How to Avoid Boat Grounding

What is Running Aground?

boat that has run aground

When there is insufficient depth of water for a vessel to float, running aground occurs. Sometimes, this happens intentionally, as during a cargo landing, but in most cases, it occurs due to incorrect information about water depths, operator error, or changes in the bottom structure. 

Preventing a vessel from running aground is a fundamental operator responsibility. By doing so, ship groundings and accidents will be prevented. Safe boating practices include following these tips to avoid running aground:

  • Consider consulting a nautical chart of the area before launching your boat in unfamiliar waters. Doing so will familiarize you with the area’s local hazards, currents, and other obstacles. Talking to local marinas and boaters is also very beneficial. 
  • Maintain a proper lookout and safe speed while boating. Be aware of buoys and other markers that indicate shallow waters. It is important to remember that most accidents occur when the weather is calm and clear. 
  • Whenever you stop, anchor your boat to prevent it from running aground in the event of an engine failure or sudden inclement weather. 
  • Finally, work on your depth finder. A depth finder on most vessels can be set to sound an alarm to warn about shallow areas that the boat should not enter. 

Grounding Response

In the event of a grounding, following proper procedures can significantly reduce the amount of damage to the boat and the number of fatalities.

First, stop the engine immediately to assess and inspect the situation. Identify any injury or property damage. If injuries are present, contact the authorities to report them. If no one is hurt, check the boat’s hull. Check for structural damage like cracks and leaks. 

In cases where the boat’s hull is severely damaged, always remain in shallow water. Going back to deeper areas will only do more harm than good. Returning to the open water might require you to reverse off from where you are grounded. 

Another step is to try pushing off. This step is an alternative if reversing the boat does not work. Turn the engine off and lift your outboard engine out of the water. Spare paddles may be used to push off the bottom. A kedge anchor may work wonders if the boat cannot be backed away. It is a small anchor used to haul a grounded boat off from where it has run aground. For best outcomes, PFDs may be used in conjunction with kedge anchors.



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