The mere thought of a lavish yacht being struck by a devastating bolt of lightning is horrifying, but what would actually happen?
When a yacht is struck by lightning, it can cause a whole host of damage, ranging from blown fuses and fried electrical systems to fires and personal injury. If the yacht isn’t grounded effectively, the damage will be much worse.
Read on to learn more about the potential damage lightning can cause to an ocean-borne yacht or boat.
The Power Of Lightning
It’s likely that almost everyone on Earth knows what lightning is, just as much as they know what the sun is. While you might not live in an area subject to lightning, it’s a common enough occurrence for it to become general knowledge.
Put simply, it’s a huge bolt of electricity that surges from the sky and strikes the ground. However, the scientific explanation goes a little further and offers a little more depth.
Lightning is an enormous electrostatic discharge that occurs naturally when more than one electrically charged region ‘equalizes’. This is essentially an overcharge, and it results in the sudden and unexpected release of intense amounts of energy.
Now, that will obviously lead to a potentially fatal incident wherever the strike lands. Globally, almost a quarter of a million incidents are recorded every year featuring lightning strikes in some capacity.
It’s estimated that around two thousand people every year are killed by lightning strikes. When it comes to the ocean, there’s reportedly a one in one thousand chance that your vessel will be struck by lightning.
Ground Your Yacht… On Water
So, if you’re out on the open sea in a multimillion-dollar superyacht, how do you prevent damage occurring from a lightning strike? In the first instance, it’s advised to never get yourself into a situation where lightning could strike your boat.
At sea, you have the fortunate ability to see extremely far ahead, right out to the horizon. It’s estimated that at the average human height, you can see as far as three miles out across the open ocean.
The biggest yachts are considerably higher, offering a further line of sight across the sea. If you see flashes on the horizon, you know there’s some dangerous weather ahead, and you can avoid it accordingly.
However, if you were to sail into some untimely weather, you’ll increase the risk of a lightning strike hitting your vessel exponentially. If you are hit, the lightning will tend to strike the tallest part of the yacht, usually a mast or aerial array.
If your yacht is effectively grounded, the power should dissipate or wind down into the ocean. Although, this is still likely to cause untold damage to the vessel and will certainly fry electrical systems and maybe even start a fire.
There are provisions you can put in place that ensure the electrical charge finds its way to the water as soon as possible. This is because the energy needs to ‘go to ground’ and will take the path of least resistance to do so.
Therefore, the fewer things it can pass through, the better. There’s almost no way to avoid some damage to your yacht, which is why the initial advice is to stay out of bad weather, full stop.
Owing to the high probability of lightning striking a yacht and the considerable number of vessels in the world, it’s no surprise these incidents do occur. There have been countless examples of lightning damaging yachts, and even causing fatalities on board.
In 2019, a yacht was moored in a harbor in Boston when it was struck by a violent bolt of lighting that sent sparks flying. An article in the Boston Globe included a short video, in which you can see a huge eruption strike the mast, but the yacht mostly remains unperturbed.
However, it isn’t always fortunate circumstances like this, as in 2012 a nine-year-old boy was tragically killed and seven others injured in a strike. They were on a large sailing boat when lightning struck, reportedly throwing the boy overboard.
In response to the incident, sail-world.com posted an expansive article offering all manner of advice for sailing in a storm.
If you’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on a yacht, it’s almost definitely going to come equipped with weather monitoring equipment. If you pair that with an experienced skipper, you should certainly be able to avoid any danger.