HELP, I’M AGROUND AND I CAN’T GET OFF!
In many parts of country, there are tricky shallow places and plenty of opportunities to run aground. Fortunately,
many of these bottoms are soft sand or muck, so grounding in these locations is normally more of a nuisance
than a danger. Knowing what to do and acting quickly in any grounding situation can reduce your inconvenience.
When grounding occurs, first check to see that no one is injured and get everyone into their life jackets. Check
below decks for leaks to make certain there is no hull damage. If the hull has been cracked or punctured, do not
attempt to move your boat. It is best to remain aground while you make emergency repairs or call for help.
Once you have determined that it is safe to move your boat into deeper waters, do not run, and ruin your engines
by and drawing muck or sand into your water intake. Instead, tilt your outboard up or trim your outdrives. On
sailboats, raise any center or dagger boards and get all passengers into the stern to raise the bow off. A
swimming crew member in life vest and tethered to the boat may be able to push the vessel, When all else fails
and not even the high tide floats your boat, it is time to call a commercial tow company - smart skippers carry
boaters insurance. Before calling, check your chart and GPS to report you’re an accurate position. This mishap
may ruin the day’s plans, but as an experienced “grounder” I have had many an enjoyable time wading around a
shoal and examining the water creatures while waiting for help to arrive.
When you call for help, hail your commercial tow service directly. If issuing a distress call, take care. Remember
that a MAYDAY is appropriate only when there is a “grave and imminent threat to life requiring immediate
assistance” And a PAN PAN indicates a non-immediate life-threatening but disabling problem.
It is also important to remember that if a vessel other than one from your tow service or a law enforcement agency
comes to the “rescue,” the rescuer captain could make a salvage claim. To justify it, the party must give evidence
that there was immediate danger to life or property, and that the salver had to save that life or property from peril.
Either emergency call could be cited as evidence.
Before venturing out on the water, always check the tide tables. A marine chart and a knowledgeable skipper are
also helpful. Chart reading is among the basic principles of safe boating that are taught by your local unit of the
United States Power Squadrons®. For local classes, look them up on line or go to the web site www.usps.org. As
its members remind us, “Boating is fun… We’ll show you how!”