Gone Aground

By Patrick Farrell February 21, 2013

Boating Tips

Grounding is more common than most boaters will admit. Fortunately, grounding is more often a minor inconvenience than a danger. The following tips will aid you, should you ever run aground.

Don’t Rush Off A number of boaters have pushed off, or been towed off a grounding only to have the boat sink right out from under them. Do not immediately push your way across or shift into reverse and try to back off, you could only put yourself harder aground. Boats with planing inboards are particularly susceptible to damage when running aground, since the rudders and shafts can be pushed through the boat’s bottom. Despite the “kick-up” feature of outboards and sterndrives, they too can still suffer damage. To prevent causing more damage to your boat, take time to assess the situation. Ask yourself a few questions. Is any water coming into the hull? Where exactly am I? Where might deeper water lie? Does the boat have any leaks? What is the state of the tide?

Wear Life Jackets Even if a thorough inspection of your boat doesn’t reveal a leak, place safety as the upmost priority and make sure everyone on the boat is wearing a life jacket.

Getting Off After assessing the situation, if you determine that you’re only lightly stranded you may be able to get off without the assistance of a tow boat. Since you’ve already determined where the deeper water is, now try to reduce draft. You have a couple options, you can put an anchor our in the direction you wish to move or if another boat is available to help you can run a line to that boat and have it pull you in the desired direction. Even if another boat can’t pull you off, it may be able to help by creating a wake that will lift your boat enough to get it off.

Power Down If you are experiencing a hard grounding, you must shut down the engines immediately and leave them off. Cooling water intakes get jammed with sand and silt during a grounding. Check the sea strainers, and outboards and sterndrives for mud and crud on the intake grates. If you don’t find any restrictions make sure to keep an eye on the engine temperature, there’s no sense in having a destroyed engine from overheating as well as a boat that’s aground. Before, reigniting the engines perform a close inspection. As a bent shaft, prop or strut can cause immediate damage to an engine.

Of course, as an NBOA member you can call our 24 hour dispatch center, and we’ll send a tow boat out to assist in getting your boat off. For more information on how to become an NBOA member, visit


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