Lightning Strike Initial Assesment (September 2011)



This document includes both a detailed report regarding circumstances surrounding the lightning strike to M/V SHEAR MADNESS which occurred on 25 Aug 11, provides an initial ( very preliminary) damage assessment and a subsequent detailed damage assessment.  It should be noted that detailed assessment of some systems were not possible because of related system failures and in some cases outside expertise is required for detailed assessment by qualified technician(s).


On 25 Aug 11 a cold front with imbedded severe thunderstorms was reported approaching Colonial Beach (where M/V SHEAR MADNESS was berthed alongside a floating peer at Colonial Beach Yacht Club Marina).  This weather activity was not associated with the subsequent hurricane (Irene) that passed through the area on 27/28 Aug 11.

Due to concerns over the impact of lightning strikes and severe weather shore power was removed from the boat and boat electrical system operation was minimized immediately prior to frontal passage.  The boat was well secured to the floating dock with multiple lines/fenders and all non-essential equipment, awnings, and hardware removed (in preparation for the approaching hurricane).

At the time of the strike all engines and generators where secured and the boat was operating with minimal electrical load off the battery (240/120v supplied by the online series stacked Trace inverters).    Navigation and Communication systems were up monitoring the approach of the front.  Two were on watch in the Pilot House (PH) when the lighting strike occurred at approximately 1730hrs.


Prior to the strike isolated lighting was observed in the area, however, the strike which occurred at approx. 1730 occurred prior to the passage of the main front.  The strike appeared to be associated with an isolated prefrontal CB cell that passed directly over the marina.

At the time of the strike one crew was scanning the area for flotsam with the binoculars. This crew member was momentarily disoriented by the severe flash and associated crack (very loud) that ‘appeared’ to occur inside the bridge.  Having ascertained that the crew was not physically harmed, the captain initiated an immediate damage assessment following the strike.

Initial Indications

An initial damage assessment was conducted of all compartments to assess damage.  The boat appeared to have suffered a total power failure.  Burning odor was detected in the PH, Salon, and Engine Room.   No fire indications were evident and all systems appeared to be offline (off).  Total power loss to all electrical systems was observed (including all electrical instrumentation on all 24, 120 and 240 electrical load panels) and the inverters were offline. No leaking bilges or fittings were initially detected.   An external boat inspection was not conducted for approximately one hour due to lighting strike hazard.   When the external inspection was conducted a lighting strike of the port forward whip antenna located on the Fly Bridge (FB) hardtop was confirmed with associated structural and cosmetic damage to the surrounding structure (the antenna was totally destroyed with debris blown onto all decks and burn damage is evident on the hardtop canopy and stainless structure) – ref pictures.

After the initial inspection confirmed the vessel was not in immediate danger, the captain initiated a methodical inspection of critical systems and attempted to return power to the boat and essential systems (monitoring all systems in the process in order to confirm satisfactory operation).  This required all power sources to be shutdown, including the battery bank, and commenced with the deliberate application of 24V battery power to the boat, reconfiguration and checks of inverter operation, followed by AC power startup and finally shore power 1 and 2 application.    Following resumption of essential systems a more detailed boat inspection was initiated.

Initial Inspection Observations

The outcome of initial post lighting strike inspections is summarized as follows.  Operation of systems detailed and all other boat systems needs to be confirmed by a qualified technician in order to fully assess damage.  Further methodical inspections and operation of all systems needs to be conducted by the crew over subsequent days to confirm status of all systems.  It is also recommended that an external hull inspection be conducted in order to determine the location and condition of the discharge exit point.

Initial Damage Assessment:

  • All electrical AC and DC systems knocked offline
  • NAV PC (used to monitor approach of front) and associated systems knocked offline and now unserviceable.
  • Comms PC and related boat comms network and associated systems knocked offline and now unserviceable.
  • 24V hydraulic alternators (which were not in use at time of strike) found to be source of burning smell in engine room and measured at 147 and 150 deg. F at least two plus hours after the strike (note it was initially difficult to determine source of burning odor).
  • Hydraulic fluid leaking from solenoids in vicinity of hydraulic alternators and indications of hydraulic pipe and gauge damage.
  • Selected 24V and 120V lighting systems throughout the boat unserviceable.
  • Entertainment system in salon unserviceable (Tuner, Direct TV, Air TV, Amp, Logitech control).
  • PH Engine Room Sea fire system indicator temporarily knocked offline by strike – must be checked.
  • Electrical systems stabilized and preparation for Hurricane continued.



Detailed System Inspection Log – 29 Aug

It should be noted these initial tests were of limited nature and when dealing with electronics we are subject to intermittent errors that the hardest to find.  During the test we noted some systems that first glance appeared operational but then during use failed.  We expect additional system failures over the next couple of months as we use systems full time.

Bilge Pumps

Bow, Forward and Amidships pumps and lights working

PT & STB head lights & 24V head vacuum pump working

FWD Machinery Space­­

Main fresh water pump and UV currently operational

Hot water low element currently operational

Hot water High element currently operational

Black water main pump out currently operational

Grey water pump out currently operational

Main house fresh water pump currently operational

Back up fresh water pump failed – Continues Run

FWD machinery space bilge blower currently operational

FWD machinery horn compressor pumps currently operational

Horn test currently operational

FWD machinery space fluorescent lighting space currently operational

24V backup vacuflush pump currently operational

Battery Deck

HYD ALT fuses removed due to lightning strike short/overheat on the HYD ALT

Battery bank currently operational, but requires load Testing

Battery deck sea fire system requires testing

Aux battery charger currently operational

Battery & Tank deck fluorescent lighting currently operational


Port Cabin

All lights currently operational

Blower fan currently operational

Head exhaust currently operational

Head outlets currently operational

All outlets currently operational

TV Not Operational

DVD Untestable – but has power

A/C Currently operational

Cabin phone rings but random intercom no phone – Not Operational

STBD Cabin

All lights currently operational

Blower fan currently operational

Head exhaust currently operational

Head outlets currently operational – (after resetting UVI)

All outlets currently operational

TV Not Operational

DVD Untestable – but has power

Cabin phone rings random intercom no phone – Not Operational

Laundry Deck

2 x courtesy lights currently operational, 3 Not Operational

24v lights 2 currently operational, 1 Not Operational

Washing machine currently operational

Dryer currently operational

Vacuum cleaner & system currently operational

Pilot House

FWD looking sonar Not Operational

2100 series radar Not Operational

Satellite GPS compass Not Operational

AIS Not Operational

NAV PC Not Operational

Weatherworks Not Operational – tbc

All NAV PC/UPS associated systems Not Operational

NAV net system power up, but does not display essential data (SOG, COG, position, depth, and log).

1953 radar appears currently operational, plotter function appears currently operational

GPS & NAV source selections unable to be tested

VHF 1 Not Operational

VHF 1 & 2 and remote mike operations unable to be tested

SSB Not Operational

Seatel Antenna appears currently operational

Hailer speaker operation unable to be tested

Hydraulic system control unable to be tested

Stabilizers Not Operational

SAT phone Not Operational

Wipers x 5 – Port currently operational, wipers 2-5 speeds 2&3 working but speed 1 Not Operational

Wiper washing currently operational

Engine room sea fire system erroneous indications, reset requires system test by expert

Lazaret sea fire system will not self-test requires system test by expert

Forward sea fire system requires test requires system test by expert

All high water alarms require testing

STBD fresh water tank level display erroneous

DDEC (6 units) displays Not Operational

Graywater systems display level suspect, auto pump out suspect

Blackwater systems Not Operational

6 x DD Throttle gear control Not Operational (some appear partially serviceable)

Five bow and Stern thruster controls unable to be tested

Wind instruments Not Operational

Auto Pilot 1 partially currently operational – Continues pump operation – should stop in “Standby”

–          High speed 1 unable to tested

Auto Pilot 2 appears Not Operational  – comm failure with “AC/XX”

–          High speed 2 unable to test

AP27 appears to operate currently operational with Auto Pilot 1 only (failed Auto Pilot 2)

Weather fax unable to be tested

Depth sounder Not Operational

Binnacle compass needs to be check and recalibrated

NMEA amplifiers and distribution needs to be tested

Pilot House and Bridge phone intercom Not Operational – Phone system through out vessel not operating correctly.  Rings on intercom, works randomly, phone calls out no, calls in rings, but cannot talk.

COMMS PC/UPS including all associated systems Not Operational

Printer unable to test

Ships Wave WIFI Not Operational

Ships LAN Not Operational

Panasonic phone Not Operational (see note above)

Telluler/Cellar system partially currently operational – voice outgoing only (reference Panasonic phone system).

Tellular data connection to be tested once Comms PC corrected.

SAT TV currently operational (but not salon)

Air TV Not Operational

Pilot house fan currently operational

Pilot house side lights currently operational

20KVA appears currently operational

Ships battery control system currently operational – ability to isolate 4 banks operational

33KVA appears currently operational

PT windlass failed local control and remote control Not Operational

STBD windlass requires hydraulics for test – electrical control system failed

CCTV system and distribution system Not Operational

Water maker unit 1 tested for flush only – currently operational

Water maker unit 2 Not Operational (local and remote control heads failed Flush) Unit starts low pressure pump – incorrect.

Vacuum cleaner system currently operational

HYD systems: PT engine, STB engine, Alt 1 & 2, windless, emergency bilge pump, anchor wash pump, provide erroneous control panel indications, unable to test operation of hydraulic systems

Engines – no display, unwilling to test start sequence, waiting expert advice.  No ability to monitor engine after start.

12v battery charger and battery appear currently operational but require load check

RD30 operates but no data – tbc

Link 10 currently operational

Outlets currently operational

24v spot lights above settee Not Operational

24v lights overhead Not Operational

24v red lights overhead currently operational

24v spot light currently operational

Head & lighting currently operational

Head exhaust blower currently operational

12v outlets currently operational

A/C partially operationally – Cooling but set temp not responding – appears to operate in open only mode.

Fly Bridge

NAV Net #1 system Not Operational

DDEC Displays Not Operational

Monitors – tbc

VHF 2 Not Operational

Wind instruments Not Operational

Fridge currently operational


12v lighting Not Operational

12v spots Not Operational

110 lighting currently operational

110 outlets currently operational

TV extension retraction currently operational

TV – tbc

No Direct (SAT) TV, no AIR TV

No FM system

DVD power on, but unable to test

Logitech system unable to test

Tuner/Amplifier Not Operational

Sound system unable to test

Vacuum system currently operational

Phone system Not Operational

Outlets currently operational

New Dell Laptop intermittent startup and keyboard issues.


            Range, hood & light currently operational

Microwave currently operational

Instant hot water currently operational

Garbage disposal currently operational

Dishwasher currently operational

Galley outlets currently operational

24v light x 1 Not Operational , rest currently operational

2 x Freezers currently operational

Ice maker Not Operational

Fridge currently operational

Garbage compacter appears currently operational

Remote mike unable to be tested

STBD Entrance

Main electrical switchboards all voltage/amp frequency Not Operational for all services.  (All electrical instrumentation unserviceable (all load panel voltage, current, and frequency indications (LED displays) appear to be permanently disabled.))

Remote Inverter Panels Not Operational

Main Inverters Currently Operational but were knocked offline/out by strike

Owner’s Cabin

Lighting currently operational

Head & lights currently operational

4 x courtesy lights currently operational, 1 x Not Operational

Phone Not Operational

Outlets currently operational

Head & exhaust fan currently operational

1 x closet light Not Operational

2 x closet lights currently operational

TV currently operational

AIR TV unable to be tested

No NAV PC feed to owner’s cabin

DVD Not Operational

A/C Not Operational

Independent fan – operational, but no longer rotates.


Skipper’s Cabin

Head & lights currently operational

Head & exhaust fan currently operational

Courtesy lights currently operational

Lights currently operational

All engine, generator, house 24v battery parallel switches to be tested

Outlets currently operational
Grey sump currently operational

All lights currently operational

NAV Net unable to be tested

AIR TV unable to be tested

Phone Not Operational

12v under floor lights currently Operational

Engine Room

Main engines Not Operational  to be tested by experts

Fuel transfer #1/2 currently operational

Bilge high water not tested

Bilge shaft pumps Currently operational

33KW gen operational

Fuel water sensor alarm to be tested – How?

Engine room dampers currently operational

PT & STBD inlet fans currently operational

Exhaust Fan currently operational

Engine room phone Not Operational

STBD engine bilge pump currently operational

PT engine bilge pump currently operational

Main engine bilge pump currently operational

Fuel primer pump currently operational

3 engine outlets currently operational

Water Makers unable to test the high rate sand filter

Water maker unit 1 currently operational

Water maker unit 2 Not Operational  (local and remote control heads failed)

Davit Not Operational – will not activate 240 switch on, no power to control head.

8 AGM (2 each) Engines and Generators – load tested.


BBQ currently operational

Outlets currently operational

Winches currently operational


Outlets currently operational

Freezers currently operational

Isolation boost currently operational

Galvanic isolate needs to be tested

Shore power switching needs to be tested

Shore power breaker #1 tripping frequently.

Isolation transformer needs to be tested

Sea Fire system needs to be tested

Chiller 1 Error Fault – Chiller 1 Low Loop Temp.

Kabola Heater – Requires cold weather to be test.

Dive Compressor – Cannot test until board sorted.


Tender Deck

Fuel pump currently operational

Outlets currently operational

2 – six person Switlik Liferafts (concerned about EPIRB

Primary EPIRB

1 15 HP Yamaha for inflatable Tender


VHF – Operates, but very poor reception.

Bilge Pump – Currently operational

Nav Net – Currently operational

Depth – Unable to test

Gauges – Currently operational

Engines – Unable to test 2 60 HP Yamaha outboard on Tender

Outside Lighting

Foredeck – all lights operational


– foredeck 1 x not operational

–          Fly bridge no courtesy

–          Cockpit 6 x courtesy not operational

Searchlight – operational both Pilot House and Fly Bridge

Navigation – all lights operational, including stern light

Fly Bridge canopy lights operational

Tender Deck – all lights operational

Cock pit canopy lights – 3 x operational, 1 x not operational

Note: Have been unable to determine strike exit point!

  1. #1 by Anonymous on June 18, 2012 - 6:18 am

    Kathy.. This was an excellent assessment of the boats damage… I suspect that this was an insurance requirement. I just read your Bahama excerpt… you guys recovered well from your misfortune… safe travels.



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