January 2001

Hello everyone,

We have had some queries regarding what exactly we have done to the boat since the lightning strike. So, here is a summary of the problems that we faced and the solutions.

The lightning, obviously, struck the top of the mast and from there proceeded down the stays. As the boat was not in the water, our grounding system between the stays and the keel could not protect us. The forestay was grounded with a braided cable that was connected to the auxiliary fuel tanks under the vee-berth. The lightning travelled through that path, and burst its way out to a jack stand that was supporting the hull. When the lightning passed down the forestay, the aluminum casting, which forms the ‘nose’ of the boat, was cracked.

There was one obvious hole ( approx quarter sized and 3 dimes deep ) below the waterline on the starboard bow. Then, Heather’s eagle eyes spotted a second one on the port side near the stern, also below the waterline. These holes were repaired by the yard, using epoxy etc.

Neither the depth nor speed units functioned, so those thru-hulls were banged out and new transducers installed. A new Autohelm ST-60 unit was installed in the cockpit. But, we have no idea how many nautical miles we had on the old unit! Now, we are back to zero.

The electronics that were aboard did not survive too well. The VHF radio was nonfunctional and was replaced with the new one from Standard that has the optional microphone in the cockpit. This mike has full functions on its face and can even turn the radio on remotely. This will be a big advantage to us as we have so many steps to get below to the main radio. And sometimes, the handheld is just not powerful enough.

It should be noted that no 120vac or 12vdc wiring needed to be replaced, although many fuses were blown.

The modem used for ham radio e-mail transmissions also failed and was replaced with an updated model. We are looking forward to powering this unit up and trying it out. It is enough faster than our old unit, that we could transmit photos ( if we had a digital camera ! ).

Our AM/FM radio failed and, after a bit of searching, we were able to replace it with a unit that would work with our existing CD player.

Murray’s favourite piece of electronics was also a victim of the lightning. That was his e-meter and was one of the first items replaced. This unit gives us a constant visual report on the condition of our batteries.

The masthead tri-light was blown and the VHF antenna was completely gone! So, both of those units were replaced along with new coaxial cable . The removal of the mast made this project easier to do.

Some small things also had blown and required disassembly and repair. Of course, as we lived aboard, other problems began to appear. The frig controller failed and was replaced. Many LED’s on our electrical panel had blown and needed troubleshooting. Our ‘sniffer’ also succumbed – this unit detects propane and other gases in our bilge. As an important safety device, this was promptly replaced.

The rig survey, as previously reported, gave us an unpleasant surprise as two different surveyors condemned our rigging. Rod rigging! Granted the boat is 18 years old, but the mast had been removed for 6 months of the year until the last 3 years. So, we had some rod replaced, all of the wire stays replaced ( fore-stay and baby-stay ), and the rest of the rod ends re-coined. So, the rig is essentially new and should be good for another 10 years. Murray and I did the work of re-rigging and tuning the mast.

The bow casting proved to be one of the bigger problems. C & C are no longer in business. A company who has most of their parts did not stock this item. It could be ordered – with a 3 month delivery! Local Florida businesses could fabricate the part out of stainless steel, but at great cost and much time. Finally, we found someone who could build it for a reasonable sum and in just over a weeks time. With some refitting and cursing on Murray’s part, the bow fitting was finally installed. It is a one piece stainless steel weldment incorporating twin bow rollers, offset enough to hold our CQR and Bruce anchors in place.

One complication to the repair process was the yard itself. When we arrived back at the boat, the manager of the yard announced that we were no longer able to work on our own boat. As this was the primary reason that we stored there, we were upset, to say the least. A compromise was reached and the yard did the work on the outside of the boat. We worked inside and launched as soon as possible to finish our work at the dock. Needless to say, this was a disappointment to us and the work performed by the yard will have to be re-done in the future, as the quality is not up to Murray’s standards.

All jobs were finished shortly before Christmas and we were looking forward to rest and relaxation. But, it was not to be. Messages from home indicated that Murray”s mom was seriously ill and we started packing the car for a trip north. We arrived in snowy Ontario on Dec 22nd. Much time was spent visiting hospital rooms, but we found the opportunity to have a turkey dinner with our sons for the first Christmas together in 4 years! Time was carved out for a brief visit to my mom, who had suffered another mild stroke recently.

Dorothy Rand has recovered now, after angioplasty to open clogged arteries. She will have to spend more time in hospital and likely, a nursing home. But, she is certainly better than she was a few weeks ago. We packed the car and must, once again, thank Linda for the use of her ‘rooming house’.

Between snow storms, we worked our way south to the boat again. Just a couple of days to finish stocking up. Then, away from the dock and out to an anchorage for the first time since April! Enjoying it it very much. Now, to fix all those things that don’t fail until you leave the dock! We will watch weather and head to the islands as soon as possible.

Well, this is likely more info than most of you wanted, but I hope it was informative. The only way that we can see to avoid lightning strikes while on the hard would be to remove the mast. A grounding strap between the rig and a rod pounded into the soil could give some protection. If there is a strike, the electronics would still be gone, but the hull should be ok. Bottom line is, if you are in a lightning prone area, there is not much that can be done but hope it hits someplace else!

Heather & Murray Rand
aboard Windswept IV