Known for its thunderstorms, if not for its sunshine, Florida is considered the “lightning capital” of the country, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries over the past 50 years. A great deal of these accidents happen to individuals involved in water-related recreational activities, such as boating, fishing, swimming, surfing, and others.

From Lightning fatalities injuries and damage reports in the United-States – Updated 1995-2007, by Matt Bragaw

Along with the threat of injury or death, lightning can also present a major fire hazard for boats (and marinas). With the recent boat fire possibly caused by lightning over at Kennedy Point Marina (17 miles away from Harbortown Marina), this topic has come up a lot among Port Canaveral boaters.

Any seasoned boater will tell you that one of the most terrifying accidents that can happen on a boat is a fire. Whether you are in a marina, where the fire can rapidly spread to other boats (fiberglass, sails, and wood are all quite flammable), or you are out on the open water, where there is nowhere to run, and help may not be immediate.

Luckily, there are a few things boaters in Florida can do to protect their boats from lightning strikes, and potential boat or marina fires.  

Get Your Boat (and its Captain) “Lightning Safe” 

The best rule of thumb when it comes to lightning is to avoid becoming a target.

Get off of the water whenever weather conditions are threatening. If you can hear thunder, there is danger of lightning strike! Seldom will you hear thunder more than 5 miles from its source.

Lightning “Protection” Systems

When it comes to your boat, fiberglass-constructed boats, especially sailboats, are particularly vulnerable to lightning strike. Any projection above the flat surface of the water acts as a plausible lightning rod. The risk of damage from a lightning strike for these crafts can be reduced by properly designed and connected systems of lightning protection.

Remember that lightning protection systems do not prevent lightning strikes; they will actually increase the probability that your boat will be struck – That being said, even though lightning strike is more likely, having a lightning protection system installed on your boat will reduce the amount of damage caused to your boat in the case of a strike, and will help protect those on board from injury.

Are your Emergency Contacts updated? Stop by the marina office to assure that your records are updated.

Some other general boating fire safety tips to keep in mind:

  • A boat that is well-maintained to minimum safety standards is far less likely to catch fire.
  • Routinely replace chord sets, and do not hook them up if you see burn marks, or if your chord set will not firmly connect.
  • Regularly inspect fuel and electrical systems.
  • Do not leave operating electrical equipment unattended, especially portable heaters.
  • Smoke alarms are an essential life-saving devices that should be installed on your boat and tested regularly.
  • Do not leave oily rags in plastic bags – the chemicals can break down the plastic, creating heat, and the potential for a fire.

Did you know? The most common cause of boat fires is AC and DC wiring/appliance malfunction (55%).

Harbortown Marina, located 2.5 miles west of Port Canaveral, Florida, is nestled in a protected harbor with minimal tidal changes. Looking for a spot to keep your boat during Hurricane Season? You’ve just found it. Click Here to View our Current Specials.