Essential Tips To Survive A Lightning Storm While On A Boat


Lightning storms are terrifying at the best of times. Rain and electricity falling from the sky, loud thunderclaps and dark skies are just some of the reasons lightning storms are no fun. But most of the time, we experience them in the safety of our homes. If you’re anything like us, you couldn’t think of anything worse than being caught in a lightning storm at sea. However, it can, and does, happen from time to time. So what can you do to survive a lightning storm in the unlikely event that you’re caught in one? You may be as exposed as ever out at sea, but there a few things you can do to turn the odds in your favour.

The best way to survive a lightning storm is to avoid it, so keep track of the weather reports

No matter what precautions you take, getting caught in a lightning storm at sea is bad. There are few places quite as exposed as the ocean. So if you want to survive a lightning storm out there, the only way to guarantee your safety is to avoid it altogether. When it comes to avoiding lightning storms, two things are helpful: the weather forecast, and known weather patterns. If you’re heading out to sea, chances are you’ll be on top of the forecast already. You can keep up with the forecast through a VHF radio, or through your smartphone if you get reception. Also pay attention to the seasonal weather patterns. In the tropics and subtropics, afternoon storms occur all the time during summer – and it’s worth keeping that in mind.

If you act early you can outrun weather fronts, which is a good way to survive a lightning storm

Outrunning the weather is one way to survive a lighting storm. But we don’t necessarily recommend it. In a vast majority of situations, outrunning a weather front is impossible – they simply move to fast. However, if you keep up to date with the forecast, you can learn of any approaching lightning storms before they appear. In those cases, you can probably outrun the weather and get home safely. However, if you can see the storm it’s definitely too late.

If you’re anywhere near land when a lightning storm hits, get off the water – even if it’s an island

If you’re fishing inshore or close to an island, the best way to survive a lightning storm is to get off the water. As we all know, lightning goes for the highest point. If you’re exposed on the ocean, then you are the highest point. That means you will attract lightning strikes. But if you take refuge on land, you can lie down on a non-conductive surface and greatly minimise your chances of being struck. If it’s not possible to land on an island – perhaps because of rocks or shallow water – then get as close as you can and anchor up.

How to survive a lightning storm that has caught you out: stay away from metal objects!

If you’ve been caught out, then our previous tips won’t be of much help. For you to survive a lightning storm that has already arrived, you will need to stay away from conductive surfaces. That means you can’t hold onto any metal fittings around the boat. Find a patch of deck that’s timber or fibreglass, and stay there while the weather blows over.

Finally, stay low to the ground and undercover if possible to survive a lightning storm

Once you’ve found some on-conductive decking to sit on – get low! As we mentioned, lightning loves high points and on most boats, that’s going to be the bimini or radio antenna. And it’s much better that the lightning chooses them over you if it strikes. If your boat has a cabin or half cab, get underneath. Stay low, stay undercover, stay away from metal, and stay calm. We also recommend donning a lifejacket, just to be on the safe side.

For more safety tips and gear for your boat, get in touch.

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