How do I protect my boat from lightning?


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lightning-boatDuring thunderstorms at sea, at anchor or at the dock, lightning, as the side photo shows, is always lurking. Cases of moored boat fires are not uncommon, which, while at first glance may seem “mysterious,” are later found to be caused by lightning. Given the frequency and intensity of weather phenomena, it is good to say a few words about the boat’s lightning protection systems, whose damages are often not covered by insurance companies. Not many shipyards producing recreational boats take the problem into consideration (on ships, protection systems are mandatory according to specific regulations, but they are not always properly implemented): sit will be up to you to intervene with a series of small measures to increase the safety of both the boat and the crew, as well as the facilities.

A nice article on the subject appeared in Liguria Nautica, which contacted on-board electronics expert Daniele Menegatti: “Lightning strikes,” Menegatti began, “discharge enormous energies to the ground; they are capable of causing induction surges in power lines tens of meters from their epicenter. You can set up an effective grounding system by placing the catcher at the highest point of the yacht (possibly in the center to have an adequate cone of coverage), connected to a solid copper plate (non-porous) outside the hull below the waterline, with a 30-mm conductor cable wired as vertically as possible. It is also advisable to connect pulpits to the above plate.

In sailboats (with an aluminum mast), the captator will have to be placed at the masthead, complete with an electrical connection to the bulb. If the mast is carbon, it is necessary to wire a conductor inside the mast from the captator to the bulb because of the uneven conductivity of carbon. Also arrange for overvoltage circuit breakers on power lines (SPDs) and protective fuses on battery banks. Even with adequate protections in place, if lightning strikes the vessel directly, it is difficult to save electronic equipment; in this case you can extend the application of a surge arrester (with discharge to ground) near the electrical power connection of the instruments to be protected. There are specific products for antenna coaxials as well.”






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