The vast majority of lightning injuries and deaths on boats occur in small, open boats according to NOAA. Furthermore, there is in fact no safe place outdoors when lightning is around. The only safe place is inside a “safe” building, one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls and floor and with plumbing or wiring, or in an automobile.
What’s a fisherman or small boater supposed to do when the frequent summer thunderstorms rumble across an area? The simple and best answer is to avoid them. Most pop-up storms occur in the afternoon, so keep watch for developing storms and listen for distant thunder. When you hear thunder, the safest action is to get off the water and into a safe building or car. If you get caught out in a storm, NOAA suggests that dropping anchor and getting as low as possible in the boat will slightly reduce the chance of a direct strike.
Boats with cabins are somewhat safer if you stay inside the cabin and away from metal, electronic components and the radio. Lightning is scary, but fortunately, very few boaters are struck. Nonetheless, the highest probability is in summer, so it’s not a good idea to wave a graphite stick around in the air during a storm. Be careful.