Day: May 25, 2018

The odds of your boat being struck by lightning are truly shocking!

I have been a recreational boater on the east coast for over 30 years. Over that time I’ve owned a number of different sailboats and powerboats in the 25-35 foot range. Like most boaters one thing I’ve had to deal with from time to time is the threat of lightning. When you are out on the water it is relatively easy to avoid lightning – when you see a storm you try to avoid it or just head back to port. But when a boat is in its slip there is nothing you can do but trust the odds that you won’t get hit. But what exactly are those odds?

Lightning is such a hot topic in boating that the major boating publications seem to have an article on it every few issues. I’ve read them. They all seem to cite the same numbers. They state that the odds of your boat being struck by lightning (nation-wide) are 1 in 1,000 on any given year. Those seem like staggeringly small odds to me. That’s why I’ve always thought I must be very unlucky. I’ve faced lightning damage to my boat on two separate incidents in my three decades of boat ownership. The first incident was a direct strike while in a marina slip. The strike caused the kind of damage you would expect: melted VHF antenna, fried electronics and wiring. The second incident was an indirect strike. Lightning struck a boat two slips down from mine. The voltage came up into my boat through the water and once again fried some electronics and the shore power chord.

Over the years I’ve shared this story with many other boaters and to my surprise many of them had similar stories – one guy even had lightning damage on three separate occasions! It dawned on me that this doesn’t make sense. If the odds of a boat getting struck by lightning truly are 1 in 1,000, then why does it seem to be such a more frequent occurrence in reality? Upon exploring this a little deeper the answer is shocking (pun intended). The 1 in 1,000 figure is a complete misrepresentation.

Firstly, people tend to believe that a lightning strike is such an exceptionally rare occurrence that it is a part of the lexicon (you’d have a better chance of being struck by lightning than…). For the most part that is true, for a person. Statistics vary but to stay at nice round numbers the odds of a person being struck by lightning on any given year are 1 in a million. Now those are long odds. Let’s compare that to 1 in 1,000 for a boat. That essentially means that your boat’s probability of being struck by lightning are 1,000 times greater than you. That is a shocking statistic on its own.

Now let’s break down the “1 in 1,000” odds the boating magazines always cite. It’s important to note that those are nationwide statistics. There are around 12 million boats in the US and on average 13,000 boats per year face direct strikes. Using pretty simple math, it equates to odds of 1 in 1,000.

But how many boats are being struck in Idaho or Oregon? Not many. The magazines do very little breakdown of probabilities by state or region. Florida for example is the highest risk state for lightning strikes, followed by the Chesapeake. In Florida, depending on your boat type, your odds of being struck by lightning increase to 1 in 200 on any given year. That is for a direct strike. Now consider that if you are in a marina and lightning strikes one of the say…9 boats in your immediate vicinity, you will likely face an indirect strike which can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Your odds of lightning damage just increased from 1 in 200 to roughly 1 in 20!  Remember that’s odds of 1 in 20 in any given year. Now consider that a typical boater in Florida may own a boat 10 years or more and a new picture emerges. The threat of lightning damage (direct or indirect) to boats is real and far greater over the lifetime of a normal boater than the “1 in 1,000” odds suggests. The stories around the dockyards support this and as a boater you should take the prudent steps to make sure your boat is protected both before and after a strike. As the numbers show, in high risk areas, it’s not a question of if…but when you will be affected.

So what can a boat owner do? There are many devices on the market that purport an ability to prevent lightning strikes but unfortunately none are scientifically proven to work. That’s why we created LightningShield – something to benefit a boater in the event lightning damage does occur. LightningShield is a supplemental and first-responding insurance policy that pays for damage to your boat from a direct or indirect lightning strike. If you live in a lightning prone area like Florida, it makes sense to have extra coverage for lightning. Visit our website at Lightning-Shield.com to learn about the features of LightningShield and how it can benefit you! Also, scroll down on our blog page to read the article that explains how LightningShield was first conceived.

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