Penang Lightning Strike

Portrait of a Lightning Strike

Extract from preliminary document sent to Topsail Insurance detailing our initial assessment of damage.


We were anchored out side Straits Quay Marina, Penang. Malaysia with approximately 20 other yachts & catamarans as part of Sail Malaysia Rally.

We had returned from a day ashore and started the generator and air-conditioner to cool the boat down after being locked up all day and to prepare an evening meal. It started to rain around 1930 hours and we could hear thunder in the distance. Very rapidly the situation changed and the Lightning and Thunder were very close to the anchorage, so we disconnected the VHF & HF antennas & switched off the Windless, Davit, Halyard Winch and HF & VHF Radios at the circuit breaker panel.

Our generator, saloon air conditioner & TV were operating as well as gas Controller and lights.

Lightening struck us at 2000 hours with a loud bang & all lights & TV went out. The generator continued running, but the air conditioner shut down & was making a noise.

We quickly turned it off at the control panel & shut the generator down.

We began checking onboard systems.

Lithium House Battery had been isolated by the BMS system. Attempted reconnect but got 2 flashing red LED's. Checked manual and this indicates a cell fault on 1 or more cells usually <2.5V or >4.0V. Measured battery voltage at 13.2V. (3.3V each cell) Noted all LED's on individual cell PCB's green. (Email later sent to Rod Dilkes from EVPower, Australia requesting information re further testing and diagnosis as well as quote for replacement and freight) BMS had already isolated battery but we turned off house battery switch a well.

Noted that VSR (voltage sensitive relay) between house and start battery non responsive to remote override. Installed hard wire link to bridge start battery to house to restore house systems ie. Lights etc.

Noted Xantex Battery Monitor non functional. With hardware bridge in place both start and house battery are registering but manual switching of VSR dead.

Checked Inverter/Charger No LED's on. Checked fusable link from battery and thatwas ok. Inverter/Charger Dead and possibly also controlling Mate 2.

Spectra Watermaker MPC 5000 panel alive but just listing letters of alphabet on display and totally non responsive. (Later email sent to Spectra asking for diagnosis and advice.)

Fired up HF and it was receiving ok but Pactor Modem shows power light but no other normally blinking lights. SUSPECT DEAD BUT NEED OPERATIONAL LAPTOP TO CONFIRM.

Started both main engines. Both fired up and all analogue gauges working ok. However, alarm panels remained illuminated as shown. ( Later found port motor alarm goes off when motor running alone, even though analogue gauges showing all ok. When running both motors or starboard only, not a problem. DIAGNOSIS NOT DEFINATIVE. MAY BE RELATED TO FAILED REGULATOR.

Checked Balmar 612 alternator regulator and found switching on ok via ignition relays but main power supply fuse blown any new fuse blows immediately. Diagnosis of internal short. No field output. This may relate to engine alarm display issues. NO BATTERY CHARGING AND ALTERNATOR STATUS UNKNOWN.

Anderson ST46 Electric Winch.

Attempted to engage circuit breaker but isolates with immediate disconnect. Bypassed remote PCB behind circuit breaker and proved winch works ok but PCB Blown. (Later email to AllyachtSpars Australia for quote re. new PCB)

Samsung 24 inch digital/analogue LED TV. Dead.

Raymarine Instruments.

Tri data shows depth but later found no speed or log functionallity. Temperature reading at 38.8 degrees C and all log information gone.

Wind shows “0.0” display and totally unresponsive to masthead unit and keypad.

Autopilot 6002 head unit displays ” Seatalk Failure” and totally unresponsive to keypad.

C120 shows chart info but GPS, 48Nm 24 inch Radar, 650 AIS, DSP 300 Fishfinder module and Autopilot all dead. All fuses checked and ok.

Sony Multimedia Player lights up but fails to play any media.

Fujitsu Lifebook Laptop was plugged into Pactor Modem, AIS and Chatrplotter NMEA. OpenCpn navigation software with KAP files. Primary navigation system for Indonesia. Dead.

Glomex TV antenna and signal amplifier. Dead


Garmin ETrex GPS. Used as backup GP for Lap Top navigation systems. Dead.

Masthead VHF Antenna, destroyed.VHF antenna hanging from the mast

Also noted all masthead lights non functional. Rigged alternative anchor light for the night.

Called friend and neighbour “New Views” to advise of situation and request loan of portabl genset in the morning. Sent emails outlining event and preliminary damage assessment to Topsail Insurance and requests for information from Spectra Watermakers and EV Power.

Immediate power needs met by start battery. Checked boat re hull damage and water ingress.

All ok. Transferred all food to cockpit fridge/freezer and shut down galley fridge to save power.


Start battery reading 11.5 V. Contacted other neighbour ” Pedro 3″ requesting lend of 240 V battery charger. “New Views” brings across genset as well as charger and spare 90 AH battery from “Pedro 3”. Proceed to rig temporary charging system and extra capacity to Start Battery.

All works well. Noted VHF masthead antenna hanging from mast. SUSPECT LIGHTING STRIKE HIT MOUNTING BRACKET VHF ANTENNA. Minutes later VHF Antenna fell to the deck.

Consider options and elect to proceed to Langkawi escorted by “New Views (Brisbane Aus)” and “Spruce (Portsmouth UK). Heard that ” Flomaide (Germany)” also received damage from last nights lightning storm.

Sufficient charge to start motors and lift anchor. Proceeded 18Nm toward Langkawi. Both Engines on and ok but not charging.



Enough battery power to start motors and lift anchor ok.

Motor sailing and discovered Port motor alarmed when running alone. OK with both and OK with Starboard. MAY BE RELATED TO FAILED ALTERNATOR REGULATOR AS ALL ANALOGUE GUAGES WORKING AND READING OK.

Arrived Rebak Marina ok. Requested “New Views” to purchase 240V charger for us as an interim measure while they are in Kuah. Climbed mast to inspect masthead and rigging.

Raymarine 48 Nm 24 inch Radome. Looks ok but dead.

Glomex TV Antenna/ Amplifier. Dead.

Masthead VHF Antenna Bracket remains.


Masthead anchor light and tricolour LED's blown. wiring OK. Old globes reinstalled & work fine. Navigation, Steaming and deck light globes also blown.

Checked behind engine panel and all looks ok. Volvo Part numbers for alarm display units taken in case new alternator regulator fails to fix problem.

Isophase Forward Looking sonar. Fires up ok but slow to settle depth and apparent artefacts in horizontal display mode.

Cockpit fridge freezer. Thermostat circuit dead and running continuously. Huge job to lift out box to get at compressor and controller.

Tested galley freezer. Runs ok but hunts at cut off before finally shutting down at temp. Thermostat circuit may also have been affected.

Jabsco remote controlled spotlight. One element stil working but second element and servos dead?

We are hoping to haul out and leave Gemini Lady on the hard while back in Australia. We have checked and measured up Travel Lift and we are satisfied it will be ok. We head back to Australia from Langkawi on 16/12/2015. Be great to have assessors visit before then if possible.

This document is a full and true account of the lightning strike on 03/12/2015 and our subsequent actions to stabilise the situation and get Gemini Lady to a safe harbour. The damage we have found so far is detailed but not necessarily limited to the contents of this document.


One thought on “Penang Lightning Strike”

  1. Tim and Lea,

    So very sorry to hear of your misadventure. Every yachties nightmare.

    Fortunately, the depth transducer and speed log did not blow out of the hulls. And, you did not suffer any physical injury.

    Kaitoro, our alloy Mumby, is currently chained to concrete blocks on the hard in Cairns. Most electronics disconnected though that is no guarantee. Back in Banff, we nervously check cyclone watch and thunderstorm warnings.

    We do hope TopSail cover well.

    Be very interested to hear followup.

    Jeff and Anne-Marie.

    Jeff Boyd, CCFPEM ABEM IFMGA ACMG Emergency Physician, Mountain Guide, PO Box 400, Banff. AB Canada. T1L 1A5 E-mail: Tf: (403)762-4974(H)


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