Lightning strike

Three people a year die from being struck by lightning in the UK. For the USA the figure is about one hundred. In fact, globally, you have about a one in ten million chance of dying from being struck by lightning. These figures aren’t very impressive when compared to all the other ways you could die, in fact you’re just as likely to die from being hit by a part falling off a plane as you are from being hit by lightning. You can significantly increase your odds of being struck if you live in a hot climate and go boating, but it’s still very unlikely compared to, say, being hit by a rickshaw.

So I suppose I can be considered pretty unlucky to have suffered a direct hit from a lightning bolt whilst on passage on my 42′ sloop Butterfly, even if no one was killed in the event.

All the electronics were fried and the alternator controller burst into flames, starting an engine room fire. Putting out the fire covered the boat’s interior in extinguisher powder.

Taking stock of the damage we were pleased to find nothing of a structural nature; through-hulls intact, wooden masts still in one piece, rigging and chainplates all OK. It was just the electronics that we’d lost. We found a few small bits of the masthead instruments scattered on deck. Everything atop the mast had been blown off.

At the time we were on the Alligator River heading north to Chesapeake Bay via the US east coast Intracoastal Waterway and there wasn’t much around in the way of boat repair facilities. I managed to buy a fishfinder at a small tackle store and with the transducer strapped to a broom handle we were able to make it the hundred or so miles to our destination without running aground.

I don’t like being aboard in thunderstorms, even if the odds of dying from a strike are pretty slim.