Where There’s Thunder: Boating Safety Tips for Lightning Storms

boating safety tips

The summer is on its way, and with it, sunshine, pool parties and, unfortunately, the danger of lightning for boaters–a bummer, we know. However, there are three simple boating safety tips that can help you steer clear of potential risks. When the thunder starts rumbling, do you know what to do?

  • When in Doubt, Don’t Head Out: This one’s pretty simple but worth reiterating: if bad weather is forecasted to hit when you plan on being on the water, adjust your plans. Though some regions see thunderstorms nearly daily, they can often be predicted and scheduled around.

    Remember that many summertime thunderstorms, especially in the southeast, tend to come in the afternoon. Always check the latest forecasts and current weather conditions before and during your trip to stay well out of the way of dangerous lightning strikes.
  • The 30-Minute Rule: If you hear thunder while boating, seek shelter inside of your vessel if it is enclosed. Immediately stop swimming, tubing or doing other activities in or around the water and don’t resume them until there has been a break in the thunder for at least 30 minutes. Also, avoid touching metal surfaces and never use your VHF unless it is an absolute emergency during a lightning storm. 
  • Boat Lightning Protection: Lightning rods, also known as air terminals, can be installed on a boat and wired to a ground plate that would connect to and help insulate other metal objects on the vessel. During a lightning storm, you can protect your electronics by storing them in an onboard microwave, which will act as a Faraday cage–a container that, like a car, will protect whatever is inside of it from lightning.

By keeping track of the weather, following the 30-minute rule and protecting your boat before hitting the water, you can help reduce the risk of dangerous lightning strikes. Though getting struck by lightning is generally a rare occurrence, this is one force of nature you do not want to take your chances with. As always, stay safe, avoid those summer thunderstorms and have a great time while on the water!