National Weather Service Taunton MA
918 AM EDT Thu Jun 23 2005

National lightning safety preparedness week

Part four - lightning safety for boaters

Small boats are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes, and also to strong wave action from thunderstorms. Obviously, the best thing to do is not to venture far from Port when bad weather is in the forecast and to return to Port if billowing cumulus clouds, soon to be thunderstorms, are seen in the distance. If you encounter strong choppy waves on your way back to shore, you should not attempt to cut across them perpendicularly, rather you should cut across the waves at a 45 degree angle.

If unable to return to shore before the storm strikes, some recommendations include,

Stay low in the boat. Do not be a stand-Up human lightning mast.

Shorten the sails.

Keep arms and legs in the boat. Do not dangle them in the water.

Disconnect and do not touch major electronic equipment such as the radio, until the storm has completely passed. Remember that

Lightning    can strike ahead of or behind the storm as much as 10
Or 15 miles away    from the rain area.
It is a good idea to always have individuals on board who are competent in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (cpr) and first aid.

A lightning protective mast can be purchased. These generally divert a direct lightning strike within a cone-Shaped radius two times the height of the mast. Therefore the mast must be placed sufficiently high to place all parts of the boat under this cone-Shaped zone of protection. In addition, portable lightning protection systems exist. These consist of masts as just described, connected by a flexible copper cable to a submerged ground plate of at least one square foot. The mast is mounted near the bow and the ground plate dropped overboard. The connecting copper cable should be fully extended and straight. The boaters should stay low in the middle or aft portion of the boat.

Some of the preceding message was excerpted from a paper written by the national institute for occupational safety and health.

For more information on lightning safety, go to www.Lightningsafety.NOAA.Gov .

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