What to do When you Run Aground

In association with Admiral Boat Insurance, Yachting Monthly created a series of potential disasters to find out if all the theories of how to deal with such situations actually work in practice. The boat used in the crash test is Admiral’s own 1982 Jeanneau Sun Fizz ketch, Fizzical.

Yachting Monthly’s crash team employed measures ranging from simple to increasingly desperate in order to refloat the Crash Test Boat from various grounding scenarios. Slow deceleration means mud, faster deceleration means gravel, sharper still is sand and a dead stop is a rock, wreck or possibly even a Ford Capri (as one Yachting Monthly writer once grounded on!).

Provided you refloat without any damage it doesn’t matter how you’ve gone aground, but the aim of the test was to go step by step through the various grounding possibilities and to study the various solutions. The first successful test was conducted on a windward shore in Southampton Water on the last of a falling tide in mud. The keel sank half a metre into the mud. The next test was a grounding at the mouth of the Hamble and with 2.5m of fall still to go she dried out completely and was refloated successfully, this time on shingle.

So, what should be done? The first obvious thing is to avoid grounding altogether by changing direction while you still have way. Go back down your track, or away from shallow water, keeping the boat heeling. Hanging off the shrouds, with as many bodies as possible, helps the angle of heel. Starting the engine and trying to motor off, and more adventurously putting the crew on the end of the boom and easing it out as far as possible over the water to increase the angle of heel even more, can all help. If you are still not free check under the cabin sole for any intake of water, and check where you are on the chart in relation to deep water. If the tide is rising just wait 20 minutes or so to try the above again. If you have no luck it is a question of waiting six hours for the next high water. Unless, that is you run aground at HW springs in which case you will have to wait for two weeks!

Make sure you don’t go further aground, by setting a bow and stern anchor against the current and/or wind. Use a tender if you have one to lay the anchors. Another method used by the Crash Test Team was to launch the blow up tender, load it with lots of heavy kit, attach it to a halyard and then start winching. This hopefully will induce more heel. Various other methods of salvation are outlined but at the end of the day, a passing motor boat with a powerful engine should not be ignored!

Avoiding grounding in the first place of course is the ideal, and there are hints and tips on navigation and other useful information in the article. For the full story you can download the Yachting Monthly article below as well as all other articles in the series.