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LIGHTNING GROUNDING YOUR BOAT open water This same study listed an additional 177 who were injured while on or near openLightning can kill Carrying as much as 100 million waters Water and lightning are a natural combi 60volts lightning can smash a hole through a hull nationexplode a mast and electrocute several people ina single flash The thunderstorms of the WHAT CAN YOU DOChesapeake Bay described by Captain JohnSmith as among the most violent he had ever To protect yourself in a boat the important thing isseen pose a lightning threat every boater should to give lightning a ground Boats made of steelknow about such as naval vessels have an automatic ground in their metal hulls but most small boats usuallyWHAT IS LIGHTNING constructed of fiberglass or wood prevent theLightning is simply natures way of equalizing con lightning easy access to the water and pose atrasting charges often built up when cool and grounding problem Small boats may also lack tall 60warm air masses collide As negative charges in objects which could deflect lightning and eventhe base of a storm cloud pass over the earth boats that do have tall spars like sailboats they induce a positive charge in the normally neg can run into problems if their spars are not propatively charged terrain This positive charge actu erly grounded The following grounding systemally works its way up tall objects pulled by the will minimize the risk of lightning clouds When an arc breaks Grounded spars or antennas offer a 60 degree cone ofthrough the insulating air lightning strikes Not all On a sailboat make a lightning rod using a piece protection Note that this cone measures from the follows the same scenario It can leap of aluminum which sticks about 1 foot 3048 cen point off the water not from a masts full height Sincefrom cloud to cloud from cloud to earth or from timeters above the mast Sharpen the rod to boats usually heel during storms the cone of protection reduce resistance at the top A radio antenna can will shrink proportionate to the dip of the mast A bendingearth to cloud or slanting whip antenna will considerably lesson the pro also conduct electricity but may lead lightning to tected zone as the illustration shows Adapted from theHOW DANGEROUS IS LIGHTNING the radio and may well vaporize during a strike National Fire Protection CodeIn the United States lightning kills over time From the rod lead a wire down a wooden mastmore people than do hurricanes floods or torna an aluminum mast can serve as its own conductor On a motorboat which has no high spar use adoes Although lightning rarely reaches the cata as long as a wire is led from its base to direct the metal radio antenna not a fiberglass one attachstrophic dimensions that make headlines it con charge to the ground A wooden mast with a ing a wire to a ground plate as described abovesistently kills over a hundred people a year in this metal sail track can be grounded as though it If there is a loading coil on the antenna use acountry Not everyone struck by lightning dies were a metal mast The Coast Guard finds a 8 shunt of 31strand 17gauge bare estimate that twothirds of those wire adequate though a larger gauge say 4 grounding mesh to bypass it this will make thestruck by lightning survive and often people further reduces heat and resistance whole height of the antenna an effective killed by a lightning strike can be Quickrelease clamps will allow an easy temporevived by resuscitation But Attach this wire to a copper ground plate mounted rary attachment On a fiberglass antenna yourisks remain high for those who spend time out on the hull beneath the waterline or dangled can clamp the wire to a metal rod letting that actdoors farmers fishermen or boaters underwater A square foot of copper flashing eas as a lightning interceptor Use a lightning ily obtained at many hardware stores will make arrestor to protect your radioBecause water conducts electricity so well and an adequate ground plate If you decide to attachbecause a boat or even a person may pres a permanent ground use large stainless steel When leading the wire to a ground avoid sharpent a high profile on water boaters need to take bolts say 12 inch to prevent their cracking under bends or turns Any bend in the wire should havespecial precautions Records show that lightning large electrical discharge To increase safety a radius of at least 60 degreeshas killed people who were standing in or fishing some recommend all stays be grounded to thefrom boats or starting outboard motors One study plate One alternative calls for leading the groundingshows that out of 494 people killed while involved wire to a metal strip which runs down the bow orin outdoor recreation 200 were in on or near stern and maintains constant contact with thewater This offers the advantage of carrying the lence Remember that lightning can lash out for at a gradual angle safely away from the miles in front of a storm and it can strike after aengine and the helm storm has seemingly passed Remember too that storms can bring high winds and wavesBoth the mast and the whip antenna will provide a making a last minute trip to shore a dangerouscone of protection with a radius of approximately dash The best maneuver of all is to think aheadthe same dimension as the rods height For mostsmall boats this will include the entire deck area may be however induced electrical surgescreated by the lightning and for this reason large objects engines for example should avoided during a storm Remember that an will have its own ground in the propeller the shaft Induced electrical charges can arcing and electrical shocks strong enough shtmto knock you unconscious perhaps heart arrhythmias A lightning strike University of Florida Sea Grant Lightning and Sailboatscan also magnetize a keel or other metal fittings video and booklet booklet alon 200rendering your compass useless 1500SGEP17 AID FOR LIGHTNING Please note that no system is full proof According to the American BoatAfter a shipboard lightning strike check to see and Yacht Council Inc In view of the wide variation in structural design of boats and the unpredictable nature of lightning specific recthat everyone is all right it is of course per ommendations cannot be mae to cover all casesfectly safe to handle someone who has been hitby lightning Check for burns which should Marine Advisory Program First published 198081receive normal first aid treatment Dont put ointment on severe burns cover them with cleancloth or plastic to keep out airIf someone has been knocked unconscious actimmediately Check for breathing and heartbeatIf you feel a pulse but no breathing begin mouthtomouth resuscitation a handkerchief over themouth will help the squeamish If there is noheartbeat begin resuscitation atechnique every serious boater should your boat and unplugging radios andelectrical equipment during a storm are goodideas but the best precaution against lightning isavoidance Especially in small craft keep aweather eye out for the coppery haze and build GROUNDINGing cumulonimbus clouds that signal thunderstorms heading ashore well ahead of the turbu YOUR BOAT
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