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 can not find lightning - ground cable
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bmwtourer
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Initially Posted - 01/10/2021 :  18:57:16  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I replaced all my bulkheads on my 1977 catalina 25 SK hull #161.

I have read that some have a ground cable below mast, I did not find one... Am i the only one? should I add one?

Thank you
Serge

Serge Pelletier
#161 1977 Catalina 25 swing keel
Serenity

Edited by - bmwtourer on 01/10/2021 19:16:45

Steve Milby
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Response Posted - 01/10/2021 :  19:51:50  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
C25s came without a lightning ground cable. In my lifetime it was uncommon for boat builders to install lightning grounding on new sailboats. A very few owners added one.

There was once extensive discussion of the subject here, but not much recently. The general thrust was, do it right or don't do it at all. That means tie all your stanchion bases, chainplates and other deck hardware to the ground cable. If you just ground the mast, it will attract lightning and increase the likelihood of a strike, but it might strike your lifelines or something else that's unprotected.

I've known of a very few lightning strikes, but never heard of any person being hurt by one, although there are probably rare exceptions. I've lived and slept aboard all summer for about 17 years and raced through thunderstorms and never been struck. YMMV Lightning doesn't seek you out. It isn't attracted to living tissue. It's attracted to a ground, so, when lightning is around, stay as far from a ground as possible. Avoid touching spars, chainplates and lifelines that might offer a path to ground.

If I ever get a strike, I trust that insurance will cover my damages. I think the number of people who install ground cables is very small.

Steve Milby C&C 35 Landfall ("Captiva Wind"); Cal 25 ("Fahrvergnügen")
Past Commodore

Edited by - Steve Milby on 01/11/2021 07:49:49
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islander
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Response Posted - 01/11/2021 :  08:03:01  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Look at it this way, Your boat is a 1977 that is 44yrs old. Now exactly how many times has it been struck by lightning?

Scott-"IMPULSE"87'C25/SR/WK/Din.#5688
Sailing out of Glen Cove,L.I Sound


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Stinkpotter
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Djibouti
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Response Posted - 01/11/2021 :  21:30:42  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Friends with a C-30 on a mooring were aware that lighting struck the water very close to their boat--but not the boat. They weren't there, but were aware because their electronics were totally fried by the magnetic pulse, and somebody else saw it happen. Their mast was not grounded.

I'm convinced boat builders don't include lightning protection because (1) there's little agreement on how to do it in a way that doesn't add to rather than detract from the risks, and (2) because if they did and it didn't "work" as advertised, they would be sued for the damages (and possibly injuries). Owners are left to their own opinion sources and decisions.

Anecdotes are not statistics, but it seems the overwhelming majority of the injuries and deaths in boats from lightning are people in small powerboats, where they are little lightning rods with their feet within inches of the water. And in my 76 years (68 sailing) I've never known a sailor whose boat was struck.

Edit: Knocking on some wood!

Dave Bristle
Association "Port Captain" for Mystic, CT
PO of 1985 C-25 SR/FK #5032 Passage, ex-USCG-OUPV
Now on Eastern 27 Sarge (but still sailing when I can).

Passage, Mystic, and Sarge--click to enlarge.

Edited by - Stinkpotter on 01/11/2021 21:56:10
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Derek Crawford
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Response Posted - 01/12/2021 :  07:42:17  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We have had at least 3 sailboats struck by lightning on different occasions on Canyon Lake in the 25 years I was sailing there.

Derek Crawford
Chief Measurer C25-250 2008
Previous owner of "This Side UP"
1981 C-25 TR/FK #2262 Used to have an '89 C22 #9483, "Downsized"
San Antonio, Texas
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Voyager
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Response Posted - 01/12/2021 :  14:46:40  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You can watch the YouTube videos of sailboat strikes. They’re generally horrific.
If your boat ha a direct hit, lightning can blow a hole in the hull and sink your boat. Even properly grounding the boat with #4 wire and a 2sq ft discharge plate is no guarantee.
Many electronics failures aboard sailboats are due to near misses, when a full strike happens nearby and raises the electric field around the boat. The flash and the boom are also likely to scare the crap out of any nearby captains.

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain — Milford, CT
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Steve Milby
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Response Posted - 01/12/2021 :  17:05:50  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
During the 20+ years that I sailed at Brookville Lake in southern Indiana, 2 sailboats were struck by lightning, both while unoccupied. One had pinholes burned in its hull and the other had a transducer blown out. The latter boat sank but was re-floated. Both were repaired and had no visible signs of damage.

During my nearly 20 years on the Chesapeake Bay, I believe one sailboat was struck in my marina while it was on the hard, but it happened during the winter, while I was home in Ohio. 2 or 3 strikes hit very close to me while I was on my boat, but I believe they struck a tree or the ground. I saw no damage to boats or buildings. They do indeed get your attention when they strike nearby.

I agree with Dave that liability is probably the main reason why boat builders don't install grounding cables. If you buy a new boat with lightning protection, you expect to be safe from lightning strikes, but lightning is, at best, very unpredictable. No system can make you completely safe from a lightning strike. If the boat is struck and damaged or if someone is hurt, the manufacturer can expect to be sued upon a claim that the lightning system was poorly designed or installed. If you buy a boat, knowing that it has no lightning protection, and if no industry safety standards require builders to install lightning protection, then you have no right to a legal remedy if struck by lightning.

Grounding the boat properly is a big job, but it's a personal choice.

When lightning is near, most sailors go ashore until it passes, if possible. If you're transient, you just sail on and stay away from the rigging. Even without a grounding system, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Steve Milby C&C 35 Landfall ("Captiva Wind"); Cal 25 ("Fahrvergnügen")
Past Commodore
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Stinkpotter
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Djibouti
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Response Posted - 01/13/2021 :  21:36:21  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
"Unpredictable" is the word of the subject... Anyone who has been within 50 yards or so of a lightning strike has felt the almost unfathomable power. The idea that a copper cable from the mast base and wires from the shroud chainplates could handle that seems almost naïve to me... Lightning exceeds most or our conceptual powers and logical engineering skills.

From cases I've heard over the years (including here), I'm suspicious that a sailboat in fresh water is more at risk to a strike than one in saltwater. Lightning seeks the path of least resistance to ground, and salt water is a much better conductor to ground than fresh water. So lightning might be less attracted to the boat that actually puts a fiberglass-insulated "dent" in the salt water, and to go directly to the water nearby. In fresh water, the attraction perhaps is more toward the mast, which is a better conductor than the air around it--especially if there isn't heavy rain (which is often the case with lightning at the front edge of a squall where the turbulence is generating the charge. But who knows--"unpredictable" is the word!

A sailor on a lake where a squall is forecast or visible should make tracks for home port. A sailor far off-shore on the ocean in the same situation, with no place to hide as friends of min have been, can consider heaving to and staying away from the mast and rig--they likely have a lesser chance of being struck than a golfer on the course or a fisherman on a lake.

Dave Bristle
Association "Port Captain" for Mystic, CT
PO of 1985 C-25 SR/FK #5032 Passage, ex-USCG-OUPV
Now on Eastern 27 Sarge (but still sailing when I can).

Passage, Mystic, and Sarge--click to enlarge.

Edited by - Stinkpotter on 01/13/2021 21:52:13
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islander
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Response Posted - 01/14/2021 :  12:35:21  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I always thought that by installing a lightning system you are attracting a lightning strike by providing the lightning exactly what it's looking for, a clear path to ground. I also think you would need some monster size wire to handle the power of the lightning without it heating up and catching fire. I have no proof or data to back this up, Just my thoughts. I've been out on the water in thunderstorms many times and I don't like it. Lightning system or not my butt and feet are sloshing around in rain water and I'm sure that isn't good.

Scott-"IMPULSE"87'C25/SR/WK/Din.#5688
Sailing out of Glen Cove,L.I Sound



Edited by - islander on 01/14/2021 12:38:34
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bmwtourer
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Response Posted - 01/14/2021 :  13:24:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Actually the more I look at this, it would be a question for the mythbusters team!

Serge Pelletier
#161 1977 Catalina 25 swing keel
Serenity
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GaryB
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Response Posted - 01/14/2021 :  22:45:46  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Look into the Forespar Lightning Master Static Dissipater. Relatively low cost alternative to a lightning protection system.


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GaryB
Andiamo
'89 SR/WK #5862
Kemah,TX

Edited by - GaryB on 01/14/2021 22:51:23
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Voyager
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Response Posted - 01/15/2021 :  11:27:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I found this article last year and it always reminds me about how to be safe if lightning happens: DON’T GO FISHING!

https://www.weather.gov/media/safety/Analysis06-19.pdf

The article talks about lightning fatalities in the past 15 years and points out that men are much more likely to be killed than women. Fishing is the most dangerous activity, but beach-going and soccer are behind that. Golf ranks pretty low.

Now I don’t know whether fishing means fishing from the bank or fishing from a boat. As Dave pointed out above, powerboaters are hit often.

Friday Saturday and Sunday are the most dangerous days. Lots to digest.

A recent finding is that during 2020, lightning deaths were down. Could be that more people stayed inside because of COVID or that weather conditions were less conducive to the formation of lightning. NOAA/NWS has provided some evidence of the latter explanation.

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain — Milford, CT
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dmpilc
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Response Posted - 01/17/2021 :  15:18:00  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I know of one person in our club whose boat, an O'day 28, was hit by lightning. to be candid, I don't know if it was a direct hit or a nearby strike. He did have, at the time, the tallest mast at the marina. I also know he was not aboard at the time. It fried his electronics, and he said that it looked like someone peppered his keel with a shotgun.

DavidP
1975 C-22 SK #5459 "Shadowfax" Fleet 52
PO of 1984 C-25 SK/TR #4142 "Recess"
Percy Priest Yacht Club, Hamilton Creek Marina, Nashville, TN
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Stinkpotter
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Djibouti
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Response Posted - 01/18/2021 :  13:16:41  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have to wonder about Weather.com's stats:

More men than women--because more men are on boats and soccer fields?

More fishing than on beaches and playing sports--because it takes more time to get off the lake than off the field or beach?

Golf not very high on the list? I've seen statistics that suggest golf ranks at or near the top in terms of victims as a percentage of participants.

David's friend's fried electronics don't prove a direct strike, but the pocked keel is a sign. Sometimes it's like bird-shot through the hull. Weird stuff!


Dave Bristle
Association "Port Captain" for Mystic, CT
PO of 1985 C-25 SR/FK #5032 Passage, ex-USCG-OUPV
Now on Eastern 27 Sarge (but still sailing when I can).

Passage, Mystic, and Sarge--click to enlarge.
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Voyager
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Response Posted - 01/19/2021 :  07:36:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Dave, It was Weather.gov, NOAA,etc. Apparently they consulted death records to compile the stats.
I can understand why more men get hit. Women tend to not engage in solitary sports like fishing because of the dangers of being a lone woman.
The thing that struck me about the stats is that so few people get killed by lightning! When you think about other causes of death, your chances of being struck by lightning are on par with winning the lottery! Around nil to negligible.

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain — Milford, CT
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Stinkpotter
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Djibouti
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Response Posted - 01/19/2021 :  21:36:21  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Voyager

...The thing that struck me about the stats is that so few people get killed by lightning! When you think about other causes of death, your chances of being struck by lightning are on par with winning the lottery! Around nil to negligible.
Reminds me of an old saying about things that are highly unlikely to happen to you... I suspect fishing is more dangerous than sailing not just because of the number of participants, but because the fisherman is often the tallest conductor in the vessel, and pretty conductive (being composed mostly of salt water), while the much taller and even more conductive mast is the attractor on the sailboat.

Catalina 25s and 250 masts have the advantage of being stepped on the cabintop with (in the C-25) almost 6' of dry wood between its base and the bottom of the hull. However, a keel-stepped mast would seem to be better protection of occupants in a direct strike.

But who knows???

Dave Bristle
Association "Port Captain" for Mystic, CT
PO of 1985 C-25 SR/FK #5032 Passage, ex-USCG-OUPV
Now on Eastern 27 Sarge (but still sailing when I can).

Passage, Mystic, and Sarge--click to enlarge.

Edited by - Stinkpotter on 01/19/2021 21:51:13
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Leon Sisson
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Response Posted - 01/21/2021 :  08:33:11  Show Profile  Visit Leon Sisson's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I've had multiple sailboats struck by lightning, and multiple times for the Catalina 25.

International Lightning (19' wooden daysailor) wooden mast exploded at the masthead and spreaders, rained splinters all over the boat.  Arc burn marks on stainless steel hardware at masthead.  Chainplate screws blown out of the hull looked like bullet holes.

Two 22' fiberglass sailboats, one with factory installed grounding system.  Most obvious signs of lighting strikes were missing masthead light filaments and damaged windvanes.

On the Catalina 25 with homemade grounding system, missing anchor light filaments and vaporized windvane.  I mean, what looked like black spray paint on other masthead accessories from the direction of where the windvane had been.


— Leon Sisson
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Voyager
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Response Posted - 01/22/2021 :  06:47:25  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Wow Leon! That’s got to be like some kind of record. No less than 4 of your boats were struck by lightning? Well it must be true what they say: the Tampa - Orlando - Cocoa Beach region is the “Lightning Capital of the World”.

And like in the game or horseshoes and handgrenades, being close counts.

From your description, the International Lightning (no pun intended) sailboat must’ve suffered a pretty direct hit to turn the wooden mast into toothpicks. Your two 22 footers with factory-installed lightning abatement might have been hit by trailer currents or side-strikes, having not sustained much damage. The grounding system seems to have dissipated the damaging effects of lightning.

This nonetheless somewhat makes Scott’s point, a grounded mast appears to attract lightning (2X).

The C-25 story with a home built lightning ground is interesting as the only damage you reported was the loss of the windvane as well as the consequential damage to nearby components and the incandescent bulb in the masthead lights.

The ground wire and grounding plate were ok? What are they made of?

Could the moral of the story be if you live in a place where lightning strikes are common, give lightning a way to pass relatively harmlessly. If you live where lightning is more occasional, don’t tempt fate?

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain — Milford, CT
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Stinkpotter
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Djibouti
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Response Posted - 01/22/2021 :  09:28:37  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I think the most obvious lesson is don't take a slip near Leon's--or maybe it's that near Leon's is the safest place, because the lightning will choose his boat!

The Lightning (sailboat) has a keel-stepped mast as I recall, so the path is pretty direct (although wood isn't a good conductor but holds some moisture--therefore the explosions, and it sounds like the main path was the wire rigging past the spreader tips to the chainplates). If the others had grounding systems, that resurrects the debate of attraction vs. avoidance.

I've only had boats in Michigan and Connecticut--more lightning in Mich., but nothing like FL. I can't recall even knowing anyone whose boat took a direct strike, and I'm pretty old! (...but also old enough to be forgetting someone.) Again--knocking on some wood!

It is at least a bi-annual discussion here...

Dave Bristle
Association "Port Captain" for Mystic, CT
PO of 1985 C-25 SR/FK #5032 Passage, ex-USCG-OUPV
Now on Eastern 27 Sarge (but still sailing when I can).

Passage, Mystic, and Sarge--click to enlarge.

Edited by - Stinkpotter on 01/22/2021 09:36:10
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Steve Milby
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Response Posted - 01/22/2021 :  10:02:35  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
People often come here looking for an absolute right answer to a question, but this thread is proof that the best answer is whatever works for and is acceptable to you. Whether we're talking about lightning protection or types of winches or types of bottom paint or tall vs. standard rigs, they all have their positive and negative qualities (no pun intended), and usually it's more a matter of your preference and your assessment of your own needs than right or wrong. Each of us offers our opinions based on our own experiences.

Steve Milby C&C 35 Landfall ("Captiva Wind"); Cal 25 ("Fahrvergnügen")
Past Commodore
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islander
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Response Posted - 01/22/2021 :  11:05:23  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
I've had multiple sailboats struck by lightning, and multiple times for the Catalina 25.

That's shocking!

Scott-"IMPULSE"87'C25/SR/WK/Din.#5688
Sailing out of Glen Cove,L.I Sound


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Leon Sisson
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Response Posted - 01/22/2021 :  11:25:23  Show Profile  Visit Leon Sisson's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Re: "Lightning Capital of the World"

Exactly.  The Kennedy Space Center just up the road does a lot of lightning research because of that.

Re: "International Lightning must’ve suffered a pretty direct hit to turn the wooden mast into toothpicks."

Definitely a direct hit.  Arc burns to metal at masthead, and at gaps between sections of sail track, plus the blown out chainplate screws.  From a couple hundred feet away it was deafening.

Re: "Your two 22 footers with factory-installed lightning abatement..."

Only the Venture 22 had lighting protection, not the Catalina 22.  And to clarify about masthead bulbs, on the Venture incandescent missing entire filament and end terminals inside bulb.  On the Catalina 22, multi-LED bulb almost all LEDs dead, a few still glowed dimly.

Re: "The C-25... ground wire and grounding plate were ok? What are they made of?"

In the C25, I have a heavy gage boat cable (not sure the awg, about like a car battery cable) from mast step to keel bolts.  ("But Catalina swing keel bolts aren't exposed in the bilge!")  Mine are.  I added bronze bars with 1/2" bolts to backup the factory 3/8" SS bolts.  Those go through to the bilge.  The iron swing keel and everything attached to it are my grounding plate.

Re: "4 of your boats were struck...a grounded mast appears to attract lightning"

Two grounded, two not.  So I'd say my anecdotal experience is inconclusive.   There is no perfect protection from lightning on a boat.

Re: "...the best answer is whatever works for and is acceptable to you."

Yup, gather input from multiple creditable sources, work out your own solution.

— Leon Sisson
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bigelowp
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Response Posted - 01/22/2021 :  19:45:08  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I may be missing something here, or I live in a protected part of the world (weather wise at least) but I rarely fear lighting because I pay attention to weather reports and weather appearance. When a storm is forecast or approaching, I plan accordingly and make fast tracks to get home. If I sailed offshore I would think differently, very differently, but a C-25 is NOT an offshore boat.

That said, when I purchased my first sailboat, an Alberg Corinthian -- 19 feet long -- the previous owner was so proud that he had connected a heavy cable to the outer stay and could throw it in the water to be a "lightning rod". I asked if he ever sailed with lightning. He said "yes" I then asked if he ever used it and replied "no" but the wife feels comfortable with it.

I would not fret about it. Just listen to the weather and sail safe.

Peter Bigelow
C-25 TR/FK #2092 Limerick
Rowayton, Ct

Edited by - bigelowp on 01/22/2021 19:47:24
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Leon Sisson
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Response Posted - 01/24/2021 :  08:58:24  Show Profile  Visit Leon Sisson's Homepage  Reply with Quote

Re: "I may be missing something here, or I live in a protected part of the world (weather wise at least)..."

I'll try to clarify.  The "Space Coast" (house was shaken by a rocket launch as I was typing this) where I sail gets an unusual amount of lightning.  On hot summer nights I've seen it light up a cloudy sky for what seemed like a minute at a time, even without raining.  I also get more hurricanes than snow.

Re: "...but I rarely fear lighting because I pay attention to weather reports and weather appearance."

Before deciding whether to go sailing, I check https://forecast.weather.gov. However, I wouldn't get out on the water nearly as often if I went only on days with 0% chance of a storm.

Re: "When a storm is forecast or approaching, I plan accordingly and make fast tracks to get home."

In addition to being familiar with the local weather patterns, I try to keep an eye on the sky while sailing.  I can monitor NOAA weather radio in the Catalina 25, and I'm currently installing a stereo with weather band in the Catalina 22.  I'm very seldom caught out in a storm.  All but one of the times my boats have been struck by lightning, they were docked behind the house when it occurred.

The wooden daysailer was the only one hit while I had it out.  I was less experienced back then, and the boat had no weather radio (or even an electrical system).  When that storm popped up suddenly, we beached the boat on a sandbar at a small island and, avoiding the tallest trees, took shelter wrapped in a sail under some low trees.

Re: "...but a C-25 is NOT an offshore boat."

Although I wouldn't call it "offshore," mine has been to the Bahamas, and I spotted another C25 while there.

— Leon Sisson
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