Lightning ~ Damage and Delay


Photo taken in 1984 by Johnny Autery of Dixons Mills, Alabama.

Now that we live aboard, one of my fears is a lightning strike to LIB.  While sailing the Caribbean our first six months, we did not see ANY lightning. Apparently in the southern regions, the consistent atmospheric temperatures eliminate the thunder and lightning created when cold and warm air masses clash.

Of course we had rain, but no light and sound shows accompanied the rain. We didn’t even register that it was missing until we started sailing north and heard thunder for the first time in months. Frank and I looked at each other and then the sky wondering if a jet was passing overhead. Nope, it was a good old fashioned storm with those frightening elements of lightning and thunder added in.

Unfortunately, while at a dock in Deltaville, Virginia, LIB suffered a lighting “event.”  I will not call it a strike because I am not certain it was a direct hit but rather a nearby strike that took its’ toll on our boat and several others in the marina. Ours was by no means the most damaged boat, but we have suffered a lot of loss; especially the opportunity cost of loosing our window to explore the Chesapeake Bay. The “event” occurred on July 16th and we didn’t complete repairs to LIB until October 4th. (This explains why I have not shared more about our “Sailing History Tour.”)

On a scale of mild, medium and severe, our personal, rather loose definition of lightning strikes would be as follows: mild: electronic equipment destroyed;  moderate: electronics destroyed and engines effected; severe: electronics destroyed, engines effected, fire and possible sinking of the boat.

We consider ours a moderate and expensive strike.

These last months, we have spent working with our insurance company and scheduling repairs.  Working through the claims issues took almost nine weeks which was very frustrating! Frank and I were extremely antsy to get Let It Be back in the excellent condition we maintain.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but some things affected by the lightning include: both chart plotters, the entire NMEA 2000 system, inverter charger, engine gauges, VHF radios, IridiumGo!, AC units, AC thermostats, the 110v electricity, our antennae, some lights, fans, our propane solenoid, etc.

Seeing all of these electronics incopassitated made us truly appreciate our manual heads (toilets) and our simple Cruise RO Water Maker which were not affected!

Frank and I do our very best to make certain that LIB is well maintained and all systems are in excellent shape, so seeing so many of our systems out of service has been disheartening for us.  Returning LIB to the high standards we expect was an expensive and extensive process and we are excited to finally have her back to full service again.

We are especially thankful to Anne and Miles Poor of MRP Refit who coordinated the repairs for us and put us in contact with excellent companies. We are very pleased with the services rendered and the changes made to LIB.

Because we had to replace both of our chart plotters and autopilot, we chose to depart from the Garmin systems originally installed on LIB and had B & G electronics installed. While our insurance company did not cover all of the costs involved, we believe the change is an upgrade to our systems information and auto pilot, so paying for the additional costs was valuable enough to invest our money.

Post lightning, it was important to pull our mast and inspect all of the rigging and electronics. We had to replace all the antennae, lights and wiring.  Fortunately the mast and rigging did not suffer any damage.

Since the mast had to be pulled for inspection, we have chosen to ship it to Florida where we will have it restepped.  We will spend the next few months as a motor catamaran.  While it is a strange feeling to be completely dependent on engines, we have the added benefit of being able to fit under all of the fixed bridges of the Intracoastal Waterway.  By shipping our mast, we will be able to see all of the ICW without going “outside” to avoid bridges too low for LIB’s mast height.


LIB looks a bit strange without a mast, boom and forestay.

For those who love the details, LIB’s mast is 68 feet plus antennae. Bridge clearance for the ICW can be as low as 65 feet for fixed bridges. And considering all the havoc that Hurricane Matthew has caused, some bridges could be lower due to high water.

While wrestling with lightning issues, we took the opportunity to do make some other changes to LIB.  I already mentioned that we reworked the water drainage on LIB as sort of a side note in a previous post, but the drainage was a pretty major change that has vastly improved the functionality of our cockpit.


We added a great little storage cabinet in the cockpit where Fountaine Pajot places an ice maker.  Since we didn’t add an ice maker, we converted that available space to a storage spot for little extras that we don’t want to walk inside to get.


Think sunscreen, bug spray, dog leash and other small items.

Privacy please?! We finally added shades to our salon. We debated this issue for a long while because I wanted the sunshades to add privacy and reduce heat from the sun, but it wasn’t a critical addition. We finally found a company that could make the shades we were hoping for without charging us a king’s ransom!


When up, the shades are hardly noticeable.

We ended up making paper patterns of our windows and shipping them to Mark Osborne of Breeze Blinds in the UK.  (Thank you Alison and Neil for the referral!!) A few weeks later the blinds arrived in the post and they fit our windows perfectly.


Privacy and sun protection.

Installation of the blinds was a pretty big job that took us about 14 hours over two days. But these blinds are exactly what we were hoping for – very low profile when in the up position, but when down they offer excellent sun protection and privacy.

Maintenance please! I offer a special thank you to Frank for spending so much time taking care of the maintenance of our boat.  There are many systems on board that need to be cared for on a routine basis and Frank just takes care of it.  I know there is a saying that is something like, “Eighty percent of your boat will work 100 percent of the time.”  Well, I have to say, Frank is awesome about doing his best to make sure all of LIB is humming along beautifully.  I truly appreciate his efforts and LIB is more comfortable and reliable because of his hard work!

Considering what we were dealing with and the complications we faced while hanging out in Jabin’s Yacht Yard, things could have been much more difficult. We always try to find the positives in any challenge, so we will look back at our lightning event and be thankful for other things that occurred during that time.  Instead of defining this time as “when the lightning struck,” we will remember it as when the sale of our land home finally happened.  We will remain thankful that we were in Annapolis where we had access the parts and technicians we needed for repairs.  We are thankful that Frank could coordinate repairs in Annapolis while I drove to Dallas to empty our home.  We will remember that we had the opportunity to make some really awesome new friends and reunite with some others who came to town.  Finally we will cherish the time we spent with family members who are usually too far away to see in person.

Having recognized the good things within the challenge, I will admit, there are many places we wanted to see while in the Chesapeake that we missed completely because LIB was out of commission for so long.  Anchoring in the Potomac River at the foot of D.C. and seeing the monuments as we enjoyed dinner aboard is a prime example of what we missed… who knows, maybe we will decide to make this trip again and catch those missed dreams.


Sunset in the Poquoson Flats.

As I write, our third sunset out of the dock is upon us. It feels wonderful to be exploring again, watching winds and weather, and meandering into quiet creeks to drop anchor for the night.

Thank you for reading and for your patience with our lack of posts as we sorted out LIB. I wish you fair winds, following seas and NO lightning!

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