We’ve seen a lot of stuck boats, all across the country. And, while we’re always happy to help, we know that running aground is stressful. We are here with tips to keep your boat floating!
Know where you’re going
The first thing to think about is, of course, not getting grounded in the first place. If you keep your boat in deep water, there’s no shallow ground to run into (though you do still need to be well aware of other obstacles). Study your navigational and tide charts, pay attention to where you are going, and be alert for navigational markers like buoys.
Even when you’re trying hard to stay in deep water, you still might run aground. So, what comes next?
Don’t panic, but assess the situation
Your boat is stuck, and you might be feeling pretty panicked about it! Try to stay calm — any anxiety is only going to make the problem worse, because you will not be thinking clearly or logically.
Consider dropping anchor so you don’t drift any further into shallower water. Take a moment to collect your thoughts and calm yourself (and any passengers who might be feeling worried, too). Assess for injuries if you hit the ground hard, and take a look for leaks. If you’re taking on water, someone is badly hurt, or it’s something you simply can’t get out of on your own, it’s time to call for help and formulate a plan for while you wait.
If everyone is okay and your boat is still in good shape, take a look at where you’ve landed — there’s a difference between grounding on soft bottom, hard sand, rocks, and other surfaces. You may also want to check out tide levels if you’re in coastal waters. A rising tide can be helpful for an escape!
Weather is also a factor: wind, waves, and current can push you into shallower waters, or deeper waters depending on direction.
Shift weight on the boat to the furthest point from where you’re touching the ground. That could mean moving cargo, and asking passengers to move back, too.
Don’t rev your engine
Resist the urge to try to drive your way out of the problem. Usually, all you will end up with is stirred up bottom, which makes its way into your engine intake, which in turn makes the situation dangerous.
Resist the urge to immediately put it in reverse, too. You are likely to end up further aground in shallower waters, and if you rev it hard, you can damage the rudder or propeller.
If you think you can back off…
If, based on where you are and the water depth, you think you can back off the obstruction, back off very slowly and carefully. Watch your engine’s temperature gauge if you attempt this, however, as any rise in temperature means you’ve likely sucked debris into the system.
It can help to have someone go over the side and push the boat sideways in both directions, or to have someone use a paddle or other long device to shove off while you’re using the engine.
Whether your boat is damaged or you aren’t sure what to do next, C-Tow can help. Our captains are often able to give advice over the phone for things to try, and if that doesn’t work, we’re happy to deploy a vessel to meet you where you’re at. Of course, if you are in immediate danger, put out a distress call and contact the Coast Guard.
Carefully consider if you want to accept a tow from an inexperienced nearby boater versus a professional. While C-Tow can make it look easy, towing is hazardous and if it isn’t done right, can lead to bodily harm or damage to one or both boats. Our captains have practice and experience, and carry the right insurance for commercial towing.