Sunday, August 29, 2010

When Lightening Strikes!

     We arrived in Grenada on Wednesday, August 25th and anchored in Saga Cove on the east-side of Hogg Island. It felt good to be here. Really right. Like coming home. Unfortunately the relaxed feeling was short-lived. On Thursday night, at approximately 9:00 p.m. we were struck by lightening!

     Before I give you the details you must know that we are O.K. Jim and I were not hurt, Bailey has recovered from her scare and Merengue will be all right. Those are the things that are most important. Those are the things we really care about. Even the crab that has been living in our cockpit drain for the last 2 months made it through alright.

     Earlier in the evening we had seen lots of lightening far to the east of us. The rumble of thunder came long after the flash of light. Then everything got very quiet. There was no storm, no wind, mostly clear skies and a light sprinkle of rain. I was in the V-berth reading with Bailey laying at my side. Jim had just gone up to take a shower in our cockpit. Out of nowhere a bolt of lightening struck the top of our mast. The sound was deafening! The lights in the cabin immediately blew out but through the porthole above me I could see a shower of sparks raining down on the deck. I later realized that these were pieces of our VHF antenna that had been blown apart and were falling red-hot and glowing on to the deck and into the water. Jim had a head full of soap so his eyes were closed (probably a good thing) but he could still see an enormous flash of light. He yelled, “What just happened?’’ as I yelled “We’ve been hit!

     The people on the boats next to us had just arrived back at their boats from an evening ashore and saw the lightening bolt hit. They said the top of our mast looked like it had fireworks shooting out of it. They also said they saw light and what looked like flames exiting the stern of the boat. They immediately yelled over asking if we were OK and then jumped in their dinghies to come offer assistance. Our friend Colin on S/V Papillon immediately dropped his dinghy in the water and headed over. Within a matter of moments we had 4 people offering to help. Poor Jim is standing in the cockpit stark naked with soap in his eyes! The immediate concern was were we holed? Did we have water coming in anywhere. Jim grabbed a flashlight and started inspecting the bilge. No water coming in. Next was the bilge pump still working? Thankfully, yes. Then we all stood there talking about what we had just experienced and what they had just witnessed. It felt surreal. Once we were sure we weren’t sinking we thanked everyone for their quick assistance and they headed back to their own boats. We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating. Cruisers are the best part of this lifestyle. We really do look after each other. It was comforting to know they were close by and would be here in an instant if we needed them.

     The initial inspection has shown that we lost everything at the top of the mast: masthead anchor light, wind direction/speed indicator and the VHF antenna as well as the VHF radio. Our Skymate satellite system is fried. The two cabin lights that were on at the time blew but it turned out that it was just the bulbs, the light fixtures still work. Anything that was on at the time blew. Amazingly, our computer that was sitting on the table was not affected. Had the lightening hit 10 minutes earlier when Jim was on-line, who knows?

     The scarier thought is that Jim could have been seriously hurt. He was in the cockpit, exposed (and not just because he was naked!) and he was wet from his shower. I think we were very, very lucky.

     This is actually our second lightening strike. The first occurred many years ago in a boatyard in Milwaukee. Lightening struck the boat next to us blowing 3 holes in the hull. Merengue was hit by a side flash and we had damage to some of our electronics. The current exited our hull through the water intake traveling down our cradle to the ground. The heat was enough to scorch the carpeting that we used to pad the jack-stands. We still don’t know where the current exited this time. Because our neighbors saw a flash of light at the stern that seems to be a possibility but we can’t find any damage.

     Here are some interesting statistics for you:

- In the United States the odds of a person getting struck by lightening each year is 1 in 750,000.

- The odds of getting struck by lightening in your lifetime are 1 in 6,250.

- The odds of a person getting struck by lightening 2 times in their lifetime is 1 in 9 million. I don’t know what the odds are for boats but Merengue has been struck twice. I wish we had that kind of luck when we buy a lottery ticket!

     It took me two days to get around to writing this up for the blog. After the adrenaline faded and I started to think about what could have happened, well frankly I didn’t have the energy to do it. A little delayed reaction I guess. I felt tired, sluggish and more then a little afraid of what might have happened. But it didn’t. And we are enormously grateful for that.