Camomile struck by lightning!
Crrraaaack, an arc weld blue flash in the cockpit came at the same moment as the earsplitting sound of the lightning. Sue and I had been cowering down in the saloon for the past hour tensely counting off the seconds between the flashes of forked lightning and the roar of the thunder. The deluge hammered the water around the marina flat and drummed relentlessly on the coach roof. We had been taking care to keep our hands away from anything metal and had already packed all our computers and other electronics safely into the two metal lined boxes we use as Faradays cages to protect them from electrical surges.
Our count between flash and bang had started at about 12 seconds which according to lore means that the strike is as about as many miles away but it soon went to 5 then 3 and the frequency was viciously quick so there was no hesitation about putting our stuff away even though we had done it scores of times before for what had turned out to be false alarms.
Then I thought I smelled smoke so I ventured a head up the companionway but all seemed to be in order on deck from what I could see through the driving rain.
A few seconds later one of the saloon lamps went out accompanied by a small phuT and a wisp of very smelly smoke.
It was at that moment I realised that we might have been struck and when the other three lights went out one by one we started to look more carefully around us. Sue spotted that some of the breakers had gone out on the DC distribution panel but it soon became obvious that nearly half of the LED indicators were not working. By now the anger had gone out of the storm and flashes were tracking further and further away so when Sue suggested trying the instruments I agreed that it should be safe to try this. We found that the Raymarine wind, speed, and graphic instruments were all dead and the remaining depth was making a protesting squeaky alarm noise. The chart plotter did not work either and the autopilot failed to engage. It was very clear that the whole system was badly compromised.
We wondered what else could have been affected so we carefully searched the boat for scorch marks or smells of smoke. It seemed ok but by now we were late for the civic function that had been called in honour of the visiting yachts at Danga Bay Marina near Singapore with the Sail Malaysia East Rally. In the end we decided to attend, though we were hardly in the mood for it, but the Malaysians rolled out a superb evening that took the edge off our darker mood for a moment.
We made made an interem visit back to the boat to check up on her and finally, on our return, we checked through the exterior navigation lights while it was dark and easy to see them but all seemed ok so we decided to go through the boat’s systems with a fine toothcomb the next morning and settled down for what turned out to be a calm night.
The following mornning did not start well as Sue opened the fridge and realised that it was not working. By then I had worked out that the AIS was completely dead and its circuit breaker was shot. And it went on, the Eberspacher diesel domestic water heater, the gas and co alarms, the TV and both the music radio and its speakers. The VHF had lost a channel and the Navtex sparodically lost its memory. Although there was no obvious damage or scorching on deck it was clear that the hit had been very close and we were both appauled and upset by what we had found so far. I cringed at the thought of starting up the engine to find out whether that was still with us and although it started first pop the DC metre showed its alternators charging at dangerously high voltages so I shut it straight down noting that iroincally the LCD engine hours metre on the starter panel which had faded into nothing a year or so ago was showing a reading again!
My euphoria over this small victory was short lived though as it struck me that we were stuck here until we could at least get the engine and depth sounder going and, worse still, Angela, Sue’s sister who was one of those who had so kindly looked after us when were back in the UK for Christmas, was coming out for a well deserved holiday on the boat in time for Sue’s birthday celebration in a few short days time. That was a low point as the whole event sunk in and our plans fell apart in front of our eyes, we would not even be able to join our new freinds on the rally it seemed.
Through this I had emailed Chris, our Topsail Insurance broker who was both responsive and supportive. He must have moved heaven and earth to arrange with the underwriters RSA to get Geoff Holland a local (Brit) surveyor from Braemar down to the boat just two days later so that we could kick off the process of making a claim and getting the damaged repaired. We spoke over the phone and Skype and his positive attitude bouyed me up, perhaps we could get through this after all.
Four days later, Angela is aboard and though we still have no fridge (just an ice box) and no main autopilot I have jury rigged and brought enough backup systems on line to allow us to move again… Limping.
We plan to enjoy Angela’s stay, hopefully show her a desert island, and at the same time gather information from suppliers and contractors for the insurers so that when she leaves we can get to the business of rebuilding Camomile back to 100% as soon as it is feasible. With luck, a following wind and the the support of Topsail/RSA, who knows, we may still catch up with our freinds
Watch this space……