Seaworthy Magazine: Thunderstorms - A Few Members' Accounts

I cruise my 36' trawler every year from Florida to Connecticut up and down the Intracoastal Waterway. Last year while I was in the Neuse River about five miles south of Belhaven, North Carolina, I saw a well defined thunderstorm heading my way. Trying to use good judgment, I moved from the bridge to the lower station to be a little better protected from the lightning. Within a very short time all hell broke loose, with gusts of about 40 miles per hour and zero visibility. I know it's easy to exaggerate poor visibility but when you can not see the bow of the boat, I call that zero visibility.

Over the years I have been in many thunder and lightning storm so I was not that concerned. However the radar was useless, nothing but hash on the screen, the GPS decided it could not find any satellites, and worst of allósomething that had never happened to me beforeóthe depth sounder went dead.

Obviously, the electrostatic charge on the boat was so bad that all the electronics were useless. Now what do you do in a situation like this? Throw out an anchor? No, not with lightning striking all around the boat.

The Neuse River where I was is about one mile across. Fortunately, I knew fairly well where I was so as the wind spun the boat around and at times laid her over almost to the gunwale, I would gun the engine until I could get her back into the wind. Then take the engine out of gear and let it happen again. The object was to try and stay in the middle of the river and not go aground. With no depth sounder, I had no idea if I was accomplishing my goal.

The storm lasted about 20 minuets, but it seemed like forever, and as the storm passed and visibility returned I found my self, fortunately, in the middle of the river about 100' from a buoy. As an aside, I was alone and probably a good thing too, because I would not want to be worrying about crew at a time like that. All the electronics returned to normal and I went on my merry way. At the dock, and after a good stiff shot of booze, my blood pressure returned to normal.