Tip of the Month: Running Aground

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Despite all efforts to stay off shoals, beaches, or rocks; groundings do happen.

It is said that there are only three kinds of skippers, those who have run aground, those who will run aground, and those that have but won’t admit it. It is important that every boater be prepared for such an event with knowledge of what to do and the equipment with which to do it.

Immediate Actions
First, here is what you should not do when you run aground. Unless you are absolutely sure that it is a small shoal with deeper water ahead, do not apply power and try to push your way across, you will only put yourself harder aground. Do not immediately shift into reverse and increase engine power in an attempt to back off, you might suck up mud and/or bottom vegetation into the engine intake (watch for any signs of engine overheating), and you might further damage the propellers. Instead, take time to assess the situation. Is any water coming into the hull? Where exactly are you? How did you get there? Where might deeper water lie? What is the state of the tide? If you have a dinghy in the water, or can launch one, use it to take soundings all around your boat. If you are in a rocky area, it is especially important not to attempt to refloat the craft immediately. First, check for any hull damage. The rocks you are on might be the only thing keeping your boat afloat! If the damage is considerable, set out an anchor or two to keep you in place for the time being. Even if you don’t need any immediate assistance, you should radio the Coast Guard or other local authority. Advise them of your situation and your intended actions.

Let’s assume that you are lucky and that the tide is rising and that the increased depths will be enough to float you free. Although you might get off sooner if another vessel pulled, letting the tide float you off is less stressful on your hull and your crew. It may be necessary to set out an anchor in the direction of the wind and waves to prevent the rising tide from carrying you further up on the shoal.


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