When your boat goes aground
What to do when you run aground
It is said there are only two kinds of skippers: those who have run aground and those who won’t admit it. Many groundings are painless, requiring only a wait for the tide to rise. Other times, grounding can be downright dangerous, causing damage to the hull, rudders and props. If you are moving fast when you hit the bottom, you and your passengers could become human missiles.
What can you do to minimize the danger of running aground, and how can you avoid it?
- Obtain and study charts for the areas where you will be boating.
- Ask local marina operators about hazards not shown on charts, such as shoaling and debris in the water.
- Download the weekly Local Notice to Mariners for chart corrections and information about buoys that have moved.
- Go slowly through shallow areas and follow channel markers carefully.
- Remain seated while underway and wear your life jacket.
- Close hatches and cabin doors to limit the distance you can fall if a sudden stop occurs.
- Know what to do when you run aground.
After running aground, stop your engines and assess the situation. First check to see if anyone aboard has injuries. Then check the integrity of the hull and whether your boat is taking on water. If the answer is yes, call for help using 911 or VHF channel 16. Make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket.
If the boat is leaking, try to plug the leak with anything at hand. Have someone pump or bail until help arrives. Attend to injured people and apply first aid as needed.
If your boat isn’t sinking or in imminent danger, don’t call the Coast Guard. Instead, try to float free by lifting the outdrives, redistributing weight on board, or using a kedge anchor to pull the boat into deeper water. If the tide is rising, a short wait may solve your problem. If you are stuck hard, call a tow boat.
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