SEAMANSHIP TECHNIQUES BY BOB ADRIANCE
YOUR STARRING ROLE IN GOING AGROUND
Sometimes, does it feel like you’re hitting bottom? Well, in boating, that can be
more than a feeling! Here are some proven techniques to free your boat
1. Assess the situation.
2. Secure the anchor line to the aft cleat.
3. Place the anchor and anchor line in the tender,
flake the anchor line for easy deployment.
4. In the tender, have a crew member pay-out the
anchor line so it will not foul the propeller.
5. Once the anchor line has been deployed,
drop the anchor overboard.
6. The crew member in the boat can
lead the anchor line to a windlass
to pull the boat to deeper water.
©2012 MIRTO ART STUDIO
Find out what
one skipper made
a near-fatal navigation error, and
ended up hard
aground on a falling
tide, on page 28.
No matter if you’ve been boating 50 years or 50 minutes, whether you own a powerboat or sailboat, whether your boat draws two feet or six, or whether the tide is rising or falling; the first thought hat pops into your head the instant your boat unexpectedly touches bottom is always the same: “Oh, &#@%!” If you’re lucky,
it’s just a momentary annoyance — the boat bumps and you continue safely on
your way. But the boat could also be hard aground, with many hours of struggle
ahead before it’s freed. If you’re going to get off lightly, you’ll have to react
quickly. A little luck won’t hurt either.
Check props and rudders (if you can, safely)
to make sure they haven’t been damaged.
On most powerboats, underwater machinery is vulnerable and must be considered as
you work to free the boat. Raising an outdrive or outboard slightly will reduce draft.
If you decide to use the engine, check the
exhaust and temperature gauge periodically
to make sure it’s pumping water and not
sand or mud.
SAILBOATS: If a boat sailing upwind is to
be freed quickly, the helm should be thrown
over immediately, away from the shoal, and
hopefully wind will heel you off. The crew
should move to leeward to reduce draft and
then, with a little luck, the wind will nudge
the boat back to deeper water. If the boat is
sailing downwind, the chances of getting free
immediately are slim unless you happen to
have bumped a very short shoal. The temptation will be to try and spin the boat 180
degrees so that it’s heading back toward open
water. This could work, but then again, it
might damage the boat’s rudder, especially if
it’s a deep, spade rudder. If the boat remains
on the shoal, drop the sails immediately so
that it won’t be blown further aground.
If you use your engine, make sure it’s
pumping water. When a boat is heeled, the
intake could be out of the water or, equally as
serious, sucking up sand, mud, or gunk from
the bottom. Check periodically to make sure
water is flowing freely from the exhaust, and
keep an eye on the temperature gauge.
POWERBOATS: A powerboat skipper’s initial reaction should never be to push down on
the throttle, either in forward or reverse, and hope for the best. The boat’s engine gets its
cooling water from somewhere under the boat, and if it sucks up enough mud or sand, the
engine could be ruined. This could also damage or tear off the boat’s running gear. Shut
the engine down until you’ve ascertained how far the intake is from the bottom. A light-displacement boat with a shoal draft can probably be walked to deeper water by the crew
if they’re good swimmers, wearing shoes if needed, life jackets, and if they’re aware of any
dangerous current or drop-off.
A FEW CONSIDERATIONS
Whether you’re freed quickly or not, anytime
your boat bumps bottom, check the bilge for
rising water. Inspect rudder and shaft stuffing
boxes, and on sailboats, the keel bolts. If the
boat is leaking badly, man the pumps and
call for assistance immediately. Even if the