Gone Aground

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          Avoid grounding by not taking chances or shortcuts to get through a rocky or shoaly area. Go the long way round–it is only time. Do not rely on your GPS. Stay well off a lee shore. If you must go through a rocky area, or one with coral heads, post a lookout high up in the bow, with the sun behind him/her so s/he can visually pick out where the dangers lie.


  1. What is the state of the tide? Is it rising or falling, and if so by how much? Is it a spring tide?
  2. If you go aground at the top of a spring tide, you must act very quickly or you could be stuck for a couple of weeks.
  3. If you go aground under power, immediately go hard astern and try to slide back out along the groove your keel made. If this doesn't work, go slow ahead while swinging the rudder back and forth to dig a wider groove, than after a few minutes again go hard astern. If this doesn't work, desist and kedge or sail off as below.
  4. If the tide is rising, you may be able to sail off. In any case, try to get the boat heading towards deep water.
  5. A rising tide will likely drive you further into the shallows. If you cannot get off the shoal, then anchor the boat quickly to keep that from happening.
  6. To kedge the boat off, put the primary anchor (or stern anchor) well out into deep water upwind or uptide with plenty of scope. Then winch in on the anchor rode. At the same time try to heel the boat. With a big falling tide, this may have to be done FAST.
  7. Reduce the draft of the boat as much as possible:
  8. If you start to heel, close all portholes and hatches and thruhulls to keep water out of the down side. Do everything possible to make her heel towards the shallows. That way:
  9. To set an anchor from the dinghy:
  10. If you end up drying out, then put mattresses, cushions, etc under the bilge to protect it from damage on the rocks. Consider rigging a leg (see Handling Troubles Afloat page 72).
  11. If you go over the side onto mud, always wear a safety line and have someone on board watch you. [We know someone who died in the mud of the Chesapeake Bay after climbing over the side when his boat went aground.] Walk fast in soft mud and walk on your toes. Take an oar as a walking stick. If you are taking gear with you (anchor, chain, etc) make a sled to drag them (cockpit grating, door, dinghy, etc.)
  12. If you should go aground in heavy surf and it looks like the boat may break up, consider scuttling her to reduce the pounding. Best to do this off a beach. Open all seacocks and remove hoses, open the portholes and hatches. If possible lay anchors to seaward and moor her to shore to hold her square. When the tide leaves her, so will the water inside. As the tide goes out, close the seacocks etc. and prepare to refloat the boat.

 

 

 

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This page was last modified on:
August 9, 2009