I don't' live where there is a lot of lightning so my strategy is to stay in the slip and make sure there are boats with taller masts around. The path lightning would take on my boat is down the stanchions, down a stainless strap, out the through bolts that hold the strap, and through the bottom paint. Would this blow a hole in my boat? I don't know. From what I have read, a direct hit with a strong lightning bolt seems like it would blow up the boat but most lightning strikes are not of the maximum strength so far more boats survive than I would have thought. Below are some references on what lightning is about and how to make your boat survive a lightning strike. I present it although my take is that there is a lot of theory and not much fact. The last article is particularly interesting in that is basically says all the other articles are wrong and they have a new theory, but it is untested so they don't know if it is right or not either. Good luck.
Lightning - University of Maryland 1980-81
LIGHTNING: GROUNDING YOUR BOAT Lightning can kill: Carrying as much as 100 millionvolts, lightning can smash a hole through a hull,explode a mast and electrocute several people ina single flash. The thunderstorms of theChesapeake Bay, described by Captain JohnSmith as among the most violent he had everseen, pose a lightning threat every boater should know about.
Practical Sailor article
Every year, a surprising number of boats are struck by lightning. Almost invariably, there is some damage to the boat or its equipment. The damage can range from minor electrical problems to serious hull damage. No matter how well protected the boat may be, few manage to escape unscathed.
Lightning and Sailboats - University of Florida Sea Grant
The sight of a jagged lightning bolt licking the not-too-distant horizon undoubtedly gives rise to concerned thoughts in the minds of many sailors. Few actually act on their thoughts. And very few understand the phenomenon well enough to act confidently.
Boating Lightning Protection - University of Florida
"One minute the fisherman was sitting atop his elevated seat aboard his boat. The next minute he was dead--the victim of a lightning bolt." This was the lead paragraph in a recent Florida newspaper article. These accidents can and do happen--and yet they need not. Florida has more thunderstorms--and thus, more lightning strikes--than any other state (see Figure 1). Only three states have a higher death rate from lightning than Florida, and no state has more deaths or injuries.
Understanding Lightning Protection
Over the past couple of hundred years, as science has learned more about the nature of nature, lots of folks have tried to find ways to protect their homes and businesses against damage from lightning. But even after Ben Franklin's famous kite proved that lightning is an electrical force, and discoveries by such famous scientists as Volta, Ampere, Ohm, and others, lightning still remains something of a mystery. And we are still looking for ways to minimize damage.
- Protection from Lightning
This spring seems to have brought the most extreme weather in history. With heavy thunderstorms you will often find lightning. Lightning on the water can bring life-threatening circumstances. For your safety and the safety of others boating with you we have updated and are republishing this article on Lightning Protection
- John Payne on Lightning
Lightning has long been a problem for mariners. As far back as the early 1800's boat builders were installing lightning protection systems to minimize the catastrophic effects of strikes. These methods were essentially the grounding of spars and rigging. More than one vessel lost mizzens and masts along with compass problems as a result. Bonding systems were also evolved as a response to dissipation of strike energy. In the late 20th century, nearly 200 years on, the same measures are still valid
- A New Concept for Lightning Protection of Boat "A Critical Assessment of the US Code for Lightning Protection of Boats" was the title of a paper published in 1991 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). True to its name, this peer-reviewed journal publication pointed out several key problem areas then existing in standards published by all major authorities concerning lightning protection of boats.
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