“Welcome back to Florida,” says Lightning Strike

We arrived at our marina on a Wednesday. On Thursday, less than 24 hours later, we were struck by lightning…well, not us, the mast.

Before the storm, we had had a great 24 hours! We scarfed down amazing dinner at Scotty’s Brewhouse. Spicy BBQ chicken wrap with pineapple, mmmmmm. We found and bought our summer car, a Ford Focus.

Thursday afternoon, a pretty typical scenario for an afternoon summer thunderstorm in Florida ensued. A nasty cell moved in quickly and the winds picked up, giving us a nice heel in our slip. According to our wind speed gauge, gusts were nearing 40 knots (about 46 mph). The sky was an ominous black. And as usual, there was a ton of lightning. Troy went outside on the dock to adjust a fender…not having been in the marina for even 24 hours, he wanted to make sure we weren’t rubbing the dock. I stood in the companion way watching the lightning flash from every direction.

The loudest clap of lightning happened while Troy was still on the dock. I yelled at him to get inside. But before I could get the words out, I began smelling a burning/electrical smell. As he climbed back aboard, I immediately shouted, “Something’s burning!” We quickly shut off anything powered…the house battery bank, the outlets, the ac, and the shore power.

Once we realized nothing was on fire, Troy immediately went into search mode. He was looking for any signs of damage. The burning smell was coming from the air conditioning in the forward hanging locker. No smoke or fried wires. Instead, the burning came from the electrical board.

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At this point, we still didn’t for certain know we were struck by lightning. When that giant clap of lightning happened, my hair wasn’t standing on end and nothing exploded, shook …or whatever is supposed to happen when a boat gets struck by lightning. We thought it might have been a power surge from the shore power.

Next, Troy got on the phone with a company who had the replacement electrical board for the a/c. It would be here by 5:00 the next day! That was AMAZING…since the boat was already getting hot!

Troy continued searching for damage. After checking all systems, we discovered that these items weren’t working…

-a/c electrical board

-refrigerator

-mast light

-wind speed transducer and display

-autopilot

-depth display

-VHF antenna

-propane on/off switch

-spreader and steaming light

-a few random lightbulbs in the cabin

-Wi-Fi antenna and router

-TV antenna

All in all, we thought we got pretty lucky. No severe damage to the boat itself. No fried wires. No blown through hulls. We were fine…and the sunset that evening was not too shabby.

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The next day, the harbormaster emailed me a video of the strike from the surveillance cameras. And there you can see it…a clear lightning strike to a mast at our side of the marina. After the strike, we can see a nice fiery spark off the side, which we presume was our VHF antenna going for a ride. The camera was far away, so we couldn’t not see that it was our boat specifically, but no one else reported any damage…so it had to be us.

Over the next several days, Troy went to work diagnosing each non-working system. Thankfully, we found that many things could be narrowed down to smaller parts and it wasn’t that we had lost the entire system. For example, the depth transducer was fine, we just needed a new display. And the propane solenoid needed to be replaced…we didn’t lose the wiring. When the fridge went out, Troy discovered that the only thing that needed to be replaced was the cooling fan…which we found at Best Buy for $10.00. The cooling fan is EXACTLY the same as a computer fan.

At this point, we only have the autopilot left to be addressed. As long as we don’t have to replace it entirely, we’ve estimated total damage to not reach more than $1,000.00. Yes, it stinks to lose a grand…but it could’ve been a lot worse. I think it is pretty safe to say, I HATE thunderstorms now!

Welcome to SailingSaltyTails!

boat

Hi! We’re Erin and Troy, a couple of newbie sailors headed for the Bahamas. We want an adventure: to travel where the sun is shining and the sand is warm on our feet while seeing new parts of the world, all while learning to sail. Over the next few years, we hope to reach the Bahamas, Caribbean, and eventually beyond. So, we sold everything: our cars, our house, and most of our belongings (anything that wouldn’t fit inside of our 10×10 storage unit) and bought a 1979 37’ Hunter Cherubini. Sound crazy? Well, we’re also bringing along our two dogs and cat!

Troy and Erin

We’ve always loved the water. For the last handful of years, we have spent nearly every weekend on our powerboat in Tampa during the spring and summer months…sometimes stretching even until October or November if we could stand the cooling water temps. The ocean makes us happiest…I still yelp anytime I see a dolphin and force Troy to stop whatever he’s doing to come check it out. Since we love being outdoors and enjoying nature, sailing and living aboard became our dream.

Bella
Bella, our 9 year old Shiba Inu

How did we make this a reality? We’re not going to lie…it was scary: changing everything that was “normal” to us and veering off course. But, we wanted to live a simpler way of life. We were tired of the rat race: driving home in rush hour traffic, car payments, and following a regular routine every day. Troy was always more “ready” to make the plunge than I was. There were so many “what-if’s” that ran through my mind…health insurance, storms, first aid, navigating new places, budget, etc. etc. However, after a week-long vacation to the beautiful Virgin Islands a few years ago, I was ready to commit…we were going to do it! We didn’t want to wait any longer; certainly not until retirement. We want this experience now, while we’re young and healthy and able to soak up every ounce of adventure. So, we called and met with our real estate agent. We began downsizing and listed our home for sale. Selling quickly in a hot market, our home went under contract in 24 hours! We continued saving every penny we could manage…we even moved in with my parents as we searched for and prepped Salty Tails.

Ginnie
Ginnie, our 4 year old Lab-Shepherd Mix rescue pup

Salty Tails…you can probably guess how our boat got her name. Some people might think we’re nuts for cramming two people and three animals on a 37’ sailboat. But Ginnie, Bella, and Chase are our family…there is no other option than to have them with us! Yes, we’ll have plenty of pet hair to clean up. And yes, we’ll have to take them to do their business, even when the winds are blowing. Regardless, we’re so excited to bring them on this journey!

The goal of this blog is to document our adventure and have our friends and family join in. We’re so thankful for their love and support as we’ve planned and put our dreams into action. We also hope to inspire anyone who has a desire or similar interest to sail or adventure abroad. We’ll keep you posted with pictures and stories of our travels as we go. Since this is learning process for us, we’ll share our aha’s, tips, and tricks we learn along the way!

Chase
Chase, our 12 year old rescue kitty

Happy Sailing!

Erin, Troy, Ginnie, Bella, and Chase