What to do after you run aground

John Schwab


Despite all efforts to stay off shoals, sandbars or rocks, groundings happen. It’s said there are three types of skippers: Those who have run aground, those who will run aground, and those who have but will never admit it. Every boater should prepare for the inevitable grounding.

After a grounding, first evaluate your situation. You can usually handle a soft grounding without outside help. Simply backing off will sometimes do the trick. You may have to check the tide to see if it’s falling or rising. A falling tide requires quick action or you may be in for a long wait.

If you go aground

  • Check the bilges to make sure the hull isn’t compromised.
  • If under sail, drop all sails immediately.
  • If under power, decrease throttle and put in neutral or shut down.
  • Deploy an anchor to keep your boat from going further aground, especially if the wind is blowing you toward shallow water.
  • If you can’t move the boat by yourself, consider calling for a commercial tow. (Hopefully, you already have towing insurance with one of the local providers.)
  • Consider waiting for the tide to float you off.
  • While waiting for the tide, you can pull out your charts and see where you went wrong.

To prevent going aground

Know your cruising grounds, and keep up with changing conditions. Don’t always rely on your chart plotter. Keep current navigational charts on board and be familiar with them. When you are in unfamiliar waters, take it slow and stay afloat.

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