Lightning Bolt Protection


Generally you don't get a lightning bolt out of the blue, although it does happen. You can improve your safety by doing some basics. Always keep a weather eye, as conditions can change quickly. Depending on the type of boating you do, it is many cases safer to head home rather than tough out a passing squall or thunderstorm. Lightning is not always predictable and certainly what it will strike is not. Always choose to stay safe when out on the water.

Lightning Bolt and Personal Safety

In an electrical storm, the following precautions should be taken to avoid any shock or something more serious:

1. Stay below decks at all times.

2. Stay well away from mast, boom shrouds, chain plates and the mast compression post or mast if below deck.

3. Take a position and plot it prior to shutting down, or in case of all electronics equipment being blown.

4. Turn off all electronic gear and isolate circuit breakers if at all practicable. Disconnect aerials also if practicable.

5. Do not operate radios until after the storm unless in an extreme emergency.

6. After a lightning strike, be aware that the compass may be incorrect.

7. Check all running rigging and fittings after a lightning strike as damage can occur that may seriously affect vessel capacity to sail. Protect yourself against a lightning bolt!

8. Check all through hull fittings for damage, if you have decided to risk bonding them. Usually if they are damaged or gone, you will see water over the cabin sole.

It is hoped that this offers some way through the ranges of conflicting information, and it is better to at least implement some of the basic recommendations than do nothing.

As summer comes to an end there will be the usual reports of lightning-bolt, strikes and damages, many will criticize various rules and recommendations, and in many cases the measures used will be either partial or badly installed to some degree.

One should not be deterred or put off by these reports. Hopefully readers had an enjoyable and not too traumatic time.


The National Weather Service (NWS) provides a continuously and updated weather forecast for Florida and adjacent coastline on VHF/FM channels WX1 (162.550 MHz), WX2 (162.400 MHz), WX3 (162.475 MHz).

Do you want more lightning sailboat protection and related boat electrical systems, such as corrosion? This article was extracted from The Marine Electrical & Electronics Bible and this is available through West Marine and Protect yourself against a lightning bolt!