September 9, 2013, Las Brisas anchorage, Panama City, Panama
Saturday, September 7th, 2013 was a fateful day for On Delay. Pete, Gayle, Tony and Jane were happily settled into a quirky apartment overlooking the Las Brisas bay where On Delay lies at anchor. We had just finished listening to cruisers’ net on the VHF radio, it was about 8:20 am, and a terrible thunderstorm hit the area. The storm was right on us — the thunder and lightning crashed and flashed simultaneously.
After the storm had passed, Tony and Pete went to the boat and discovered that she had suffered a lightning strike. As they approached the boat, they heard an electronics alarm going off. When they got on deck, they discovered the mast antenna and plastic from the mast-light casings shattered on deck. That was just the tip of the damage, literally and figuratively.
It actually took weeks to figure out everything that had been effected by the strike. (For example, because we have to run the generator to power the water maker, the guys had to fix the generator before discovering that the watermaker didn’t work.) Here’s a partial list of things we need to fix or replace:
- Generator circuit board
- Water maker: two circuit boards and a pump
- Gauge for the port-side fresh water tank
- Fridge circuit board
- Air conditioning units
- Just about all of the navigational electronics, from the depth gauge at the bottom to the anemometer (for wind speed) at the top through all the Raymarine chart plotters and instruments.
The boat was equipped with some lightning protection. In theory, lightning was supposed to hit the mast and travel down purpose-built conducting wires to a through-hull grounding plate in the starboard engine compartment. And, in a way that happened, the 1-cm dia wire to the grounding plate was found melted! However, there was a lot of induction damage as the electricity moved from top to bottom.
Along with all the other fixes, we are working with a lightning consultant, Ewen Thomson of Marine Lightning Protection, to design better lightning protection for On Delay. We’ve nicknamed him Dr. Lightning; he really does have a Ph.D. in lightning research.
We had already planned to stay a while in Panama City to do boat work: we had a number of leaks to fix that needed professional help, we wanted to get our interior upholstery recovered, we had left our old sails on the Atlantic-side and needed to take delivery of the new sails, the unsatisfactory teak work done at Shelter Bay had to be done again and again, the anode that had fallen off in the canal needed to be replaced, etc. Because of these plans, we’d rented an apartment for the month of September. We’ve now rented it through to the end of November.
All in all, it could have been much worse: we were able to put in an insurance claim that covers most of the damage to the navigational electronics (though not for the other damage). Nearby is recently opened Lagoon dealership. An Italian Roberto Bracco has given up selling Lagoons in Italy and has started selling and servicing them in Panama. He’s got two employees who are working on our boat: Gianni from Italy and Diego from Colombia. Both are great guys and skilled workmen and here in Panama City without their families; they work long hours for us, 6 days a week.
Repairs are coming along. The new electronics has been ordered and should be arriving in Panama any day now.