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 Post subject: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:36 am 
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Just Starting Out
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Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2015 1:24 am
Posts: 19
Location: Binghamton, NY
Boat Name: Black Eagle
Probably over-analyzing a vulnerability but I steam mostly in the summer in thunderstorm country. Seems like steamboats present a lightning rod type situation with a high metal stack connected to a metal boiler attached to the hull either close to or below the waterline.

Questions:

Is there any history or data indicating that steamboats are more at risk than other recreational vessels on the water?

If struck by lightning, could a hole be burned in the hull to cause a leak?

I don't know of any fiberglass steamboats with foam for positive flotation if swamped. It seems possible that a steamboat holed by lighting would sink.

Could a lightning strike cause a boiler to fail?


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:53 am 
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Full Steam Ahead
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Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:16 pm
Posts: 619
Location: Northeast Ohio, USA
Boat Name: SL Nyitra
The Merchants' Magazine and Commercial Review, Volume 35 - "Marine Memoranda on Lightening" starting on page 571 talks specifically about steamers hit by lightening in 1853 with the dates and reports.

https://books.google.com/books?id=C_IcA ... ng&f=false

-CB


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:25 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:34 am
Posts: 1361
Location: Phila PA USA
Boat Name: Margaret S.
In Google, look up "lightning damage", and click on "images", you will find answers to most of your questions there. Lightning is usually not so damaging, but anything can, and has, happened. I think the great majority of steamboats would sink with a big hole, I have not seen flotation on them.


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:29 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:16 pm
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Location: Northeast Ohio, USA
Boat Name: SL Nyitra
Probably the best away to think about this is to find safe harbor if you can, and check your boat insurance.

If you have comprehensive you are most likely covered, but check with your insurer.

Quote:
According to the most recent (2000-2005) BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files, the odds of your boat being struck by lightning in any year are about 1.2 in 1000.

http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/swlightning.asp

-CB


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:51 pm 
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Full Steam Ahead
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Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:56 pm
Posts: 1343
Location: Northwest Detroit
Boat Name: Iron Chief
Standard boat safety stuff is: Check the weather before you head out. If you're stuck out somewhere and get caught in a bad electrical storm, odds are very good you'll be ok, if you can put in and get under shelter, do so (And not under trees).

Considering this with our stacks, think about the sailors with tall aluminum masts on sailboats, that would be a much bigger concern. I've sailed quite a bit many years ago and wondered about that, of course I never sailed in a really bad storm. In all my years of living on the Great lakes with thousands of private and commercial boats, I've never heard of a boat being struck by lightning, good possibility a Google search will enlighten, but I've never heard of one. And too, we don't typically have severe electrical storms around the Great Lakes. Forty foot waves occasionally, but very little lightning. It's always something :D

I lived in the south for a while and they have very bad electrical storms there. Seen it do some crazy things i.e. blow the bark off of a tree all the way to the ground and the push the dirt and sod up like a mole going across the ground, seen it burn houses down. In certain areas it's nothing to mess with, it's so close it sounds like dynamite going off - no delay. Although even there, never heard of a boat or person being hit by it.

I think the issue here is the electricity is looking for a good ground, and a boat on the water is not a very good ground. Water is not a very good conductor.

-Ron


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:37 am 
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Just Starting Out
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Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2015 1:24 am
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Location: Binghamton, NY
Boat Name: Black Eagle
As the OP and a newbie, my steamboat is docked at a boat access only camp in the Adirondacks of upstate NY. The marina where we park our car is 5 miles away from our camp. As a result, I have needed to steam the 5 miles many times with what currently seems to be the ever present forecast of scattered thunderstorms. We don't have cell service at the marina so I have no way to check weather radar. I have been caught out in the open with thunder around. This is what prompted my question.

I've had the concern of a flash of light, an exploding boiler and the boat sinking to the bottom. The posts so far have made me feel better. Of course I do not attempt a trip with known lightning around. Thanks for the input. I hope others post if there are opposing viewpoints to what I've already seen


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:34 pm 
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Full Steam Ahead
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Joined: Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:39 pm
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Location: Cathlamet, WA
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A Google search for sailboat lightning protection will yield a wealth of information on the subject.

Also an AM radio tuned to the low end of the dial, if I remember right, can act as a lightning detector by listening to the static spikes. Works for strikes within 10 miles or so. Won't give direction, but will let you know if there's any activity.

While on a destroyer off the coast of South Vietnam we encountered a very active lightning storm. I watched lightning strike the water all around us, but never a strike on us or the ships with us, all bristling with masts full of pointy antennas. Figure that one?

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:25 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:56 pm
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Location: Northwest Detroit
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Quote: "I watched lightning strike the water all around us, but never a strike on us or the ships with us, all bristling with masts full of pointy antennas. Figure that one?"

That lends credence to what I wrote above, a boat on the water is no better ground than the water itself, which is a very poor ground. I was reading on this yesterday after I posted and it appears pure water will not conduct any electricity, only minerals, salt etc in solution can conduct. The lightning (Negative) is looking for earth (Positive) to complete the circuit, the water and anything floating in it is basically impeding the circuit. That's how I understand it anyway..

-Ron


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:59 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:34 am
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Location: Phila PA USA
Boat Name: Margaret S.
While fresh water is a non-conductor, and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Meters measure the very small electric conductivity of boiler quality water. Typical ranges, a fraction of 1 Part per Million (PPM) for large steam plants, up to a few hundred PPM in our steamboat boilers.

Sea water is a very good conductor of electricity, due to the salt content, standard sea water is 35,000 PPM.


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 Post subject: Re: Lightning Vulnerability for Steamboats.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:23 pm 
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Warming the Engine
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Joined: Sun Feb 13, 2011 2:20 am
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I'd expect a drunken fool going full tilt in a speedboat would be a much greater worry than a lightning strike. It seems the conventional wisdom on lightning strikes on smaller vessels is that on the rare occasions it occurs, the electrical discharge hits the highest metal and then runs in a cone shape (especially with a sailboat's metal standing rigging) to the water. For this reason, it's not advised to bond a metal mast to the keel, as electricity will then run down the mast into the interior of the boat and through the electrical system, frying all the electronics on board. The stack on the average steam launch will likely be so close to the water that the lightning bolt would go for the water before it did much damage to the boat. I've been in the game for over fifty years and I've never heard of a boat sunk by a lightning strike that blew a hole in its bottom, but don't go by me.


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