Are Aluminum Boats Safe In Lightning?


Are Aluminum Boats Safe In Lightning?

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If you live in an area where you get a lot of storms you have probably been caught in one or almost caught in one a few times. If you have an aluminum boat you may have heard that it is safer but wondered if that is true. 

First of all, being on the water in any boat is not at all safe during any storm that has lightning. You should try every means possible to avoid being in a lightning storm including not even stepping out of your house if such lightning storms are predicted or are in the area.

Although the chance of being hit by lightning is around 1 in a thousand that goes up when you are on the water and lightning is very unpredictable. One can only mitigate the damage as there is nothing that they can do to prevent it from happening.

Now, we are coming to the point of this article. 

The aluminum alloys boats are very much safer in the case of lightning as compared to other boats. This is because once the lightning finds your boat, the metal boat provides a very good conductor’s role so as to turn the lightning strike to go to the ground thereby reducing the risk of a person on the boat being struck by the lightning.

Additionally, the aluminum metal boats with some sort of T-tops, Hardtops, etc. tend to be even safer than other ones. This is because those types of boats ensure that the current after the lightning strike is made to follow the metal halo until it is grounded and hence keeps the current from reaching the people on board.

All in all, it is still not safe to be out there on a cruise during a lightning storm but, if in any such case of that uncertain event, you are much safer in an aluminum boat than in other types. 

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Now that the answer to the question is addressed, it is time to move onto some other common questions and queries that people tend to ask about lightning and lightning storms. 

Below we will answer some common queries and frequently asked questions that have been asked by people who are facing the same questions about boats and lightning. 

Are boats grounded from lightning?

Metal boats made of aluminum and steel tend to have an automatic grounding set up in their metallic hulls. This causes the current from a lightning strike to go to ground and thereby reduces the risk for people on board.

However, in case of small boats such as those made of fiberglass or wood, the lightning is prevented from getting diverted to go to ground and thereby creates a chance for the current to flow into the electric lines of the boat and then to the very electric system of the boat and finally to the operator! 

So, these fiberglass boats or boats made from wood tend to pose a grounding problem and are less safe during lightning. 

How do you protect a boat from lightning?

Well, it is a fact that you can neither predict when and where lightning is going to strike nor can you prevent it from happening. Moreover, there is no protection from lightning when aboard a boat. However, the only area one can control is to avoid the effect of the damage i.e. you can influence the lightning strike to cause minimum damage to the boat.

How you might ask? 

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One possible way is to divert the strike of the lightning by having some likely targets onboard such as T-tops, small towers, antennas, or other such elevated electrically conducting surfaces. These act as the highest points on your boat and hence are more likely to get hit by lightning.

Make sure there is a low-resistance path between the highest point of the strike and the metal grounding plate that is in contact with the water. The lightning, when it strikes, should flow through this path so as to finally get grounded. In this way, one can divert the current from flowing into the electric lines of the boat and hence help ensure the safety of passengers and other equipment on board.

What are some safety tips to consider in case of a lightning storm?

  • Try to lower down the riggers and the antennas.
  • Disconnect all of the power supplies and connection cables (both antenna connections and other inter-connections) that are plugged-in with electric gears and the electronic systems of the boat.
  • Do not touch two different metals at the same time because you may become a conductor yourself if in contact with two different metals. These metals may include the railings, helms, engine controls, etc.
  • Try to be as far away as possible from the lightning protection system and the mast.
  • Be seated with your legs up to minimize the frontal surface area and thereby minimizing the risk of being a conductor for a side flash.
  • If wet, try to dry off and change into dry clothes as soon as possible.

These are some tips that one can consider when stuck in a lightning storm. The best tip, however, remains the same – Try avoiding a cruise or ride when there are hints of a lightning storm anywhere around you! 

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What type of damage do boats suffer due to lightning?

Lightning strikes can blow through the metallic hulls right out of the boat and those would be pretty devastating. More commonly though, the lightning passes through the fittings of the metals and totally damages the surrounding fiberglass if any. If such a case is severe enough, the boat is likely to even sink into the water entirely! 

Sometimes, the lightning even finds itself electrocuting the jack stands and chains to such an extent that it leaves proper visible traces of its hit across the hull. 

However, more often than not, it has been noticed that major claims of damage due to lightning strikes have been to the electronic systems of the boats. Often the entire electrical system as well as all the expensive devices connected to it will be destroyed. 

All in all, the damage to a boat be it a fiberglass boat, a metallic boat, etc. will be very drastic and if you aren’t careful your boat could even end up at the bottom of the waterway! So, it is better to avoid having to cruise while there are even hints and predictions of lightning storms anywhere in the area. 

Conclusion

That pretty much sums up the addressing of answers to some common questions and queries that people, in general, tend to ask or look for regarding the effects of lightning on boats. 

Hopefully this article has been helpful to you in staying safe while you are on the water with your boat. 

If you only remember one thing from this entire article make it this, always make sure there aren’t predictions or hints of a lightning storm every single time that you take your boat out on the water. 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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