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 can not find lightning - ground cable
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bmwtourer
Deckhand

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Canada
15 Posts

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
Past Commodore

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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
Master Marine Consultant

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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
8578 Posts

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
Master Marine Consultant

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4655 Posts

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
Past Commodore

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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
8578 Posts

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
Master Marine Consultant

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3775 Posts

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
Deckhand

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Canada
15 Posts

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
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4130 Posts

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.


Association Member

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

Edited by - GaryB on 01/14/2021 22:51:23
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Voyager
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4655 Posts

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
Master Marine Consultant

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4516 Posts

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
Master Marine Consultant

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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
Master Marine Consultant

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Djibouti
8578 Posts

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
Master Marine Consultant

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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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