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Lightning is damaging

Ednbal can confirm that lightning is very damaging indeed. Since we only just fitted the boat 6 months earlier, the lightning was indeed devastating for our equipment and for our morale.

Mid July 2007 we had just a companied Malcolm and Jane on Saru as rope handlers through the Panama Canal, a wonderful experience. Back on Ednbal the weekend was spent relaxing, doing a little shopping for perishables at the market and socialising at the yacht club. Late Sunday night another thunderstorm was on us, we put the PC in the oven (the largely metal oven acts like a Faraday shield against eclectic fields produced by lightning) then I remembered I had left a bag outside and went to bring it inside as it was pouring rain. I was on the third step up the companion way when was an extra loud thunder at the same time as the lightning. Sasha was still in bed and yelled out we've been hit. Within a few seconds I smelt burnt electrics. We had taken a direct lighting strike believe it or not. On the down side it soon became evident that all equipment with any electronics in it was dead, all navigation equipment, all communications, inverter/charger, refrigeration etc. In addition one to the cabin lights had been blown out of the ceiling and the navigation lights were out. I glanced at my watch shortly after it happened 00:20 Monday 9 July 2007.

Not much point trying to do anything at the time other try and get some sleep and deal with it in the morning. It continued to rain and slowly the thunder diminished as the storm passed. The strange thing is that the thunderstorms here are generally not accompanied by any significant wind. Next morning we began the task of checking all the equipment and contacting the insurers. The main survivors were the PC that had been in the oven, my Blackberry phone, the 24 inch wall mounted LCD monitor, microwave and watermaker. Even some stand alone items like the battery operated fridge temperature monitor died. The insurer asked for a rough damage cost estimate, I put it at $50,000 to $60,000 so they decided to engage a marine surveyor to verify and to also check for hull damage. We had not been aware of the possibility of hull damage but some research on the net by Sasha showed photographic examples.

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The lightning current can exit the hull at the water line and destroy the fibreglass laminate. It is more prevalent in fresh water there the water conductivity is not so good. As far as we were concerned it was best to have the vessel surveyed for all damage as it should mean less chance of any argument with the insurer at the end of the day. The insurer hired a surveyor in Gibraltar who in turned hired a surveyor in Panama. After numerous emails and phone calls we arranged to have Ednbal hauled out at Shelter Point Marina about 3 miles away. By this time, 4 days after the strike, we had Ednbal in at the Panama Canal Yacht Club using a temporary battery charger on shore power and ice in the freezer box to keep food. The yacht club allowed us to store our frozen food in their freezer so we did not lose any. It was an anxious time waiting to be hauled out. If there was hull damage then we would be in for major, major repair! Fortunately there was none, everything was in good shape so after the surveyor checked Ednbal, including the mast head; she went back into the water. Much relief.

Next we put together, well Sasha put together, a comprehensive spreadsheet of all the damaged equipment, replacement cost, shipping cost, labour cost and duties/taxes. Total around $56,000. The outcome, well the insurer ended up paying us out, we did all the work, again, we'd only fitted her out 6 months before, and "enjoyed" another month in Colon for our troubles.