Lightning protection on sailboats is an un-researched area of knowledge. Most of the information is based on the theoretical physics of lightning coupled with experiential and anecdotal evidence. This doesn't mean we know nothing about the matter. The articles and links below pretty much cover the ground and I suggest you read them over before deciding the level and complexity of any lightning protection system for you boat. Two things seem clear:
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by John Payne (Adobe PDF File, 74.2 KB)
by Stan Honey (Adobe PDF File, 633.7 KB)
by William J. Becker, Univ. of Florida Sea Grant Extension (Adobe PDF File, 248.3 KB)
by Bill Laudeman (Adobe PDF File, 170.8 KB)
(Adobe PDF File, 76.6 KB)
by Abdul M. Mousa, BC Hydro, IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, Oct 1998. (Adobe PDF File, 1 MB)
Read this one if you believe lightning eliminators (static dissipaters) really work.
by William J. Becker. Univ of Florida Extension (Adobe PDF File, 248.3 KB)
by Ewen M Thomson, Univ. Fla. 1992. Sea Grant Publication (Adobe PDF File, 1.2 MB). Click here for HTML version
by Capt Vincent Daniello (Adobe PDF File, 271.3 KB)
by Ewen M Thomson, Univ. Fla. 1991 IEEE Publication (Adobe PDF File, 727.5 KB)
Recommendations for Lightning Protection provided by the American Boat & Yacht Council, Standard E4. (KP44 website page)
Grounding Your Vessel. Technical articles and links on grounding: on the kp44.org website
Air Terminals (i.e. lightning rods) by Ewen M Thomson, Univ. Fla. Sea Grant.
Lightning & Sailboats. (i.e. lightning rods) by Ewen M Thomson, Univ. Fla. Sea Grant Publication. 1992. Very good publication.
Articles and Letters on Lightning and Boats by Ewen M. Thomson. Terrific resource for lightning info.
World Wide Opposition to ESE Lightning Rods from National Lighting Safety Institute, May 13, 2003. (Article dated 1999, by Abdul Mousa).
Considerations for Lightning Protection. A very excellent analysis of the problem. Presented in the blog of Domino – a 65' power catamaran.
Forespar "Lightning Master" Static Dissipater. Supposedly "leaks off lightning causing ground potential". Mousa, Thomson (above) and others disagree, saying the ground potential on structures below 300 meters is meaningless in terms of lightning strikes.
Lightning Master Corporation. Surge protectors and Dissipaters. DIssipaters are pretty much shown to be ineffective, but surge protection for onboard electronics is important.
Marine Lightning Protection, Inc. Founded by Ewen M Thomson. Best information on the web. Provider of air terminals and lightning protection systems . In particular look at his page on Grounding and Sidearc™ electrodes which is currently state-of-the art.