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Old 07-26-2017, 10:12 AM   #1
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Doing our first "big" trip this weekend, questions about weather...

Hey guys. We're bringing our new-ish to us 31' Mainship from Folly Beach, SC to Georgetown, SC this weekend. Tomorrow we are doing a short 2 1/2 trip to Charleston. The next day 4 1/2 hrs to a small fishing marina then the next day 3 1/2 hrs to Georgetown. It will all be on the ICW.

My question is what people do about these nasty pop up summer storms. Obviously there is a chance every afternoon of a storm. 2 weekends ago we were on our boat at the slip late morning when a storm hit. It was a really active storm and we later heard that 3 people, one a small child, were on hit by lightning. They all lived, but had to be taken to the hospital.

How safe are we ok a boat? What happens if we get hit by lightning?

There are large stretches of the ICW that we will be on that are long and narrow with nothing around. What do we do if a storm builds and we can't get away from it?

Keep going? Throw the anchor and shut the boat down? If we throw the anchor, I'd worry about it not holding and also we'd be blocking the ICW. That doesn't sound like an option.

Anyway, just thinking about this now before we get into the situation. Obviously the best thing to do is to avoid the storms, but with as fast as they can build and being in the middle of nowhere, I don't think it's possible to always be able to avoid them.

Thanks guys.
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Old 07-26-2017, 10:43 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Steve91T View Post
Hey guys. We're bringing our new-ish to us 31' Mainship from Folly Beach, SC to Georgetown, SC this weekend. Tomorrow we are doing a short 2 1/2 trip to Charleston. The next day 4 1/2 hrs to a small fishing marina then the next day 3 1/2 hrs to Georgetown. It will all be on the ICW.

My question is what people do about these nasty pop up summer storms. Obviously there is a chance every afternoon of a storm. 2 weekends ago we were on our boat at the slip late morning when a storm hit. It was a really active storm and we later heard that 3 people, one a small child, were on hit by lightning. They all lived, but had to be taken to the hospital.

How safe are we ok a boat? What happens if we get hit by lightning?

There are large stretches of the ICW that we will be on that are long and narrow with nothing around. What do we do if a storm builds and we can't get away from it?

Keep going? Throw the anchor and shut the boat down? If we throw the anchor, I'd worry about it not holding and also we'd be blocking the ICW. That doesn't sound like an option.

Anyway, just thinking about this now before we get into the situation. Obviously the best thing to do is to avoid the storms, but with as fast as they can build and being in the middle of nowhere, I don't think it's possible to always be able to avoid them.

Thanks guys.
Wifey B: Seems scary doesn't it. Yet, most of us have faced many storms in cars including some horrific hail storms even. Is it all that different? Let's think.

Lightning is really super bad scary and yet I have no good solution. There are all sorts of things available to reduce the risk on a boat, but most of it just protects your electronics and stuff, not so much you. You can create Faraday's Cage but it's not a perfect solution.

So, here's what we do. Park if possible. If you have time to pull to the side in an anchorage or decently protected area do so. Marina if one close. Otherwise we'd just sort of hold position as much as possible, continuing slowly using instruments. Now, Down and In becomes important. Lightning is more likely to strike higher so not on the bridge and inside the salon. You can lower antenna's and other items, but mostly get away from them.

Hands off electronics if possible. Don't use VHF unless emergency while lightning around. Be aware that one in 1000 boats get struck each year. Be aware that it can knock any and everything out including all electronics, your engines, whatever. Best to have some handhelds stored away so you can still communicate if all is fried. You could be stranded right where you are.

Continue to check all equipment carefully even if no apparent damage. It might not show up for days. Lightning is insidious.

If everything on your boat gets destroyed and you and guests are alive and well, don't get ripped apart by your bad luck, celebrate your good luck. The boat can be fixed.

Scariest lightning storm we were ever caught in, we were a couple of hundred miles offshore. We proceeded very slowly, hands off, on autopilot, looking at radar but not touching anything. And we just locked down inside. Also, kept eye on alarms and cameras. It felt like we ran and hid but there was just nowhere further to run to, sort of helpless feeling, but it passed soon and we all hugged and got out the ice cream.
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Old 07-26-2017, 11:06 AM   #3
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Yeah I'm not so much worried about the boats electronics as I am our safety. So I guess I would just send my wife and daughter inside and I would just stay on the bridge and hope for the best (if I absolutely can't find a place to anchor).

I know airplanes get hit all the time and obviouly the people inside are just fine. Same with cars. I just wasn't sure if the same was true for boats.

I've heard don't touch the steering wheel. The electricity can travel through the water, up the rudders, through the cables and into the wheel. Any truith to that? Sounds plausable.
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Old 07-26-2017, 11:15 AM   #4
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Yeah I'm not so much worried about the boats electronics as I am our safety. So I guess I would just send my wife and daughter inside and I would just stay on the bridge and hope for the best (if I absolutely can't find a place to anchor).

I know airplanes get hit all the time and obviouly the people inside are just fine. Same with cars. I just wasn't sure if the same was true for boats.

I've heard don't touch the steering wheel. The electricity can travel through the water, up the rudders, through the cables and into the wheel. Any truith to that? Sounds plausable.
Wifey B: Best not touch or wear insulating gloves. Autopilot if possible.

It's like the one thing I don't use at home in a storm is my music keyboard. They get zapped a lot. Don't want my fingers on it when that happens.
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Old 07-26-2017, 12:27 PM   #5
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No autopilot. Well thanks for the info. We'll just do our best to avoid the big storms.
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Old 07-26-2017, 12:44 PM   #6
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Its never a bad idea to put life jackets on or get them within arms reach just in case the worst should happen and the need to abandon ship occurs. Not saying that going overboard in a storm is a good idea but if something happens and the boat is no longer a safe option best to have them ready.
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Old 07-26-2017, 12:48 PM   #7
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I travel the ICW with tonado watches all day. No big deal...watch a weather radar app.

If you are on a boat anyplace, the risks are about the same.

Being at the dock isnt any safer than underway if you can stay in the channel/deep water in a blinding downpour.

You are more likely to doe a 100 other ways than lightening. Stop worrying, just use your head.
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Old 07-26-2017, 01:44 PM   #8
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You usually have a bit of notice for a squall or micro-burst when coastal cruising. Weather services see these things forming a while before they hit. Maybe not hours, but at least 30 - 60 minutes. If it's bad enough, you may hear a securite on channel 16. Wx channels will definitely broadcast it. Monitor weather apps as well.

If I were on the ICW, I would consider an anchorage. The issue is going to be visibility due to heavy rain on the ICW. On open water it will be waves and wind. If we're in open water when these things hit, we just keep going.

I don't worry about lightening. Strikes are rare and you are limited in what you can do to control or them.
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Old 07-26-2017, 02:18 PM   #9
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I liked psneeld advise, the weather app will give you live tracking of storms, even the pop-up variety. Also we have found you can typically find a spot before it hits to tie up for a short time, never had a marina or yacht club throw us off. I even tied to a navigation pole once, I know I know you are not supposed to, intense storm lasted all of 15 minutes and we dropped off. Unless you have your anchoring down and know its capabilities I would make that a last resort (for now). Weather is a very big part of boating, just have to learn to live with it and not be overly paranoid.
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Old 07-26-2017, 02:19 PM   #10
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The odds of you being struck and killed by lightning are very low. 51 deaths per year in the US.

However, property isn't something to ignore, just not something we can do much about.

The odds of your boat being struck by lightning in a year. 1.2 in 1000.

Strike rate in FL. 3.3 in 1000

Second most likely area is the Chesapeake Bay.

The majority of strikes are on sailboats at 4 per 1000.

Powerboats as a whole are 5 per 10,000

Trawlers are 2 per 1000

Here is a good 2010 article from Boat US talking about lightning claims.

Your Boat's Been Hit By Lightning - Now What? - Seaworthy - BoatUS

I don't live in fear of lightning, but I don't stand next to a tall tree during a lightning storm. I'm also aware of the possibility of the boat being struck. I do get a bit uneasy when lightning strikes the water just a short distance in front of us.
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Old 07-26-2017, 03:00 PM   #11
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It worries me that you post " Throw the anchor and shut the boat down? If we throw the anchor, I'd worry about it not holding and also we'd be blocking the ICW. That doesn't sound like an option."

This indicates to me that you have no idea of how to anchor a boat and that's pretty scary in itself.

You are correct that blocking the ICW (or any channel) is a very bad idea. Other boats may not stop and commercial traffic (tugs and barges) will not stop. What happens when a tug and barge comes up on you and they can't stop and you can't move? It won't be pretty. If you can get to a safe anchorage, do so, otherwise keep moving.

If you have a lower helm, that's where you need to go if it begins to rain. That or have a good rain suit and goggles. Turn on your navigation (running) lights, not your anchor light. Slow down to the point where you can see where you're going and can stop or change course to avoid other boats or obstacles such as floating debris or navigational aides. Have the rest of the crew or passengers watch for danger also.

You really should learn how to anchor your boat in a way that it will still be in the same place the next day. I'm not going to try to explain this in a forum post but there are books or chapters of books on the subject and you should study them and practice.

As for PFDs, it's not a bad idea to put them on but never in an enclosed cabin. A PFD can make it difficult or impossible to get out of the enclosed cabin once it begins to flood. You will float to the top and may not be able to get to an opening. Do have them handy and ready to put on though.
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Old 07-26-2017, 05:59 PM   #12
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I had a commercial fishing boat with a tall mast - properly configured for lightning. In a West Coast river I had a big storm pass over. Strikes within 1/4 mile were happening all around but never the boat or water. I lost count at 40 because they came faster than I could count. The ground must have been a better attraction.
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Old 07-26-2017, 08:02 PM   #13
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Hover near a sailboat.
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Old 07-26-2017, 08:32 PM   #14
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Hover near a sailboat.
Best comment of the night!
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Old 07-27-2017, 12:19 PM   #15
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I have been anchored during many thunder storms.
I ALWAYS fire up the engine and man the helm so I can go in and out of gear to help hold my position should the wind get strong.
The times I have been underway when hit by a storm I simply slow down. At 6.5 knots I am not outrunning anything.
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Old 07-27-2017, 12:59 PM   #16
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I'd suggest there's more risk to passengers from collision or grounding due to high winds/reduced visibility in a local storm. That's something you have some control over as others have mentioned.

I worked out of a large sailboat service yard in the Midwest for a few years. We would regularly see boats that had been hit by lightning, but damage was almost always restricted to electronics and sometimes wiring. I don't recall ever hearing about personal injury associated with the strikes. Only saw one boat sink due to lightning, and that was an old wooden boat that sank at the mooring when some of the fasteners were blown out.

I've been terrified when offshore in lightning, but statistically I don't think the dangers of a strike are all that high.
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Old 07-28-2017, 07:15 AM   #17
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During lightening storms take your handhelds (Radio, GPS) and pit them in your oven. If you do get hit the RF field that destroys electronics will be blocked by the metal shield of the oven. Or microwave.
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