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Electronics

Live Weather at Last Page 3

Electronics July 2003
By Ben Ellison


Live Weather at Last
Electronics Q&A
   
 
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• Part 1: Weather Tracking
• Part 2: Weather Tracking
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• Fugawi ENC

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Relative to your May column “Zap! Boom!” do you have any suggestions for protecting those of us with steel hulls from lightning, or will our boats simply serve to protect the nearby FRP and wood boats by involuntarily attracting the lightning strike to our own boats? R.D., via e-mail
Your steel hull in itself will not make you a more likely target for lightning to any significant or proven degree. In fact, your hull makes it easier to install a true lightning protection system.

The crucial concept is that you cannot really shield any boat from a strike, but you can attempt to limit the damage it might inflict. The first defense is one or more “air terminals,” or lightning rods, as high above the boat as possible, connected via low-resistance conductor to some sort of ground plate on the hull bottom. That’s where you’re ahead of the game, as your entire hull bottom can act as a ground plate. The second defense is bonding your electronics into the protection system, and the third is to have a game plan for securing the boat and retiring to a neutral spot below if and when you find yourself in lightning. Overall, while strikes do act in notoriously erratic ways, they don’t hit boats all that often. Also, as I note in this month’s column, products are appearing that will let us track storm cells at a distance and thus possibly avoid them.

Finally, the fact that your bottom is an enormous ground plate does mean that an improperly designed lightning protection system could cause serious electrolysis problems. NMEA and ABYC are knowledgeable on these issues, and you shouldn’t have a system designed without the expertise of both organizations.—B.E.

Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryach, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: PMYElectronics@primediamags.com. No phone calls please.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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