul is not subject to
Lightning strikes can cause hull damage. If
your boat has been struck, have it hauled
to inspect for damage. B O A T