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If You Run Aground


Two kinds of boaters exist, those who have gone aground and those who won't admit to it. Fortunately, grounding is more often a minor inconvenience than a true danger. Here's what to do if you get stuck in the mud.

Don't Panic, Assess the Situation

Panicking won't help any grounding situation, no matter how minor. And, hasty reactions can end up causing further harm to your boat and crew.

While backing off is usually the skipper's first instinct, it may not be the best solution. Instead, try to figure out what you hit, how deeply you're bedded, and if the hull has been compromised.

Then, check your chart for bottom characteristics and tide tables to determine the next high tide. If you were traveling slowly, chances are you've just touched bottom lightly.

Soft Grounding

Soft groundings may be described as any grounding that you can free your own boat, even if it takes a great deal of time, or wind, wave, or tide action to help you free the boat. Most soft groundings do not involve major damage, or result in leaks


Hard Grounding

Just like it sounds, a "hard" grounding can quickly turn your day upside down. Striking an object such as a piling, reef, or rocks can destroy your boat, and lead to injury or death.

If you find yourself hard aground, the best thing you can do is stay with your boat, put on your life jackets, and call for help. Do what you can to stop leaks. If the boat is in danger of sinking, or lives are at risk--call the Coast Guard on Channel 16.

Checking for leaks, damage/injuries, and setting the anchor is the first things you should do if you hit bottom. Try to place the anchor as far from the boat as you can--use your dinghy or tender if you have one.

Anchoring helps keep the boat from being driven further aground and may also provide a means of pulling you free, if you can "kedge" or pull the boat towards the anchor. Waves, the tide, and wakes from other boats may lift your boat. Once you've set the anchor, you have several options based on your situation: