Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 29-12-2009, 09:05   #1
Registered User
 
Beersmith's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Saint Augustine, FL
Boat: 1975 Downeaster 38' Cutter
Posts: 341
An Expensive Weekend! Lessons Learned from Running Aground

This is a post I made in my blog, but I figured I would share it with the forum.

I wanted to take my parents out to the boat for a post-Christmas sail this previous Saturday. They have seen and been on Windsong, but haven't been out for a ride yet. I had been following the weather conditions for Saturday all week and it looked to be a great day for sailing with 15 knot winds out of the North. That would allow us to beam reach all the way out of the channel so we could start sailing before we even got to the final channel marker. The only issue I really saw was that it would be a chilly day (for us Floridians) with highs in the 50's. High tide would be in the morning when we would head out, but we would have to come back at low tide. However, it would be a +1 foot low tide, which I was told would be deep enough for Windsong to make it through the river with.

I typically have gotten nervous when it comes to taking Windsong out, rightfully so I might add. I am still a rookie with this boat and particularly the area it is in. Especially after breaking down the first time I took her out, I can't help get nervous. But this time I wasn't worried about the engine or anything particular about the boat. I've tuned the engine and performed all needed maintenance on it and it worked like a charm the last outing. But something was eating away inside me the few days leading up to Saturday and I didn't understand it. Some sort of premonition told me it we shouldn't go, but I ignored it and attributed it to my normal nerves. I should have listened.

So we took the 3 hour ride from St. Augustine to Inglis with my parents and their new Boston Terrier pup, Sawx. As we arrived to the dock my nerves had subsided and was ready for a good ride. I performed all the pre-ride checks on the boat and engine and felt pretty confident that Windsong would do well. Shortly after arriving we cast of the docklines and headed up the river towards the Gulf.

Things were going swell all the way up the river, so good in fact that I must have stopped paying much attention to where I was in the channel. We were motoring at roughly 6 knots only a few hundred yards before we reached the inlet when the boat SLAMMED into the river bottom and the bow reared up high out of the water. Thank goodness that no one was standing at the time or they would have gone flying off the boat or hard into something on it. I tried reversing and steering off, but we were stuck as stuck could be. The keel was resting hard on the bottom and would not budge. I sat there shocked and stunned and could not believe what had just happened. I took a moment to collect myself and made sure everyone was ok before I could think of what to do next. I considered kedging off the anchor but I had no way of getting it out far enough to be worthwhile. So I radioed on channel 16 for some help but recieved no ansewer even after a few tries. I eventually called the Coast Guard, which has a station on the river near the boat's dock, and told them my situation. They said that the only thing they could do is refer me to a towing company either Tow BoatUS or Sea Tow. I knew instantly that this was going to be a worse incident than I thought when they asked if I was a member to either. No, I'm not.

For somewhere around $150/year you can be a member of one of these tow companies and use their services when you need. I had considered getting a membership in particular for the overnight passage South that I need to take soon, just as a piece of mind in case things went wrong. But I never figured I would really need it until I finish working on the hard and start to sail a lot. I realized that was that a huge mistake as I spoke to the tow boat captain and got a quote to be hauled off the bottom. It would be $600 just for ungrounding the boat, plus $240/hour for the tow boat to come from Cyrstal River, about an hour and a half away ( you have to pay for their round trip). So the total quote for the haul was roughly $1,300. When he told me this all I could do was close my eyes, swallow my pride and gave him the ok to come get me. Bye Bye huge hunk of savings.

I considered my options while I waited for confirmation on my credit card and everything. We could wait for a boat to come by and hopefully lift us off with their wake. Unfortunately it was a very quiet day on the river and the only boats going by were small jon-boats with barely any wake. When a decent sized boat finally passed and sent wake our way, it only served to bounce the keel up and down on the bottom, not freeing us at all. Since we ran aground near high tide, it was apparent that waiting for the tide to come back in wasn't going to help much either. Plus, high tide wasn't until 8 p.m. and we had no way of getting back to the dock at night. Navigating the river without light was just out of the question.

So after a few minutes the tow company called me back and confirmed the operation and told me they would be here in an hour and a half. Great, by then the tide would be even lower and getting towed off the bottom would be even more difficult. So we sat waiting for that period of time, during which the air only seeming to get colder by the minute. I was so pissed that I made such a bonehead move that I could do little but stare at the distance in disdain for my bad piloting. But how would I have known this ledge was here? It wasn't marked on the charts or on my new GPS as most obstructions were in the river. As some fishing jon-boats rode by and we discussed what happened they all seemed to know that it got shallow there...local knowledge kicks ass if you have it, but I didn't.

I started to fear about the worst case scenario as the tide began to fall. On the port side, closest to shore, we could see that the water was getting shallower pretty quickly as the bottom was clearly visible in the murky water. On the other hand, the water to starboard was much deeper, if only we could get to it. The tow captain mentioned that if he didn't have success trying to pull us off since the tide was too low we would have to wait for it to come back in before trying again. Thus having to wait till all light was gone and we would be stranded there for the night. We were horribly unprepared to stay the night on the boat particularly due to the cold. We had food to last us, but no blankets and barely enough jackets as it was. I know my dad and I could tough it out if we had to, but my mom and the pup were with us and I would feel horrible if she had to go through that. So I thought if worse came to worse, the tow boat could take my parents and the dog back to the dock and I would stay with the boat overnight and wait for the morning high tide. Still, not something I was looking forward to as my first overnight stay on the boat. I would have been left with little more than sail covers as blankets to not freeze the whole night away.

The tow boat showed up right on queue and rafted up next to us. They sounded the area and found the water deep enough for my draft immediately to starboard, so not all hope was lost. But the water had gotten so shallow on the port side that if any of us put our weight over there the whole boat tilted on its keel at a hard angle. So we tied up the tow ropes and they started trying to pull the bow towards the center of the channel. It didn't work too well and only turned the boat a bit towards the channel, grinding the keel on the bottom. At one point the tow rope snapped after pulling so hard.

Things didn't look to bright at this point and the tow captain kept mentioning about possibly having to wait till high tide, my heart kept dropping as the effort kept failing. Eventually we tried a new tactic by using the main halyard attached to a second tow rope (leads to the top of the mast) to try to tilt the whole boat on its side, thus lifting the keel off the bottom as the tow line on the bow would pull the boat to the channel. After much grinding on the bottom and tilting the whole boat so far that the starboard rail was buried under water, it finally got loose off the bottom and we were pulled into deeper water. It took a long time and many different tries at different angles, but we eventually were pulled free. It was incredibly nerve wracking as it seemed like it would never work.

Relief rushed through me and I could do little more than thank God it was all over and we wouldn't have to stay there any longer. I made sure to ask the captain where else in the river I needed to be wary of, and he said that where we went aground was the worst spot. He has apparently pulled many a vessel off of the same ledge, one even a week previous. Good to know I thought, I will avoid that spot like the plague for now on.

The tow captain was friendly and also owns a sailboat. He told me to not get discouraged since pretty much everyone has made that mistake. Unfortunately I made the double mistake of not being a tow member and having to loose a big gob of cash. On top of it all, my brand new hand held VHF radio was clipped to my belt and sometime during the tow when the boat was heeled over and I was holding on for dear life, it got loose and went overboard. I was concentrating on the job at hand and none of us noticed it until we were motoring back to the dock. So the day got even more expensive.

It was a very bad day for me, but I was more relieved than bitter in the end and was glad we got back safely before dark. I felt pretty bad that we took the long drive out there to only have a bad experience, but my parents were positive the whole time and gave me good encouragement. It was a rough lesson learned, but one I was bound to learn one day nonetheless.

http://erickswanderlustblog.blogspot.com
__________________

__________________
Beersmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 09:14   #2
Registered User
 
anjou's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Malvernshire, on the sunny side of the hill.
Boat: 50' steel canal and river cruiser
Posts: 1,905
Poor you. I hope it doesnt put you off in the future.
__________________

__________________
www.amy-artimis.blogspot.com
anjou is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 09:25   #3
Registered User
 
Beersmith's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Saint Augustine, FL
Boat: 1975 Downeaster 38' Cutter
Posts: 341
Quote:
Originally Posted by anjou View Post
Poor you. I hope it doesnt put you off in the future.
nah I'm taking it in stride and learning from it all. The dream is too strong for rookie mistakes to get me down
__________________
Beersmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 09:33   #4
Registered User
 
James S's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: May 2008
Location: Yemen & Lebanon... the sailboat is in Lebenon, the dhow is in Yemen
Boat: 1978 CT48 & 65ft Cargo Dhow
Posts: 5,816
Images: 139
Running a ground surely happens often enough...$1300 to get off...that really sucks.
I hate the idea of paying tow insurance...but hey...at $150 a year it seems a real bargain.
Good post... thanks
__________________
James
S/V Arctic Lady
I love my boat, I can't afford not to!
James S is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 09:36   #5
Senior Cruiser
 
idpnd's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: AlmerŪa, ES
Boat: Chiquita 46 - Libertalia
Posts: 1,551
That is a bit extortionate, just the sort of thing I'm going to be worrying about when I launch my monster.. B.ring O.n A.nother T.housand hey

Nice site by the way..
__________________
sv Libertalia
idpnd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 10:15   #6
Registered User
 
speciald@ocens.'s Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: On the boat - Carib, Chesapeake
Boat: 58 Taswell AS
Posts: 1,139
I once ran up on a day mark that had been flatten by a tug and barge. I poled around the boat and found plenty of water yet the bow of the boat was lifted higher than the waterline. Only when I went in the water did I find the problem. The crash jambed the centerboard and cut the pennant so the boat had to be hauled for repair after we floated off on a rising tide.
__________________
speciald@ocens. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 10:18   #7
Registered User
 
S/V_Surya's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Sasafra river,MD
Boat: gulfstar ketch 41 Surya
Posts: 658
Good story, I have been grounded numerous times but always got away. Sometimes had to raise sails and heel over to push through. So heres the deal. I have been thinking of forming a tow boat coop. Back in the good old days fellow boaters helped each other out. Here is my idea. We set up a web site where you register your boat. You help someone who also registered and get credit for when you need help. If you need help first you get negative credit. All legal actions or damages must be waved. What do you think????
__________________
S/V_Surya is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 10:29   #8
Registered User
 
BubbleHeadMd's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Edgewater, MD
Boat: Coronado 25
Posts: 315
Send a message via Yahoo to BubbleHeadMd
S/V Surya:

I like your solution. Especially signing a form waiving legal actions. I'm on the Ches. Bay, so I'd participate.

Beersmith:

I'm still a little confused. Did you actually fall out of the channel or did you hit a ledge that protruded into the channel? Were you running a depth finder at the time? I realize that often a depth finder alerts you too late, but still curious.

Glad you're not letting it get you down, and you've just inspired me to get off my butt and send in that Tow Boat check.
__________________
Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?
BubbleHeadMd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 10:40   #9
Registered User
 
anjou's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Malvernshire, on the sunny side of the hill.
Boat: 50' steel canal and river cruiser
Posts: 1,905
Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V_Surya View Post
Good story, I have been grounded numerous times but always got away. Sometimes had to raise sails and heel over to push through. So heres the deal. I have been thinking of forming a tow boat coop. Back in the good old days fellow boaters helped each other out. Here is my idea. We set up a web site where you register your boat. You help someone who also registered and get credit for when you need help. If you need help first you get negative credit. All legal actions or damages must be waved. What do you think????
Its all been done before in other forms and you will end up having the same problems that society has in general.
Its all about give and take. Sadly some people take and keep taking whilst others do the giving.
A small minority spoil it for the rest.

Maybe its better to charge an upfront fee which is then offset or refunded when a tow is given to another member. That way you dont get free loaders
__________________
www.amy-artimis.blogspot.com
anjou is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 11:18   #10
Registered User
 
Beersmith's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Saint Augustine, FL
Boat: 1975 Downeaster 38' Cutter
Posts: 341
Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbleHeadMd View Post
Beersmith:

I'm still a little confused. Did you actually fall out of the channel or did you hit a ledge that protruded into the channel? Were you running a depth finder at the time? I realize that often a depth finder alerts you too late, but still curious.
This occurred in the Withlacoochee river, which empties into the Gulf. We ran aground shortly before the inlet. I thought I was in the safe part of the river but apparently not. The river has a deep part that is a lot narrower than it seemed. And no, no depth finder. The instruments are busted and replacing them is part of the whole project. In any case, it wouldn't have warned me since the obstruction came out of nowhere. The tow boat sounded all around me and we were standing on the only shallow part.
__________________
Beersmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 11:51   #11
Registered User
 
S/V_Surya's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Sasafra river,MD
Boat: gulfstar ketch 41 Surya
Posts: 658
Anjou,

If this has been done before could you provide a link or reference to past towing coops? Or are you just saying in general? I have been in coops before and yes, they don't work to well. It just makes my blood boil to have to pay these towing companys extortion money. Fortunately, after all these years I have not had to be towed. I have sailed into my berth engineless before and have been able pull myself off when aground so far. But, it would be nice to know there is back up if needed. The idea is fraught with danger in our litigous society.

I think this would be worthy of a new thread. We have lots of smart people with good ideas and especially someone may have past experience on how this could work. Kinda like a crew or seeking crew list that many publications run.
__________________
S/V_Surya is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 12:16   #12
Registered User
 
anjou's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Malvernshire, on the sunny side of the hill.
Boat: 50' steel canal and river cruiser
Posts: 1,905
Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V_Surya View Post
Anjou,

If this has been done before could you provide a link or reference to past towing coops? Or are you just saying in general? I have been in coops before and yes, they don't work to well. It just makes my blood boil to have to pay these towing companys extortion money. Fortunately, after all these years I have not had to be towed. I have sailed into my berth engineless before and have been able pull myself off when aground so far. But, it would be nice to know there is back up if needed. The idea is fraught with danger in our litigous society.

I think this would be worthy of a new thread. We have lots of smart people with good ideas and especially someone may have past experience on how this could work. Kinda like a crew or seeking crew list that many publications run.
Its human nature unfortunately, some provide and are benevolent whilst others take advantage and dont chip in.
I used to do a bit of gliding and it relies on a team of ground crew to get airbourne. So you all pay your club subs and then pay more for the winch launches or air tows. But some people are needed to help launch. THey do this on the understanding that when its their turn to fly, others help and get them airbourne. Not everyone plays the game.
That is the human nature element.

In our club we read about the German answer which is to charge all a sub fee, which is much higher than normal, and then pay back to those who chose to work on the airfield. That way, sweat equity gets you cheap flying and those who cant be assed have to pay more. its fair to all. THere will always be a crew available on the field and they dont mind helping out.

Maybe this is a model to follow?
__________________
www.amy-artimis.blogspot.com
anjou is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 12:34   #13
Registered User
 
scubasteve's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas
Boat: Shamrock 246 Open
Posts: 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V_Surya View Post
Good story, I have been grounded numerous times but always got away. Sometimes had to raise sails and heel over to push through. So heres the deal. I have been thinking of forming a tow boat coop. Back in the good old days fellow boaters helped each other out. Here is my idea. We set up a web site where you register your boat. You help someone who also registered and get credit for when you need help. If you need help first you get negative credit. All legal actions or damages must be waved. What do you think????
Thatís not a bad idea. I currently own a powerboat but spent many years sailing on my fatherís sailboat. I know the horrible feeling you get when you run aground, we have a couple of times. If Iím not offshore fishing, Iím normally cruising around the Clear Lake Tx area and would be more than happy to help out.

Might not be a bad idea to have a tow membership when owning a SV. Good to have if youíre grounded with no vessels around or experiencing engine problems. For most areas, itís very difficult or impossible to sail back to the dock.
__________________
scubasteve is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 12:38   #14
Registered User
 
sabray's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Wash DC
Boat: PETERSON 44
Posts: 3,169
Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V_Surya View Post
Anjou,

Fortunately, after all these years I have not had to be towed. I have sailed into my berth engineless before and have been able pull myself off when aground so far.
I shave said exactly those words exactly. I can't any more. I got stuck in a tidal area stuck butt good. I backwinded sails kedged , kedged off the main halyard meanwhile the tide is falling. Asked stinkpots to throw up a wake etc... I decided on a tow as things could have gotten worse. It cost it sucked. A lot of boaters watched not one offered help. Which is not typical of my experience with fellow sailors.
I have and will continue to help if a fellow boater is in need. Don't need a co op to be helpful. Sue me
__________________
sabray is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-12-2009, 12:58   #15
Senior Cruiser
 
sneuman's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: May 2003
Location: Jamaica
Boat: Tayana 37 Cutter
Posts: 3,167
Images: 37
Sorry to hear it. But take heart -- there are only two kinds of sailors who never run aground: type 1 never leaves the pier. type 2 is a spectacular liar.
__________________

__________________
Voyage of Symbiosis: http://svsymbiosis.blogspot.com/
sneuman is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Running aground Stede The Sailor's Confessional 76 27-07-2015 18:15
Dumb Question? 'Beaching' vs 'Running Aground' planetluvver The Sailor's Confessional 118 03-08-2014 15:36
Lessons Learned pjop The Sailor's Confessional 2 08-06-2009 12:17
Great Sail, Great Gale, a Little Carnage and Lessons Learned CharlieCobra Seamanship & Boat Handling 7 08-12-2007 18:05
Lessons Learned, dont leave port without them seanseamour Forum Tech Support & Site Help 4 31-07-2007 15:25



Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 03:41.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.