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Old 11-08-2012, 09:02   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 202
Running Aground In The Harbour On Ebb Tide

Ok in my 26 foot boat i ran soft aground smack dab in the middle of the harbour on an ebbing tide. It was very embarassing and nerve wracking at times.

In my home harbour where my slip is there is a very narrow path where the depth for a keelboat is adequate. Usually at low tide i can follow the path and make into the slip watching the sounder, although it can be hectic watching the sounder display 4 feet occasionally flipping to 3 and back to 4 (my boat draws 4.75).


What i did not take into account showing up on a low and ebbing tide was the long weekend factor. Namely inexperienced and half drunken boaters, rentals, zipping with powerboats all over the place not following the rules of the water.

I was plodding along the path at dead slow, engine at idle forward, happily even along with the occasional nerve wracking indications on the sounder. Some guy is ripping out in a 40 ft displacement hull powerboat straight at me. He is heading dead for me, albeit his course is slightly to my starboard. Hes going fast - like 20 kts.

I wait for him to slow down so i can pass him on my port side. He doesnt. I wait some more. He doesnt. When hes 35 yards, i have no choice but to take a quick left and pass him on my starboard, hes not even trying to follow collision regs, if hes even watching.


Problem is, to my starboard side is a beach. At low tide and getting lower.

He rips past, doesnt even flinch. Huge wake. As quick as i can utter some profane words about how his wake could run me aground, i heard the dreaded sound. The boat stops.

I quickly pop into reverse and give it, nothing. Rock the boat and try again, nothing.


Eventually i kill the engine and check the tide tables. Rats.. Tide ebbs for another hour and 15 minutes. Im concerned about heeling the boat right onto its side. Tables tell me it shouldnt be that bad, just another 2 or 3 foot. Hectic, but not horrible.

Theres just one colossal problem. As the boat starts heeling while the tide drops, it leans mast to the beach. Which means keel digs in with movement into deeper water, but can drag with movement towards the beach.

I called coast guard on the cell, to be less formal (and embarassing). See if they have any advice or if the auxillary is out maybe they can power tow me off the bar. At the least im a hazard to navigation, and with a now 30 degree heel motionless in the channel, someone might call me in and send rescue boats that are better used for someone else. The rescue boats are parked next to my slip - dont want to waste their time.

Problem is the wakes. Powerboaters, renters, drunken people, jetskis, 3 out of 5 boats going by are just flying. Im not afraid of getting hit, but these wakes slowly pushing me towards shallower and shallower water.

Lots of people offer to take us off the boat. Nice of them but i have to stay with the boat. 55 degree heel now, its quite embarassing and i still cant fathom why these people wouldnt at least obey the dead slow, no wake no wash sight less than 100 yards away, we are quite a spectacle. People taking pictures of us and everything.


Well much to our inexperienced sailors luck along comes a guy in a tiny dinghy with an outboard who is a local. Turns out he is a sailor too.

Tells me i should drop a kedge anchor off the stern, because the wakes could push me to shore. I had contemplated the anchor, but knew it would do little if just tossed over the side. I have a dinghy, but had too much going on to think to use it.

The helpful fellow took my chain and rode and dropped it 60 feet out. I tugged it and set it and then my mind was at ease.

3.5 hours later, tide rose enough to float the boat. We were off.


1. Check the tide tables better. While i could have made it, it turned out to be q very low tide. I was coming in to avoid a strong wind warning, but anchoring or putting around the outer channel for a couple houurs would have put me on a rising rather than ebbing tide.

2. Dont expect boaters to follow collision regs on a long weekend. Long weekends attract idiots, we saw that firsthand. I hate to get joy out of another boaters misfortune, but we saw one powerboat flying way too fast and the fool came up behind us, and passed us on the beach side and promptly ran aground ontona sand bar. Why he didnt take the deeper side is beyond me, seeing as that is proper procedure AND common sense not to pass a boat stuck aground on the shallow side.

3. Get an anchor out as soon as you know your screwed and waiting for the tide. Take a dinghy and put it out as far as you can, get back to the boat and set it. If i had have done this right away, it would have saved me boatloads of stress i suffered through for an hour.

4. When advising the coast guard of your predicament if you are aground in a busy boating area, just call in a securitay on the vhf and be done with it. Coast guard had us flip to 26 on the vhf, and wanted regular updates to make sure we were ok. We got down to 3 foot of water, we could have walked to shore if the boat sunk. Unbeknownst to us, on 16 they were broadcasting every 10 minutes our vessel name and that we had run aground. So everyone within 150 miles knew we were in this predicament. I dont fault them, they do a great job, i was nervous and it was nice to have someone looking out for us. Just embarassing.

So theres my confession
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