I was returning from a series of charters in the Bahamas with guests onboard in June. During the passage we dodge a number of very active cells. As we approached Miami a storm with lots of lightning which radar showed to be 24 miles long and 10 miles deep. This storm with tops at about 40 thousand feet loomed 5 miles in front of us; no dodging this one. The VHF sang out with dire sever storm warnings advising all vessels to immediately seek safe harbor, ya right, we were to far off shore for that plan so we rigged for heavy weather and we got it.
The rain was coming down so hard I couldn't see the bow of the boat, the radar was useless no mater how diligently I tweaked it, the wind piped up to fifty knots. Stray Cat has taken me through much worse, she handled this comfortably. My guest naturally were very concerned by the tremendous frequent and loud reports from the lightning- I'm glad they couldn't read my mind; more on lightning later.
Another downside to this long wet summer is one we are all dealing with namely the economic one, it has finally come home to roost. The up side is unplanned time off which allowed me to take on maintenance issues that always seem to pile up when the schedule is tight. I also did some personal health maintenance after meeting a fellow sailor and guess what, he is also an internist who practices close by to Coconut Grove, he is taking real good care of me.
That brings me to Dental care, I managed to loose control of a jib sheet in a strong wind that not to kindly, whacked me in the mouth breaking a few teeth and loosening a few (definitely a downside). That event found me flying to Charlotte for a visit with Jane Parker DDS., Russ Nash DDS., Jeff West DDS. and Mike Kelly DDS. Thankfully they are all long time friends and charter guests (definite up side) and in their many talents did extractions, bone transplants, and a number of implants. I have three more visits to go.
Lightning; the following is a loss details letter I had to write for my insurance adjuster:
Statement of loss
Date of loss: 09.05.09
This detail is presented by Mark Pomerenke USCG licensed, 50 ton Master, the vessel's master at the time of the event.
The vessel was at anchor utilizing ground tackle of 120' of chain to 200' of rode on a 45 pound Delta anchor. The decision to anchor in the Dinner Key Marina anchorage was made at Approximately 13:30 with the approach from the east of several cumulus cells and one towering cumulonimbus formation. These storms were significant in their accompanying high winds, intense rain (zero visibility) and numerous lightning displays.
Thereafter, The vessel suffered a direct lightning strike to the masthead which rises 64' above the waterline. Smoke was immediately apparent from the 120 vac and 12 vdc distribution/ circuit beaker panels and the various radios and displays at the adjacent Navigation table.
The Genset failed, shutting down automatically at that time and the systems such as the A/C's that it provided current to. All circuit and isolation switches were immediately shut off, fuel shut off valves were placed in the closed position, ABC fire extinguishers were at hand, access panels of the port and starboard sole were lifted to visualize the bilges, no personal injuries were experienced, a fire watch was maintained for approximately thirty minutes.
A short while later diesel fuel was smelt and discovered to be caused by a fuel leak at the bottom aft end of the starboard fuel tank which has a sixty gallon capacity. The auto function of the servicing bilge pump failed, a fortuitous failure, had it operated it would have pumped fuel over board.
Capt. Ricky of R&B marine services was called, he came to the vessel with a 55 gallon drum and pump whereupon the fuel was removed from the tank.
The small pin holes found in the stainless steel tank were abraded, dried and sealed with JB Wield. The described repair holds to this day and requires no further repair.
Double head halyards were employed as a safety measure to stabilize the mast section in the event of undiscovered structural damage and failure of the rig.
The insurance agent was notified of the loss on 09. 08 after the Labor Day weekend. Mr. Ken Ferch, claims Examiner called on 09.10 to acknowledge the claim and advise that Mr. Randal Roden marine surveyor would contact me to arrange his inspection of the vessel. Mr. Roden inspected the vessel at Dinner Key Marina on 09.12 at approximately 13:00; taking notes, asking pertinent questions, and took pictures of the thus far identified failed equipment.
The above statement accurately describes the events and actions attendant to the lightning strike to the best of my recollection.
Well that sums it up, excitement of the downside and now begins the dark side; dealing with insurance folks who will be compelled to protect the company. There seems to be near to 45k of loss mostly to electrical and electronic systems. The up side is the boat is operational and so am I.
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