When you see dark towering cumulonimbus clouds topped with an anvil shape, get off the water -- and fast.
Not all boats are created equal. Sailboats are possibly the worst kind of vessel to be aboard in a thunderstorm -- there's a tall mast and no cabin. Metal ships can dissipate the electric charge of a lightning bolt fairly quickly. Wood and fiberglass boats need a lightning protection system (LPS). An LPS doesn't keep a strike from happening, but it can protect the people in the vessel, as well as the boat's instruments.
A lightning protection system for a boat has four parts, according to the National Sea Grant Library:
- Air terminal
- Water terminal
- Bonding system
Basically, you need a lightning rod, copper wiring that creates an easy path from air to water, an object that attracts the lightning to the water, and a system that connects all the metal parts on your boat. This makes it more likely that lightning will find your LPS more desirable than you.
Next: So close, and yet so far away.