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Date:  28 March 2021. Lightning Strike series Summary (parts 1 and 2)


This page contains parts one and two of the Lightning Strike series.
It details the range of damage caused when lightning hit a nearby boat.

Due to friends aboard boats with slower download speeds, I broke the lightning series into two articles. For those with poor wifi connections, here are your links:

Date:  12 March 2021. Lightning Strike and Errors Made (part 1)

It all started 28 December 2020, though at that time none of us were aware of how far the problems went. This is part one of the lightning series. Today I detail how fortunate I am to have a great neighbor, and the far reaching events that began late last year. Mistakes were made by me. Here is what I learned.

I have one of the best neighbors possible. His name is Cap'n Dave and he's been a real blessing as far as the small boating community I share here on the beach. The man pays attention to noises that are out of the norm. Then he calls or texts so further investigation can be made.

Cap'n Dave enjoys boating in both center console speed boats and larger vessels.

What happened: On 28 December Cap'n Dave sent a text saying he heard an alarm coming from one of the boats west of his home. I'm almost always up late writing so I went looking to isolate which boat was alarming off. It turned out to be a Prairie.

This is the Prairie, when she was in slings at Salt Creek Boat Yard:

I told you about my experiences at that yard in the Salt Creek Boatyard article.

The first thing I did upon entry was pull the batteries out of the CO alarm in the main cabin of the Prairie trawler. I then opened up the back door and windows. It had been storming so the breeze was brisk. After airing out the boat I closed her up then returned home.

A bit later that night Cap'n Dave said the alarm was again going off. This time the CO alarm in the forward cabin was ringing. Again I aired out the boat. About the only thing that will cause an alarm to go off on a boat is a battery off-gassing. I assumed that was the case here so made sure the battery charger was shut off. Then I returned home.

Side Note: The smoke alarms aboard the boat were silent.

The following day the boat owner came down. He verified that the
water levels in his 6-volt battery bank were a-okay. All was well there.

In addition to the 6-volt battery bank there existed one addition battery. That one was a new 12-volt batt used to start the Westerbeke generator onboard the vessel. It was purchased and installed last year. I did it, and therefore we had no reason to believe a virtually new battery would be the cause of the alarm.

With the battery charger off, no further alarms sounded. Tracking down the source of the alarm the previous evening didn't stay a priority once we were sure there was water in the old batteries. Both the boat owner and I thought this might have been an odd one-off. It slipped from our minds.

MISTAKE #1: Ignoring an alarm.

Then came Jesse, a *shipwright of some renown hereabouts...

*Shipwright: An individual who understands marine systems, and is able to troubleshoot and repair same.

Via my friend Cheryl, Jesse agreed to spend some time here and resolve a myriad of issues the boats nearby and my Seaweed are experiencing. You met Cheryl and her husband Fred in the
Sojourners Saloon article On Island Time (Schucker 440 Motorsailor). They are great folks.

Cheryl and Fred, in their dinghy:

Jesse started on the neighbor's newly purchased
vessel. She lacked instruments at the lower helm.


Boat projects always seem to take multiple trips to stores. Though I love outings, I prefer to shop versus buy. Buying trips for me are always stress-filled events. In addition to the instruments, a trip to Home Depot was required for a chunk of oak. That oak was used for the tachometer mounting box.


The TACHOMETER gauge is larger than the Oil, Engine Temp, and Voltage meter trio. Jesse sketched, cut out and sanded the oak piece for the tach. Then I did the finish work.


Ladies will understand how traumatic the disorder boat projects can become. This boat, the one that Jesse started on, has not been lived aboard yet so she's in major chaos. Ugh!!!

Hint: When I am painting or staining over several days, I do not clean my paint brush. Instead I put the bristles into a sandwich bag and store it in the freezer between uses. Thus I avoid the work of cleaning a cheap paint brush. In the few minutes between removal from my freezer and use, the brush is nearly defrosted. This saves work.

I do purchase the least
expensive brushes available.

Daddy bought good brushes and used them forever. He DRILLED HOLES so he could hang his brushes after cleaning. Decades later, I still have his old paint brushes. Nowadays though I use them to sweep dust and puppy fur off the floor.

Skipper is my joy. I love this dog:

She helps me keep my sanity when my world tilts toward chaos.

Jesse consulted with the boat owner to decide placement of the tachometer gauge at the lower helm.

New instruments at the lower helm pleased the captain.

In the meantime Jesse was checking out the diesel Perkins *4-108. He said we would have to take the new alternator to a shop for an additional wire/stud so the tachometer gauge recently purchased would work. In the meantime we were running the built in battery charger to bring the voltage up.

*4-108: Spoken as four, one oh eight. This means 4 cylinders, and 108 cubic inches.

Regarding Alternators: If I understood it correctly an alternator with the addition of a single wire from the inside will work with a tachometer to display engine RPM's. Now I'm definitely NOT an expert, however I did find it interesting that I wouldn't have to install a "fancy" alternator to get this reading.

Whilst down in the engine room, Jesse noticed the *separate 12-volt battery was hot. With this discovery, the source of that CO alarm was identified. The newest battery, the one I had not checked because it was a recent purchase, was overheating and off-gassing.

*Separate 12-volt battery: The main battery bank is comprised of four 6-volt batteries forward of the engine. This batt, a single 12-volt Group 29 is the start battery for the generator. Group 29 is the size of the battery. The 29's weigh approximately 65 pounds.

Knowing where a problem is centered is always a good thing. Issues cannot be resolved until the
 root cause is located. Having Jesse has been a real blessing. I can't wait until he gets to my Seaweed!!!

End Lightning Strike and Errors Made (part 1)


Date: 25 March 2021. Lightning Strike series Conclusion (part 2)

The lightning that struck a neighboring Prairie did not just take out one 12-volt battery. Details on that can be found in the Lightning Strike and Errors Made (part 1) article. Further problems were identified and solved in this, the conclusion of the lightning series.

The lightning struck this 1979 Prairie:

The boat is a gem, though she had been stored *on the hard for quite some time before purchase.

*on the hard: a vessel out of the water. This usually means a boat has been hauled out for work, or for storage during an off-season. Some northern boats spend their winters on land.

The upper helm on the Prairie no longer worked properly. Back in October everything on the fly bridge was functioning well. Then, for no apparent reason, the engine could not be started topside.

This issue/problem is in my view an Emergency. If your engine stalls it never happens at an opportune moment. Thus, the ability to immediately restart the engine is a critical safety measure.

Because I had a few months back mapped out the wiring on the bridge of the Prairie,
naturally I did not think to check it again. It was right then, so why do that again?!?

Our friend Jesse is a shipwright and experienced in tracking down and resolving issues aboard boats. He immediately recognized the problem when he started disassembling the upper helm instrument panel.

Jesse noted the BURNT ARC along the side of the ignition switch. He surmised that lightning struck the boat.

Mistake #2: When the upper helm stopped properly working I should have examined the instrument connections and double-checked my previous repair job.

Because I had recently worked on the entire upper helm, arrogance bit me on the transom. My job topside including tracing the wires, diagramming same, installing the new (see above) ignition switch, and verifying the instruments worked. They did, at least until lightning struck.

The "problem" with lightning is the far reaching effects it can have. Almost all of the terminal ends on the instrument panel at the upper helm were burnt. Jesse replaced those.

Jesse also designed and cut out of oak a new panel for the smaller lower helm instruments.

Jesse had diagnosed the problem at the upper helm. We bought a new ignition switch which Jesse installed. The new terminal ends resolved all other issues topside.

Next, we needed to concentrate on the lower helm, specifically the tachometer. Jesse
suggested Acme would best suit our needs. He also spoke highly of Harry who owns the the business.


The solution to the tach issue was found at Acme Auto Marine Electric Company.


An additional wire needed to be installed on the Perkins alternator. This connection wire will allow a tachometer gauge to register the revolutions per minute aka RPM's of the engine. Harry is a long-time small business owner on Treasure Island. His expertise is well-known in the area.

Harry is a gem. He owns Acme on Treasure Island, FL  33706 (Phone: 727-367-8333)
The company specializes in starters (marine and auto) plus alternators and more.


During our visit Harry took apart the alternator so he could attach a wire. Once separated from the case, he recognized a problem. Lightning had damaged the alternator. The alternator guts were replaced right then and there with items in stock.

The ALTERNATOR COILS were burnt. Additionally Harry replaced a couple more damaged parts.


We walked into Harry's shop and less than an hour later we were on our way. Thank you Harry.

And thanks too to Jesse who knew just the place to go!

What to Learn from my Mistakes during the whole lightning fiasco:

  • MISTAKE #1: Ignoring an alarm. I should have tracked down WHY the alarm went off.
  • Mistake #2: When the upper helm stopped properly working I should have disassembled the instrument panel and rechecked my previous repair job.


Due to friends aboard boats with slower download speeds, I broke the lightning series into two articles. For those with poor wifi connections, these are links to share:

For folks who prefer everything on one page, here is the link for this page:
Lightning Strike series Summary (parts 1 and 2)

That's it from the water. I thank you for reading.

Has your boat ever been struck by lightning?
And, how many CO monitors do you have in your home?

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2021, 2023

Categories:  Boat Talk, Characters, Gear, In the Bilges, Locations, Pets,

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