Monday, May 11, 2015

Voodoo Child's Lightning Strike

I'm curious as to what, if anything, other owners are doing for lightning protection. Voodoo Child was struck a few weeks ago while on the hard and suffered major electrical and electronics damage all of which had just been installed during a 2-1/2yr refit that was nearing completion. It took out brand new electric winches, bow thruster, windlass, main and secondary distribution panels, autopilot, radar, chart plotter, battery chargers, vhf and antenna, all LED interior lighting, voltage regulator, Duocharge, digital air conditioner controller, high water alarms, anchor chain counter, tachometer, spreader lights, cockpit lights, nmea 2000 network, wind, speed and depth instruments and both bow and stern AGM battery banks. It also scorched the jib sail where it was in contact with the roller furling. Unbelievably, there was no structural damage and the mast and rigging checked out ok after it was removed for inspection.

It got me thinking about what might have happened if I had been aboard and out cruising. No batteries to start the engine, no electrical, no navigation electronics or vhf, a compass with possibly a huge unknown magnetic variation, possible life threatening injuries or worse. And, theoretically, the possibility of a rapidly sinking vessel due to blown out thru hulls and failed bilge pumps. Pretty scary scenario.
Has anyone installed and wired lightning ground plates under the hull and if so what dimensions and how were they wired?  What about grounding the chain plates?

One thing that has always worried me on the Lord Nelson is the rosewood compression post. If the aluminum mast passed all the way through the cabin to the keel there would be little resistance and therefore less heat generated by a lightning strike. But with a wood post with small wires passing through it, my fear was that enough heat would be generated to explode the compression post and bring down the rig. Fortunately that did not happen and there are no signs (or smell) of any wood compression post damage on Voodoo Child. My chain plates are not grounded and I know a lot of the charge went down the forestay.

Any thoughts on this topic would be helpful.

Thanks, Tom
Voodoo Child 41LN23

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