The threat of a thunderstorm can quickly turn a fun offshore fishing trip into a frightfest. If your boat is struck by lightning, the effects can be catastrophic: blown out through-hulls, fried electronics, and possibly even death. It’s estimated that about 1000 boats are struck by lightning every year: While this may not sound significant, given the disastrous effects of lightning strikes, it’s important for every angler to be prepared in the case that they unexpectedly get stuck in a lightning storm. Learn some tips for staying safe, no matter the weather, in today’s blog.
When Lightning Strikes: Staying Safe on Your Offshore Fishing Trip
Prevention is the best medicine
The best way to avoid a lightning strike during a saltwater fishing trip is to take steps to ensure that you aren’t out on the water when a storm begins to swell. Unfortunately, this is not always as easy as it sounds, since small and localized storms are not always reported. Still, tracking weather reports via VHF, TV, and online can offer some insight into the risk of a storm forming while you’re on the water. If you do start to hear thunder rumbling, count the seconds between when you see lightning and hear thunder and then divide by 5: This will give you an estimate of how many miles away the storm is from your location.
Watch your height
If you find yourself amidst a storm and have no hope of making it back to shore, you’ll have to hunker down and wait it out. Everyone knows that lightning strikes the highest point of a vessel, so all crew should don lifejackets and seek shelter in the cabin, if there is one. If not, attempt to anchor in a protected area and advise everyone aboard to avoid touching any metal objects, appliances, and electrical outlets. Take great care not to touch two metal surfaces at the same time as this can quickly prove deadly in the case of a strike. You may also want to lower outriggers, antennas, fishing rods, and towers in order to lessen the likelihood of attracting a strike, unless they are part of your lightning-protection system. Most storms will blow over quickly but it’s good practice to wait until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder to get back to your activities.
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