Sailing has been my passion since an early age. At 63 I was ready to retire and go sailing indeﬁnitely. So a few years ago, I ordered my 4th sailboat, a Hylas 63. Traveling back and forth to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, home of Queen Long Marine and builder of the Hylas brand, I watched my semi-custom yacht take shape. I took delivery of Shaima in February 2017.
In April 2017 the 400-mile inaugural sail from West Palm Beach to Key West and back was a great shakedown. Although the real adventures started July 1st when three buddies and I left for the BVI. That was a wonderful passage—1200 miles in exactly 7 days sailing against the wind.
For all my life I have been an extremely fortunate person, yet at 63 my luck ran out. While anchored off Cooper Island in a squall, lightning struck my beautiful new boat—a once in a hundred year event! Shaima withstood the direct hit very well, but the electromagnetic pulse fried most of the electronics. Navigation instruments, engine, hydraulics, windlass and generator were all taken out. Thus I was towed to Nanny Cay on the 13th of July for extensive repairs. As the yacht was surveyed for insurance purposes we discovered that the Hylas electrical system was extremely well built. The boat was so well grounded that not a single electric motor or cable was charred.
My unlucky streak wasn’t over, however. Repairs left Shaima stranded in the hurricane belt for months, and on September 7th the eyewall of Hurricane Irma crashed into Tortola. Nanny Cay was a disaster. Then only a week later Hurricane Maria struck. Two additional one in a hundred year catastrophes happened to my beloved Shaima! The chance of such a horrendous string of bad luck has to be one in a million!
I ﬂew back to the BVI after the storms. Shaima was on her side in the Nanny Cay boat yard, but considering the mayhem all around, she was in great condition. The hull was somewhat scratched on its starboard side, the rigging was still standing, the hard top was intact, and davits, rudder, propeller were all good. The only obvious damage was that the aft railing and antenna post were bent. A hull survey was done some days later. The ﬁndings were highly uncommon for a hurricane-induced fall in a boat yard. No structural damage was found in the stringers, bulkheads and interior of the boat. There were just some minor cracks in one nonstructural wood panel and door frame. The rigging, mast, sails and running rigging were all found in perfect condition.
So how did Shaima survive a lightning strike and two category 5 hurricanes in a single season? Clearly it’s the great German Frers design and the conscientious build by Queen Long Marine...plus maybe a bit of good luck has ﬁnally returned to her skipper!
Skipper and Owner SV Shaima, Hylas 63
Lessons learned and things to consider:
• Although lightning strikes may be a matter of chance, a well-grounded boat will likely prevent the most catastrophic consequences.
• The best way to avoid huge hurricanes is to get out of the way. If Shaima had been towed south, despite being hobbled by lightning-damaged equipment, she might have had fewer mishaps.
• Sail a boat that handles the rough stuff...buy a Hylas!