Amoment’s inattention and you find yourself straying from the channel, firmly stuck in the mud. Now what?
First things first: Don’t waste time.
If you go aground and the tide is falling,
the right maneuver in the first few minutes may make the difference between
easily getting off or sustaining damage.
Quickly assess the bottom. Much
of what we tell you here won’t apply to
rocky bottom or reef. Determine whether
you hit soft mud, hard sand, rock, or
some other type of bottom. If you don’t
know, find out by looking at the chart or
by scooping up bottom material with an
anchor. Next, verify that your hull hasn’t
been damaged; check immediately to be
sure you’re not taking on water.
What is the status of the tide? Is it
going up or down? How far does it have
to go? A rising tide is often all you need
to escape. Local tide conditions may be
different from those at the reporting site
on VHF weather channels or on chart-
plotters. Check such local indicators as
current, tide lines on a day beacon, and
tide lines on the shore. Remember that
in many areas, the current may actually
be running in although the water level
is still dropping, or vice versa. For more
information, see “The Rule of Twelfths”
in the October/November 2016 issue or
Assess the weather. If you see signs of
a storm coming, you have less time than
you think. Consider whether the waves,
wind, or current are likely to push you
into deeper water or into shallower areas.
Consider your hull configuration.
You should know how much clearance
your props and rudders have above the
bottom. If your props and rudders are
deeper than the hull’s protected area, the
BY TOM NEALE
happen on soft
bottoms, so often
you can get off
without help – if
you move quickly
and employ the