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Old 28-07-2010, 07:39   #1
Neo
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Aground in Boston Harbor

My tale of woe is a common story, short and easily told. The carelessness that led up to the incident is no less common but maybe more interesting.

It happened yesterday while sailing on Boston Harbor in my club's Ranger 23. The breeze was 8 knts and the tide was low. A sudden stop, a look up, an Oh ****, and we were aground in Lower Middle. Not the first to be there and won't be the last.

Made a quick call to the dock house, lowered the sails and motored off with relative ease. (Should have lowered the sails first.)

Do I feel like a total failure? Not quite but close. Do I feel the like the south end of a horse headed north. Yes.

The sad part is, in hindsight I'm not surprised that this happened. I have been sailing in the harbor on and off for 5 years. Just long enough to start feel really comfortable. Just long enough to take the edge off. Just long enough to put my feet up and have a laugh. (As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I was doing.) But not long enough to learn all I need to know. Obviously.

The point is it's the middle ground, no pun intended, where the most danger lies. In the middle of the learning curve. After the bug eyed early days when you make lots of mistakes in real time but correct them immediately, and the later years when you do all the right things by habit. Man is a creature of habit. The trick is to use that to your advantage.

Thankfully, the boat seems to have suffered minimal damage. Must have hit a rock. There’s a 3’” gash on the leading edge of the keel a few inches up from the bottom. No apparent cracks in the hull.

The dock staff couldn’t have been nicer. They gave me a tow just in case there was more extensive damage to the hull or rudder, and did their best to minimize my folly by telling me stories of greater folly. God bless them.

PS. I was sailing with a friend who has no experience. The wind had finally picked up and filled the sails, so I put my friend at the tiller, pointed him at the day mark we had to make, trimmed the sails and felt the joy that can only come from sailing on a close reach. Crap, damn, shoot!


A change in our heading went unnoticed which sent us straight across the channel into lower middle. I stopped saling and started playing. I just hope I've learned my lesson.
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Old 28-07-2010, 07:47   #2
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If you're really stuck lowering the sails is something I would not do.
Here is my procedure to get loose after running aground (yep: I'm speaking from experience).
1) Let go of the sheets to depower the sails;
2) Start engine and use it to turn boat in a safe direction while trying to get the wind at 90 degrees.
3) Pull in sheets.

Your boat will heel, gets less draft because it lifts the keel an sail away; use engine to assist this operation as required.

This works best on monohulls.
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Old 28-07-2010, 08:15   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neo View Post
My tale of woe is a common story, short and easily told. The carelessness that led up to the incident is no less common but maybe more interesting.

It happened yesterday while sailing on Boston Harbor in my club's Ranger 23. The breeze was 8 knts and the tide was low. A sudden stop, a look up, an Oh ****, and we were aground in Lower Middle. Not the first to be there and won't be the last.

Made a quick call to the dock house, lowered the sails and motored off with relative ease. (Should have lowered the sails first.)

Do I feel like a total failure? Not quite but close. Do I feel the like the south end of a horse headed north. Yes.

The sad part is, in hindsight I'm not surprised that this happened. I have been sailing in the harbor on and off for 5 years. Just long enough to start feel really comfortable. Just long enough to take the edge off. Just long enough to put my feet up and have a laugh. (As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I was doing.) But not long enough to learn all I need to know. Obviously.

The point is it's the middle ground, no pun intended, where the most danger lies. In the middle of the learning curve. After the bug eyed early days when you make lots of mistakes in real time but correct them immediately, and the later years when you do all the right things by habit. Man is a creature of habit. The trick is to use that to your advantage.

Thankfully, the boat seems to have suffered minimal damage. Must have hit a rock. There’s a 3’” gash on the leading edge of the keel a few inches up from the bottom. No apparent cracks in the hull.

The dock staff couldn’t have been nicer. They gave me a tow just in case there was more extensive damage to the hull or rudder, and did their best to minimize my folly by telling me stories of greater folly. God bless them.

PS. I was sailing with a friend who has no experience. The wind had finally picked up and filled the sails, so I put my friend at the tiller, pointed him at the day mark we had to make, trimmed the sails and felt the joy that can only come from sailing on a close reach. Crap, damn, shoot!


A change in our heading went unnoticed which sent us straight across the channel into lower middle. I stopped saling and started playing. I just hope I've learned my lesson.
You just motored off? No harm, no foul. Not worth even mentioning.

I can't even remember how many times I've touched the ground and gotten back off by myself. I barely remember the times I had to be towed.
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Old 28-07-2010, 08:39   #4
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yes heeling the boat usually gets you off a soft grounding better than powering. use the wind to do it and go out the way you came in.
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Old 28-07-2010, 10:04   #5
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Aground - First Time? Got off on your own? No damage? -- you're obviously new to sailing. Dude, how are you going to feel when you run aground 3 times IN ONE DAY-- like I have

Attached is a picture of a captain who had reason to feel a whole lot worse than you just three weeks ago -- July 3 in Boston harbor. Calm sea. Sunny. Licensed Master at the helm. He got out of the channel and hit the "Devils Back" off Deer Island. Four minor injuries. Took on water. Lots of attention - "Coast Guard, State Police, MBTA, and lobster boats quickly swarmed around ...". Geez, everyone wanted to get in on the excitement. Maybe a helicopter with a live broadcast! And you felt stupid???

In an area like Boston with 9 foot tides, the moment you touch think about whether the tide is coming in or out.

If it's coming in, do nothing - don't even tell your wife or guests you're aground. Instead, look thoughtfully at the sails. Ask for another soda. Take a sip. Look thoughtfully at the sails again. Nonchalantly turn the wheel (away from the shoal) and tweak a line. Keep looking at the sails, sipping, and tweaking a line until the tide lifts you off after about five minutes. Mumble "that should do it". Everyone will be most impressed how your knowledgeable sail trimming got the boat going so much faster.

If the tide's going out, you have minutes to get off or you'll spend the rest of your life hearing the story that starts "You remember that time you ran aground in Boston and ....."

Carl
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Old 28-07-2010, 10:31   #6
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Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
In an area like Boston with 9 foot tides, the moment you touch think about whether the tide is coming in or out.
That's good advice, which counts double where we sail -- with 15 to 20 foot tides. If the tide is coming in, wait five mintues and you're off.

If it's going out -- well, if the tide is going out, you just don't go anywhere with less than 3 meters under your keel. And if you do run aground when the tide is going out, you are screwed. You are shipwrecked. Mostly, you will lose your boat if it's not a bilge-keeler and able to take the ground. The RNLI helicopter will come lift you off the shattered hulk which was your boat.
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Old 28-07-2010, 10:43   #7
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You grounded in low tide. Whether it was random luck or planned that way, grounding at low tide is the perfect time to do so. I try to enter every new harbor on low tide just in case. Day time + low tide = odds are stacked in your favor.

Any grounding you can motor / kedge / sail away from is fine. Anyone who hasn't grounded a boat hasn't sailed enough. My $0.02.
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Old 28-07-2010, 10:52   #8
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Running aground doesn't alway get you stuck. Sometime it can create damage that goes un-noticed until the next haul-out.

This one lifted a 15K boat right out of the water, took some lead, stressed the keel to hull joint and pulled a few screws out of the cabinetry. This one is Stacy's Rock at high tide, 6 ft. down at the northern edge, a double hump'r. And I hit'm both. 50º 03.926 N x 124º 48.950 W.

So, you Sir, got off EZ!

Even with charts in hand in unfamiliar waters one has to proceed with caution in keel boats. I can imagine the paranoia ancient mariners must have experienced while exploring the new worlds.


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Old 28-07-2010, 11:10   #9
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Or even sailing in the "old world". Before Harrison's chronometer allowed the calculation of longitude can you imagine the shear terror each night brought? Sailing through pitch black with little idea of your longitude. Dreading the sound of surf followed by the crash and the inrush of water...

Carl
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Old 28-07-2010, 13:11   #10
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Don't know where the Lower Middle is, but there's lots of places in Boston to go aground. My first year sailing coming in past George's Island in Boston I bounced off a sand bar (was about 15 feet outside the marker). Next week I took note that during low tide that sand bar is uncovered 3' and looked like a bird island. Couple months later on the other side of George's Island I had gotten though the channel and had to pee so turned over to my wife and told her to "hold the course and not to hit any rocks"; she of course chose to my do either and I had to pry her hands off the wheel after we bounced over the rock (we now can that rock Dana's Rock). Last year when I bought my boat and took it out the FIRST time went aground in the channel for 6 hours (is it a problem when the depth gage reads 0 and the tide is still going out).

So what I'm saying is don't feel alone. Everyone goes aground, they may just lie about it. But got to really look hard at the chart for Boston to know where you really have to watch out.
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Old 29-07-2010, 07:20   #11
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There are so many places to run aground in Boston Harbor that, on busy weekends, there are a number of powerboats hanging around that will offer to pull you off-- for a fee. It's an impromptu Seatow operation but more expensive for the towee.
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Old 29-07-2010, 08:17   #12
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[QUOTE=Don Lucas;493003]Don't know where the Lower Middle is, but there's lots of places in Boston to go aground.

The lower middle is a small boat channel that runs parrellel with the main channel as it enters the inner harbor and is seperated from the main channel by a few well placed rocks.

Thanks for the encouragement. All the responses have given me a more balanced perspective.
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Old 29-07-2010, 08:28   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sigmasailor View Post
If you're really stuck lowering the sails is something I would not do.
Here is my procedure to get loose after running aground (yep: I'm speaking from experience).
1) Let go of the sheets to depower the sails;
2) Start engine and use it to turn boat in a safe direction while trying to get the wind at 90 degrees.
3) Pull in sheets.

Your boat will heel, gets less draft because it lifts the keel an sail away; use engine to assist this operation as required.

This works best on monohulls.
Excellent advice! I've read about different techniques for heeling the boat to reduce the draft, but I like your idea of using the engine to position the boat for this purpose.
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Old 29-07-2010, 08:45   #14
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Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
In an area like Boston with 9 foot tides, the moment you touch think about whether the tide is coming in or out.

If it's coming in, do nothing - don't even tell your wife or guests you're aground. Instead, look thoughtfully at the sails. Ask for another soda. Take a sip. Look thoughtfully at the sails again. Nonchalantly turn the wheel (away from the shoal) and tweak a line. Keep looking at the sails, sipping, and tweaking a line until the tide lifts you off after about five minutes. Mumble "that should do it". Everyone will be most impressed how your knowledgeable sail trimming got the boat going so much faster.
Carl
Laughing! Thanks. That reminds me of when I ran out of gas on a first date, double date with my wife to be. Luckily it was at the top of very long down grade with a gas station at the bottom about a 1/2 mile away. Threw it in to neutral and had just enough momentum to coast right up to a pump without anyone noticing. And yes, I was sweating.
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Old 29-07-2010, 08:55   #15
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Originally Posted by delmarrey View Post
Running aground doesn't alway get you stuck. Sometime it can create damage that goes un-noticed until the next haul-out.

This one lifted a 15K boat right out of the water, took some lead, stressed the keel to hull joint and pulled a few screws out of the cabinetry. This one is Stacy's Rock at high tide, 6 ft. down at the northern edge, a double hump'r. And I hit'm both. 50º 03.926 N x 124º 48.950 W.

So, you Sir, got off EZ!

Even with charts in hand in unfamiliar waters one has to proceed with caution in keel boats. I can imagine the paranoia ancient mariners must have experienced while exploring the new worlds.


.

Is that true? A boat with a full keel is toast if it's left high and dry at low tide?
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