Perhaps one of the biggest concerns for sailboat owners is the thunderstorm. Lightning can strike a mast and do serious damage not only to the mast, but because it follows the path of least resistance, lightning also has the potential to shoot down wire shrouds and blow out or incapacitate all the electrical gear aboard. In the worst case, lightning can blast a hole in the hull below the water line, sending the vessel down into the depths.
In the picture above, the top of the mast has been scorched black, and we can only imagine what happened to the electrical system and gear aboard. There are preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of the lightning strike, such as attaching a metal brush-like device to the top of the mast to dissipate the attractiveness of the mast itself and establish a kind of protective cloak over the boat. Another work-around is to run cables, often automobile booster cables, from the shrouds overboard into the water, thus providing a path for the lightning to travel on away from the boat. There are no guarantees, however. Lightning is a fickle beast and despite these work-arounds, the risk of damage from lightning is always present.