True Stories: When Lightning Strikes

The storm moves in quickly — the torrential, blinding rain, the hurricanelike winds, and the subsequent whitecaps. Although unsettling, these are usually manageable on a closed body of water and can be ridden out. It's when a fourth party is introduced that things take a turn for the worse: lightning. Suddenly, the situation changes from uncomfortable to outright dangerous. Just five minutes ago it was sunny with merely a few clouds on the horizon, but now you're in a place that no boater ever wants to be. It happens just like that.

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True Stories: When Lightning StrikesIllustration: Georges Fauveau

After living in Orlando for some time, we've gotten used to Central Florida's erratic and temperamental summer weather. Fellow Florida residents, you know what we're talking about — a hot and lazy afternoon on the lake can turn from sunshine to black skies in what seems like ­seconds. We have it OK though. Most of the lakes in this part of the country are relatively small. So when the winds pick up and mist from the oncoming downpour hits our windshields, we simply hightail it back to the dock and take cover. Many boaters don't have this luxury, however, and when the weather conditions change drastically, they're left stranded and fending for themselves in a standoff with Mother Nature's electrical fury.

Lightning is one of those things nobody fully understands. Really — there are scientists that are even dumbfounded by its unpredictability. All we know is there's no surefire way to protect yourself against it, except, of course, to avoid it all together. As editors of a magazine and not scientists (we know we had you fooled), our humble advice for thunderstorms is this: ­Always check the radar before heading out on the water. While on board, exit Instagram from time to time and open up that weather app — it's there for a reason. Be smart, and always give yourself more than enough time to head in if a storm is approaching.