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Q & A

Thuner & Lightening

Cruising in our narrowboat on the canals has never caused any problem in storms, as we simply moor up on the canalside and sit it out.
What advice can be given for cruising when lightening rolls in on long cruises on The River Trent (where no interim mooring facilities are available).
I would be the hightest point on the narrowboat, as I would have the tiller, whilst the catering staff shelter inside!

Asked by: John Walsh  | 2.42pm, Friday 9 August

WW says:

Lightening will strike the lowest resistance earth point within the area. Although the head of the steerer is the highest point on a narrowboat; that does not mean that it is the most likely point for lightening to strike.
Trees on the side of a river or canal are a more likely target for lightning. This is because of the points presented by the branches. A metal boat might seem an obvious target, especially if wet with rain, but the surrounding water will present a lower resistance path to earth.
If you are concerned about boating in storms on the Trent, you could easily make a simple lightening conductor for your boat. A pointed metal spike connected to two chains that dangle into the water on each side of the boat will provide a lower resistance path to the water than the boat itself.

Rupert Smedley  | 5.19PM, Friday 9 August

The chrome plated brass chain with links about every 10mm would be fine. A thin metal rod would be best, but looping the chain around the top part of your aerial would form a rudimentary lightening conductor, as long as it reaches the water.
Statistically there is an extremely low risk of being struck by lightening.

Rupert Smedley  | 10.32AM, Saturday 10 August

Readers say:

Thank you Rupert. This is (mildly) comforting! However, knowing absolutely nothing about conductivity and resistance.... would the 2 chains linked/touching/looped around my flimsy metal VHF radio aerial be sufficient (or would it all be too feeble)?
Also, what size would the chains need to be... (heavy duty anchor chain link or simply wash-basin plug chain link)?

John Walsh  | 6.34PM, Friday 9 August

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