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Wilderness Medical Society - snowmass 2005 (Page 152)

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Wilderness Medical Society - snowmass 2005
insulate yourself from ground current by crouching on a coiled rope, pack
or ensolite pad
Boating and Lightning
Being on board a boat during a thunderstorm poses an immediate danger to the crew,
whether or not there's a lightning protection system. If you're not able to leave the boat
for land-based shelter when thunderstorms roll through, safety precautions should be
taken immediately by the crew to minimize personal danger.
Discontinue any outdoor activities and move below.
Avoid any activities that might provide a connection between your body and the water, even
something as seemingly minor as fishing.
Stay low in your boat and move as close to the center of it as possible.
Disconnect all electronics immediately, especially the VHF or any other radio connected to an
antenna and, if possible, lower or remove any antennas.
Discontinue use of any telephone, including mobile phones.
Avoid contact with any piece of equipment that is bonded to the lightning protection system, and
especially avoid contact with two components simultaneously.
If your boat is struck, your body can become a path for electrical current. Stay away from all
metal objects, whether or not they're bonded to the system.
Sailors should not go near the spar's compression post if it is deck-stepped, and stay away from
the spar itself if it is keel-stepped. Remember that the mast is the main conductive path.
If your boat is struck, immediately check the seacocks and thru-hull fittings to be sure they're still
intact. Always have wooden plugs on hand in a variety of sizes that fit your boat's seacocks.
Even though the odds are in your favor that your boat may never be hit by lightning,
if it happens it can have devastating effects. Don't take a chance, protect yourself.
If you are in a small boat and close to shore when a thunderstorm approaches, get
in and off the water immediately. Better yet, don't go out if thunderstorms are
predicted. But what if you are miles offshore and a storm pops up? Hopefully, you
have prepared in advance.
The voltages involved in lightning are so high that even materials that would
normally be considered non-conductive become conductors, including the human
body. The voltages are so massive that if they start to travel through a boat's
structure - say through its mast - then meet with high resistance (for instance, the
hull skin) the current discharge, in its attempt to reach ground, may simply blow a
hole in the non-conductive barrier. The safety conscious Captain should make sure
that his vessel is properly protected. Reference should be made in detail to the
standards for lightning protection as set forth by the American Boat and Yacht
Council (ABYC) and the job should be performed by a licensed marine electrician.
In theory, a lightning protection system is used to create what is know as a
"Faraday's cage," so called after the late nineteenth-century scientist Michael
Faraday. The principle of a Faraday's cage is to provide a surrounding, well-

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