Chapter 1: The Event

What got us off our duffs and got this started? A single bolt of lightening.

We had talked about moving the boat to the coast for years. There was always a reason not to: too busy, this event or that, it will be easier next year….. blah, blah, blah.  All that changed on Friday, April 29th.

I had been on the boat the weekend before. The weather was nice. I spent most of the evening in the cockpit reading a book under the light of an old railroad lantern. That next friday, though, I unlocked the companionway, slid back the latch and stepped below into what appeared to be the results of a violent act of vandalism. There were plastic shards everywhere. The faceplate to the stereo was on the far setee. Then, I saw the breaker panel.

The breaker panel was pulled off the bulkhead. Wires were everywhere. I stood there both pissed and puzzled. My first thought was “why would someone do this to our boat?” but my second thought immediately was “and why would they carefully lock the boat back up?”.  Then, I looked up.

The wires from our mast come down through a sleeve under the mast and next to the compression post. There the access panel to that wiring used to be were charred remains of cabling. The stainless steel compression post was a mix of blue and purple. The cover? Black.

After a few hours of surveying, it became clear that the boat had taken a lightening strike. Boat neighbors said they heard a deafening clamp of thunder at 2am the morning before. That was the hit.

Lightening had hit the VHF antenna on top of the mast. The VHF cable was the largest, and easiest conduit for all that energy, so the bolt followed that cable down the mast and to the compression post. When the cable took a 90 degree turn, the cover was the victim. Next, the bolt followed the VHF cable to the breaker panel. It jumped to the galvanic isolator which literally blew up. This blew the breaker panel off the bulkhead.

After taking out everything in the panel, the bolt continued along the 110v cable to the back of the boat, out the back – severing the shore power cord – and then to the dock breaker box, which was destroyed.

On the boat, everything 12v was destroyed. Lights and gauges vaporized. Everything 110v still existed, but didn’t work. So, the cleanup and phone calls began….

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