What is Running Aground?
When there is not enough depth of water to float a vessel, it runs aground. There may be times when this is done intentionally, for instance during maintenance or to land cargo, but most often it is a result of misinformation about water depths, operator error, or a change in a waterway's bottom structure.
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How can you avoid running aground?
There is a high likelihood of boaters running aground. However, it does not have to be this way.
You can avoid rocks, sandbars, and other underwater obstacles if you follow these three guidelines.
Before you launch your boat in unfamiliar waters, consult a nautical chart. Get the inside scoop on local underwater hazards by talking to local marinas and boaters. It is clear to them where they should go and where they should not go.
Keep a proper lookout while boating. You should not only look for buoys and markers that indicate shallow waters but also keep an eye out for shoals and sandbars that can be hard to spot. It may surprise you to learn that most accidents occur on calm, clear days with light winds. Boaters often get into trouble by not keeping a lookout.
Maintain a safe speed at all times. In the event that you spot an underwater hazard that needs to be avoided, you will be able to take the necessary action.
The final tip I have is to set a shallow alarm alert on your depth finder if you are heading somewhere you don't want to be.
However, a depth finder does not replace the need to always keep a proper watch. A depth finder should never be relied upon solely.
If your boat runs aground, what should you do?
Your boating day has suddenly come to an end. What should I do next?
Whenever an accident occurs, the first step is to stop and assess the situation. Check to see if anyone is seriously hurt before restarting the engine.
You should contact the authorities and send out a distress signal immediately if you need help on your VHF radio.
In the case of no serious injuries or immediate danger, check the hull of your boat.
Is there any severe structural damage to the boat? Cracks or leaks do you see?
Stay put if that is the case. Don't go deeper into the water. Now is the time to get your boat to shore. Radio for assistance or flag down another boater for a tow.
It's time to try releasing your boat if there is no structural damage.
There are several ways you can get back on the open water depending on what you're grounded on and how severely your boat is hung up.
Reversing off is the first step. It may be possible to reverse off from where you're grounded if your boat isn't grounded too severely. If you have an outboard or an inboard/outboard, tilt the engine slightly upward, and shift some weight away from where the boat is grounded. Your boat should now be able to reverse into clear water.
Pushing off is another method. In the event that reversing out doesn't work, turn off your engine. Lift your outboard engine out of the water if you have one. Shift some weight to the part of the boat that is not grounded. Using your spare oar or paddle, push off the bottom of the boat with the weight of the grounded claim. When your boat grounds on a sandbar, you may be able to stand on the sandbar and push it off. Push your boat into deeper water while turning off the engine by lifting the bow or stern.
Last but not least, you may need to use a kedge anchor. The kedge anchor is a small lightweight anchor used to haul a grounded boat off the ground. In most cases, a kedge anchor is brought from shore in a small dinghy. It can also be walked out to the location of your boat using a PFD or flotation device as support.
Then, attach your kedge anchor to the anchor line, place your anchor securely on the bottom, and use it to pull the ship free.