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if you run aground in an outboard boat,
make sure no one is injured and then check for leaks.
- If the impact did not cause a leak, follow these steps to try to get loose.
- Don’t put the boat in reverse. Instead, stop the engine and lift the outdrive.
- Shift the weight to the area farthest away from the point of impact.
- Try to shove off from the rock, bottom, or reef with a paddle or boathook.
- Check to make sure your boat is not taking on water.
- If you can’t get loose, summon help using your visual distress signals. Call for assistance using your VHF marine radio.
What to Do If Your Boat Runs Aground
According to the Coast Guard, grounding is the fourth-most-common type of boating accident in the United States. It’s easier to run aground than you might think. Often, danger buoys can alert boaters to shallow waters, but sometimes shallow areas have no markers, and boaters get stuck on a shoal, reef or sandbar they never knew was there.
Do you know what to do when you run aground? You can always radio for help, but many boaters would rather not take drastic action before they absolutely have to. Fortunately, when your boat runs aground, you can try several steps to free yourself before calling in the cavalry.
What should you do if you run a ground in your boat ?
No, not you—the boat. After a serious grounding your gut reaction may be to get the boat back into deep water ASAP, but this can be a mistake. Before you try moving it, inspect the bilges, motor mounts, and transom for damage. If any water is entering the boat, moving it off the bottom can be an extremely bad move for obvious reasons. Instead, if there’s serious and obvious damage, now’s the time to call for assistance. Same goes for a boat that’s grounded on rocks. Fortunately, more groundings take place on sandy shoals or mud flats. But if you’re sitting on rocks either call in the pros, or risk doing more serious damage to your boat. There’s one exception to the above rule; see below.
2. Observe the conditions.
If it’s calm out and you’re in a low-traffic area, you can settle down and take your time with things. But in some conditions, you’ll need to get your boat afloat as quickly as you can—because running aground is actually a great way to sink it. When the hull is sitting on bottom, waves may break over and into the cockpit, filling it with water in a matter of seconds. This is particularly dangerous if the stern of the boat if facing the seas, and is a common issue in inlets lined by sandy shoals. So judging the circumstances is an important part of deciding which steps to take next, and in what order.
3. Get un-grounded.
Assuming it’s been judged either safe or necessary, there are several tactics you can use to get your boat floating again. First, tilt up your drive unit. Next, reduce and/or redistribute as much weight as possible. Unloading passengers (in appropriately safe conditions, of course), pumping out a water tank, and removing large coolers or other heavy objects will all help. Now it’s time for a little manual labor.
But don’t just grab the bow and start pushing; instead, have the crew alternate pushing from each side, so the boat rocks back and forth. This makes it a lot easier to get the hull sliding through sand and/or mud. In some cases (especially if your boat has a keel or a very deep V in the center) if you can get the boat to lean on one side it may gain some buoyancy. Though it takes even more manual labor, another trick is to dig out around the bottom. In many cases this isn’t very practical, but if you can at least remove the sand or mud that piles up behind the transom and get another inch or two of water under it, it will become a lot easier to make headway.
In some other circumstances, you may be able to inch the boat in the right direction, only to have the current or wind shove it right back. If this presents a problem, you can use a technique similar to kedging. Walk your anchor as far as possible into deeper water, and set it into the bottom.
Then run the rode to the nearest cleat on the boat. Assign one crewmember to work the line while everyone else pushes the boat, as described above. Put only a half-wrap on the cleat, so you can take up line as everyone pushes, yet apply enough tension on the line to prevent the boat from being pushed back in the wrong direction. If the crew needs to take a breather or if the hull suddenly comes free, the line should be properly cleated asap.
4. Inspect everything.
Once your boat’s floating again, you’ll need to start looking for damage. First, look at the three most commonly damaged items: check the prop for bent blades, eyeball the skeg, and check out the fishfinder transducer. If all look good, start the engine up and look closely at the tell-tale.
If it appears to be pumping less water than usual (or none at all) there’s a good chance the engine sucked in some grit. It may merely be clogging the tell-tale, it could be clogging the entire cooling system, or it could have damaged the water pump impeller vanes. You probably won’t be able to tell which until your engine either overheats, or doesn’t. Next, move on to any system plumbed with an intake. Livewells and raw water washdowns, for example, might have sucked in sand, mud, or grit.
In all likelihood, a hull inspection will have to wait until you can pull the boat. Your initial inspection (back in step number one) should have alerted you to any major-league damage, but there could be more subtle damage which you won’t spot until the boat’s out of the water.
5. Run the boat.
If you’re confident there aren’t any massive issues, it’s time to run the boat. This will tell you a lot about what has or hasn’t happened as a result of the grounding. The key things to look for are performance consistent with the norm, and new or unusual vibrations. If you don’t detect anything out of the ordinary, consider yourself lucky. But if it feels like the boat’s trying to shake itself apart, you probably bent something between the prop and the powerhead. If it pulls in one direction or the other, chances are the skeg’s out of kilter, the steering system took some damage, or you may have bent or broken a trim tab.
What Does It Mean To Run Aground On A Boat?
The word “aground” is pretty self-explanatory. When you end up losing control and part of your hull makes contact with the ground, your boat has run aground.
Your boat runs aground when it ends up on the shore, on the flats, or beached on a sandbar. Basically when you are travelling across extremely shallow waters. And the bottom of the boat makes contact with the rocks or reefs under the water.
There is no shame in admitting that you have run your boat aground. Anyone that spends enough time on the water will run their boat aground.
If you spend enough time out on the water, you are bound to run aground once or twice in your lifetime. It’s just part of boating!
However, you must try and not make a habit out of running aground! This does have the potential to seriously harm the boat. The subsequent repairs can be extremely long and costly.
And with your boat in the mechanic’s workshop, you will not be able to enjoy your time on the water.
In extreme cases, you might even have to scrap the boat entirely!
What is the Best Way to Avoid Running Aground?
Unfortunately, running aground is a common occurrence for boaters. But it doesn’t have to be.
If you follow these three guidelines, you should steer clear of rocks, sandbars and other underwater hang-ups that’ll bring your happy day of boating to a grinding halt.
If you’re boating in unfamiliar waters, take some time before launch to consult a nautical chart of the area. You should also talk to local marinas and boaters to get the inside scoop on local underwater hazards. They know where to go and where not to.
Always keep a proper lookout while boating. Not only should you be looking for buoys and markers that indicate shallow waters, but you also need to keep your eyes peeled for shoals and sandbars that can be hard to spot. You might be surprised to know that most accidents happen on calm, clear days with light winds. Often it is simply not keeping a lookout that gets boaters into trouble.
Always maintain a safe speed. This will allow you to take necessary action if you do spot an underwater hazard that needs to be avoided.
A final tip is that if you have a depth finder, you can set a shallow alarm alert to give you the heads up if you are headed towards somewhere you don’t want to go.
But remember that a depth finder does not replace the need to always keep a proper lookout. Never rely solely on a depth finder.