Are aluminum boats more prone to lightning strikes?

Photograph by Steve Dashew

Gulf of Panama, Panama — 7°22'N 80°0'W

Gulf of Panama, Panama — 7°22'N 80°0'W

Only Steve Dashew can make a perfunctory stop in the Marquesas to pick up some pamplemousse—a distant relative of the grapefruit—sound like a casual jaunt to the grocery store. Dashew is describing a shakedown cruise that he recently under-took with his wife, Linda, aboard Cochise, the prototype for his Dashew Offshore FPB 781. Altogether, the couple would log close to 11,000 nautical miles in three months, going from Fiji to Ft. Lauderdale to make it home in time for college basketball season.

It was on the passage from French Polynesia to the Panama Canal when things got electric. “I’ve been shooting lightning as a hobby for a long time,” says Dashew. “The Gulf of Panama is one of the most active places on the planet in certain conditions. When this started, we could see the -thunderstorm building and we were following it at a respectful distance.”

By the time the yacht designer set up his Sony A7r2 camera with a 24mm lens and a Stepping Stone lightning trigger, his boat was enveloped by light. Though this might look like a black and white photo, Dashew assures me he didn’t alter it in any way: That’s all storm. Cochise might be an 80-foot aluminum vessel, but it’s a common misconception that metal alloys are more prone to lightning strikes. Says Dashew, “We’ve been through many storms with a metal boat; we’ve never been struck.”

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