Home > Insurance Blog > Here’s To The Phrase: “If You’ve Never Gone Aground In Your Boat, You’re Not A Sailor.”
Here’s To The Phrase: “If You’ve Never Gone Aground In Your Boat, You’re Not A Sailor.”
Posted by Donald J. Medeiros Insurance Agency on
Ah.. Really?!? You can call yourself a sailor?!?
However, the instant you hear the boat’s keel bump the bottom it’s either an indication of the beginning of something catastrophic (like this guy) or it’s just a momentary gut-clench. Usually a typical grounding is somewhere in between the two scenarios. But getting the boat ungrounded will require a bit of skill and a little bit of luck.
What should you do in when this happens to you?
Your first priority is to react quickly, so once you feel that initial bump you will have a good chance to be freed.
So, if your boat is sailing upwind, the helm should be thrown over immediately and the boat tacked. If you have a crew, have their weight moved to leeward to reduce the draft and the wind should nudge the boat back into open water.
Now if your boat is sailing downwind, your chances of getting freed right away is slim. You will be tempted to try to spin the boat 180 degrees to get out of your situation, but you may run the risk of damaging your rudder. If you remain stuck aground, you will need to drop the sails immediately, so you won’t be blown further into the shallow water.
In either scenario, always check your bilges once you’ve run aground for any water. If you are leaking badly, you will need to call for assistance right away as you man the pumps to relieve the rising water.
Now, if you are stuck aground, take a sounding reading of the surrounding bottom so you’ll know the depth that you’re up against. Use a lead line or a boat hook to measure the water around your boat. If you have a dinghy, take additional readings further away from your boat and try to determine what type of bottom your boat is stuck in. Boats that run aground in mud may have a chance of being released when rocked from side to side to break the mud’s suction.
Whatever the tactics you choose, you do need to consider your boat’s design and keel. Trial and error with weight displacement and using your boat’s engine could get your keel into the deepest water and refloated again. Pay close attention to whether your engine is pumping out water and not sucking up sand or mud.
The worst case scenario is that your boat is really stuck and you’ve tried just about everything you can think of. Now is the time to use a kedge. This entails setting up the anchor into deeper waters. Hopefully you will have a dinghy available but if you don’t, you can use some PFDs, seat cushions or fenders to float out the anchor. This will prevent the boat from being nudged further aground. Now most sailboats will have a multiple of winches. This will assist in giving you the extra muscle when kedging off. This one proven trick involves running the halyard over to the anchor and using the halyard winch to heel the boat. This can get pretty scary because it seems that all the weight is on the masthead, but this technique is almost guaranteed to work as long as your boat is not too hard aground or that you yank the anchor out from the bottom. As the keel floats off, use the engine to work the boat out into deeper water.
If this method does not prove to release your boat, consider the last few options left to try. Consider lightening the load on the boat by empting the water tanks, putting heavy objects such as spare batteries, chubby crew members, anchors, etc into the dinghy temporarily. Don’t be tempted to start tossing things overboard during this period of extreme distress, for once this situation is over you will probably be sorry you hadn’t. Tidal changes may work in your favor. Hopefully, you’ll get to have the added benefit of waiting for a high tide to help you. Lastly, call for assistance for either BoatUS, SeaTow or any boat towing company will have the means and the manpower to get you back into open water. And next time, remember to pay close attention to your charts.
Here at Donald J. Medeiros Insurance Agency our goal is to try to help our viewers by outlining potential exposures and suggest solutions for different needs. By no means can we address each reader’s specific concerns in every incident. So, we strongly advise to check with a professional to address your specific needs. However, you can also contact us for any questions or concerns about insurance and we will be happy to help you.