As many of you know, my parents keep their sailboat in Greece and travel there twice yearly for extended cruises (driving each way by campervan – the original MAdventurers). About 4 weeks ago their boat got hit by lightning – with them aboard! This is their tale, taken from their latest email to us:
We were anchored in a sheltered creek north of Preveza and in bed reading at about 11pm – thunder and lightning had been rolling round us for an hour or so and seemed to be getting closer. Then the wind suddenly increased (felt like F8) making the boat heave around and Rob got up to start the engine so he could steer into the wind and ease strain on the anchor and chain. Just as he went up the steps from the cabin, there was a loud bang. He looked up and saw a shower of sparks raining down from the top of the main mast, like a Roman Candle firework! and cabin and anchor lights went out at the same time. Luckily the engine started ok, so he could maintain the boat’s position – he had thought we were drifting back onto a nearby jetty. So he was standing at the wheel in the pouring rain in his birthday suit till I put a towel round him! There was a smell of smoke in the cabin but no sign of any fire.
Next day it was the depressing task of going round all the instruments and wiring with a multi-meter to assess the damage. Fortunately Rob had put some instruments into a tin box, especially the GPS chart plotter, and they were all ok. (Think it was the giant M&S choc biscuit tin you gave us 2 Xmas’s ago – magic!) At the mast head, the VHF aerial and wind indicator were gone completely, but the tri-colour light fitting was still there. Below the mast, in the cabin, it was obvious that the lightning had jumped from the mast post directly to the VHF radio, only about 3ft from Granny’s head! Basically all the equipment connected to the 12V domestic battery was ‘fried’, including all the navigation lights, ceiling lights, solar panel and the fridge. The fuses and LEDs on the distribution panel all exploded and we found parts of the LEDs 8ft away. The hull, mast and rigging did not seem to have been damaged and fortunately the anchor winch was ok so we were able to motor back to our Preveza base. Rob managed to repair some of the lighting and by bringing the campervan up close to the boat on shore, we can plug in the electricity and use that fridge. Since the thunderstorm it has been wall to wall sunshine and we have been roasting in the heat 30/35C and the mozzies are a pain.
We contacted our insurance co by e-mail and phone. Awaiting their reply, we have been on a tour of Levkada island in the campervan. It has been a bit hair-raising at times along narrow roads that wiggle both horizontally and vertically, and especially through hilly villages, meeting an oncoming vehicle to pass with an inch between wing mirrors and an open drop on our side into a garden or courtyard way below! For our first night, we rejected a safe but stuffy campsite to go ‘wild’ camping at another marked on our map. Having eventually found the turning, we progressed upwards and through a tiny village with giant potholes and narrow twisting road. We then started downwards and were committed as there was no hope of turning round. We caught glimpses of the road ahead twisting down towards sea level – it still looked a long way to go. Then saw 2 campervans below, so thought we were on the right track. Came to a Y junction – turn right for ‘Eden’, left for Afteli Bay. Eden seems to be 2 unfinished buildings, very high up on the hillside overlooking the sea (rather long way down for a swim!) We continued left and after a few more bends, saw a red van coming up towards us (gulp) but it was ok as he’d found a space to pull in and gave us a wave and strange smile as we passed. Next saw a gateway above 2 static caravans – the campsite?? think they must have been dropped in by helicopter. A bit further we came to the harbour with some small fishing boats and found a fairly level site by a big olive tree to park the van for the night. Sun had gone down behind the hill and it would soon be dark. There was a brick-built bungalow with cultivated garden, just by the harbour end. Wondered how building materials were brought here to build it. A cement mixer lorry down that road?? Perhaps it all came by boat. Didn’t see anyone around but later heard bells tinkling and a dog started barking on and on. While we were eating supper, a fisherman came up to his van parked nearby – Rob went out to him – he didn’t speak ‘Inglis’ he said but managed to say and understand more than we could Greek! We went to bed, read for a while and then worried if ‘Tess’ would get back up that hill in the morning. But Rob and Tess coped very well with the hill, after one lurching stop on a very tight bend. The rest of our tour was quite tame by comparison but it was relaxing and we enjoyed our three days and nights away from the boat and did some swimming too.
Back at the boat we found e-mail from our GJW claims adviser that our claim had been passed and a cheque for the estimated amount (less £250 excess) is on its way to 115. Rob has now dismantled all the damaged items and is in the process of packing them into the camper. We have to buy a small solar panel to keep the boat’s batteries topped up over the winter and then we can close up Chislebob and be on our way home, probably next Wednesday 10th.