Lightning Reflection

We have been lucky so far, and, in a way, lucky now. This is our first close-strike that resulted in equipment loss on Tahina. We did have a near-hit once in our previous boat that caused one instrument to be replaced under warranty. When you consider we live on the sea, and have had many thunderstorms cross over our boat, and we have a big metal stick (our mast) poking 72 feet in the air, and we have had the boat for 5 years and travelled about 30,000 miles – we have been lucky. We are thankful we have gone so long without a strike. And, we are thankful more damage wasn’t done than we have. We have heard of boats taking direct hits losing ALL electronics, including laptops, cell phones, and more. Assuming a complete loss of the items we have problems with now, the price is going to be pretty high. We hope it doesn’t get higher as we do more testing. But, I see this as an opportunity to replace some of the instruments with some upgraded equipment as well.

In the two+ days since it happened, we have learned a lot about the value of the lost equipment. Not having the auto-pilot means we constantly have to be at the helm (one or the other of us). This is a lot more work than you realize until you lose your autopilot. The value of the chart plotter – with its ability to show the charts, the radar, the AIS, and the sonar, route data, wind trend data, speed data, current calculations, etc. – is a real blow. We didn’t really understand how easy all this data makes our sailing, and our selection of anchorages. The sonar is so useful for making sure the hook is dropped in a safe spot without any coral or junk on the sea floor.

The anchor windlass is definitely messed up. Not only does the down function randomly initiate (I disconnected the button, so it’s in the controller), but when retrieving (up) it runs at a higher speed than normal. It took quite a bit of effort to properly lower anchor last night using the manual process. And retrieving it was very worrisome today and took multiple tries before we got it. We had to turn on and off the power several times before we got it properly raised, and resorted to manual operation part of the time. Not fun, and potentially hazardous.

So far we haven’t missed the generator (due to the inverter being out of commission) because we have been running the engines a lot. But, that will really be felt when we enter the marina and have to run the motors without a load every few days (since the inverter is necessary for the shore power to be used). This is why the inverter will be high on the priority to be fixed first. The windlass will probably be number 2 on the list since we can’t risk going anchoring in its current state.

Lightning does’t strike very often. When it does it is likely to be costly. The weather is a factor when sailing. Lightning is a very low probability. It’s always a concern, but only rarely causes damage. There’s not a lot you can do about it except deal with it when it happens and move on.

We are almost around Singapore on our way to the Puteri Harbour Marina. By Monday, we will be working hard on starting to identify and replace or fix burned out equipment. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take too long to get the primary systems working.

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3 Responses to Lightning Reflection

  1. Hugh Moore says:

    Frank,
    Sorry about all the troubles with the lightening strike. It’s amazing how many people we hear about that have it happen though; we are, after all, just big metal poles in the air waiting to complete the electrical circuit. Love reading the descriptions of the issues on the blog. I always think after engine and alternator our biggest necessity is the windlass. Next is probably the Auto-Pilot. Good luck with everything – hopefully you’ll be in great shape soon.

  2. Anderson says:

    How did the lithium battery bank take the near strike – any observations or thoughts about this?

    • Frank Taylor says:

      The lithium main battery bank has worked like a champ after the strike. Despite the engine battery that was cooked – literally almost at boiling temperature – the main bank was at only slightly warmer temperature (the engine battery was next to it, so that makes sense). I’m still very happy with the new lithium batteries.

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