Thursday, January 27, 2022

I’m Grounded, and I Can’t Get Off!



By Lt. Bill Hempel,
United States Power Squadrons

In many locations where boaters cruise, there are opportunities to run aground. If you do, see that no one is injured, and get life jackets on all persons aboard. Then check to make certain there is no hull damage. A cracked or punctured hull means you don’t want to be afloat or in deeper water, so just remain aground while you make emergency repairs and call for help.

If the hull is okay, you can get about the task of freeing your boat. Check the tide tables. A rising tide may work for you and set you free. Do not run your engines to force the boat off. Drawing muck or sand into your water intake can disable your vessel and create an expensive repair.

First, tilt your outboard up or trim your outdrives to a raised position. Get all passengers into the stern to raise the bow and see if you can free the boat. Depending on which part of the vessel is aground, you may want to shift the weight of the passengers to one side or the other to rock the boat from side to side. If you do put someone over the side, attach them to a safety line and be certain they are wearing a life preserver.

While a passing, wake is normally not our friend. You can hail a passing boat to make a couple of high wake passes near you. The wake may float you free.

Sail boats with their deep keels are more difficult to free. Heeling the boat by getting all the crew to one side may do the trick. If you need more angle, though, you can put a man on the boom and swing it outboard for more leveraged weight. Another method is to use the dinghy to set an anchor some distance from your boat; then free the boat by slowly winching in the anchor rode. If the wind is blowing towards deeper water, hoist the sail broadside to the wind. A number of these steps can be done simultaneously.

When all else fails, call a commercial tow company, and let your boaters insurance bail you out. Make sure you know your estimated position. With the proper attitude, you can sit back waiting for a tow.

Above all, unless your hull is punctured and or severe weather in closing in, do not issue a “mayday” call. This communicates immediate danger to life or property. Besides being the wrong call, a mayday call may open you up to a salvage claim by the one who frees you

Obviously a little prevention will help insure you stay afloat. A chart and a captain who knows what he or she is doing are also helpful. Chart reading and the basic principles of safe boating are taught by the United States Power Squadrons. Contact the local unit — Marco Island Sail & Power Squadron — at 239-393-0150 or visit it on the web at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *