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What To Do When Aground

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  • Boat Handling & Seamanship
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Running aground can happen even in perfect weather, despite using the latest navigation equipment and local charts. Plus, some submerged hazards or shallow waters may not be marked by a danger buoy. If you find yourself aground, don’t risk additional damage by immediately trying to power off the grounding. Instead, follow these tips to get back in the water with as little trouble as possible.
  1. If your boat came to a sudden stop, make sure no one was injured and that everyone is wearing a PFD. Then, check to see if the boat is taking on any water. Check the bilge and any fitting that penetrates the hull below the waterline for leaks.
  2. If you were traveling slowly and just touched bottom lightly on sand or mud, another boater may be able to pull you off. If there are no other boaters around, and if it’s safe to do so, you can have someone go over the side to push the boat into deeper water. Try shifting the load away from the point of contact and pushing the boat from side to side to free it. If that worked, load everyone back in the boat, tilt the motor down just far enough to submerge the propeller, start the motor, and proceed at idle speed toward the nearest channel.
  3. If your boat is more seriously stuck, consider waiting for the next high tide to float it off. This may be especially necessary if you’ve run aground on rocks or coral, or if attempting to dislodge the boat will result in additional hull damage.
  4. If you’ve sustained serious damage or injuries, contact the U.S. Coast Guard and other boats in the area immediately over the VHS-FM Channel 16 of your marine radio. Depending on the urgency of your situation, make an emergency Mayday call and stay put until help arrives.
  5. Even if you don’t need emergency assistance – no serious injuries, minimal damage, etc. – radio the Coast Guard or local marine patrol agency to let them know you’re aground, your position, and what your intentions are. Remember that the Coast Guard will not come to assist or tow unless you are in immediate danger, but they will contact a commercial tower or other individual on your behalf to provide assistance.