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Old 13-09-2018, 07:51   #1
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Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

I remember the first yacht I saw aground. It was in the Florida Keys. At first glance, it appeared to me that this was a simple failure of skill on the part of the captain of this 40-ish foot vessel. They had missed the channel at high tide, got stuck, and were listing pretty badly as the tide went out.


I reviewed the charts afterwards. The canal they were trying to get into had an ongoing problem with shoaling, and crowdsourced sonar data showed a depth of 2' at the mouth of the canal at low tide. Typical tidal range is around 2-2.5'. There's no way they would have been able to make it.


I wonder what the chain of events was that lead to the unwise decision to enter the canal. The canal leads to a marina that advertises a depth at the dock of 6'. Perhaps they didn't know how to use their charts, or didn't know the limitations of the chart data -- both skill problems. Perhaps a lack of skill with their sounder was part of the problem. The water's pretty clear -- I'd think they would have looked down. All matters of skill.


On the other hand it may have been a failure of judgment. I'm new at this, but reading cruising narratives of any kind, I am struck by the number of times cruisers make a decision not to enter a harbor, based on weather, or darkness, or the absence of buoys, or current, or waves, or a lack of local knowledge, or a lack of confidence in the local knowledge.


I wonder how many groundings can be attributed to problems of skill -- inattention to navigation, poor helmsmanship, poor use of navigational tools and data -- and how many are better understood as failures of judgment. That is, groundings that occur because captain was attempting something that simply should not have been attempted.


I suppose luck plays a role because, at least in some areas, even the prudent mariner may encounter uncharted rocks and shoals.
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Old 13-09-2018, 08:06   #2
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

Inattention can get you. Some shoaling is abrupt, you go from 10 ft to 3 fast. I'm not sure how accurate a lot of the charting is in shoaled areas. I have several times called a marina with 7 ft of water asking about shoaling at the entrance. You get instructions like "hang to the north side as you first enter, then cross over to the south side at the first piling and you'll be ok". Once in the ICW just about to turn to enter a marina I hit something very hard, hard enough to stop the 47 ft boat immediately. There was nothing at all on the chart. It was not a grounding, but just hitting something.
Another time in Florida, I entered an anchorage and spent the night. The water was opaque around there so no bottom or color watching. next morning I headed out on a reverse course on the gps and ran hard aground. I guess you never know just how close some of your underwater misses are until you hit something!
But yes, it's easy to get a bit lackadaisical about it, especially if you have been there before...
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Old 13-09-2018, 10:37   #3
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

Charts quote the depth when the soundings for the chart were done. Shoaling happens and is not consistent and can change with season or a passing storm. Local knowledge is great but hard to obtain when it's your first time in the area. On line sources help if you have the forethought to use them as well as notices to mariners. Other times marks may not be lit, mislocated or missing. Then there is being distracted by something on board or off the boat and/or just not paying attention. Have run aground for all those reasons over the years.

No solution other than keeping an anchor ready to row out and use to kedge off
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Old 13-09-2018, 12:13   #4
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

It’s worth remembering that much of the sounding outside of government Mark channels is borderline ancient. On the Chesapeake, one of the busier waterways in the country, 90% of soundings outside the marks dates from before WWII.

Even areas in more remote marked areas can be off. I’ve run aground where the chart and the tide said I should have +3’ under the keel.

That said, probably half of my groundings (all soft, all I was able to power off of) have been the result of momentary inattention in an area with narrow channels, like the ICW.

Just recently my GPS showed me leaving a narrow inlet over land. I was dead in the middle of the channel and the chartplotter had me at least 75’ to the side. That sort of error can end poorly as well.
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Old 14-09-2018, 00:42   #5
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

Jammer, there are other things that can invalidate soundings: a boat sunken in an anchorage; a tectonically active area with a chart notation: bottoms may vary up to 20 ft., or the equivalent in meters or fathoms, even; and the everloving sand bars.

It's a whole nother world out here.

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Old 14-09-2018, 03:06   #6
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

Even where the water is clear, eyeballing sufficient depth is hard to do. After all, a half-inch of water under the keel means you're still afloat. But an inch later you're stirring up sand, and two inches later you're stuck.
Even when fully aware of potential ICW shoaling and chart inaccuracies, there's no way to NOT go some places if you're cruising--some things have to be done, and all you can do is wait for time and tide and hope for the best. Of course, there are many places I choose not to go because of dangers, but if I only went places with no danger at all, I'd never leave my mooring!
So while I'll agree that most groundings out there are due to a lack of vigilance or to poor judgment, there are some that could only have been avoided by never going to sea at all.
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Old 14-09-2018, 03:58   #7
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

everyone goes aground in time
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Old 14-09-2018, 05:52   #8
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

My limited experience with "hull anchoring" is a combination of poor planning and exploring, both of which I could chalk up to bad luck if I was in a generous mood. I've tried to sail too close to a channel boundary so I didn't have to start the engine, and just could not tack in time. I've also touched bottom while exploring shallow water areas - as Benz noted, I knew I was within a couple feet of the bottom, but was checking out a potential anchorage. There's a lot of water to sail on that's at the edges of the clearly safe stuff.
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Old 14-09-2018, 06:41   #9
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

As another newbie...I gotta wonder if the new Garmin technology in their Panoptix transducer would help much? Supposed to be able to look ahead and get a bottom profile and picture of obstructions?
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Old 14-09-2018, 09:04   #10
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

“I'm new at this,“

Give it time and you’ll learn first hand why even the most “skilled” will find themselves aground or touching bottom from time to time ;-)

Two kinds of captains, those who have been aground and those who will be aground.
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Old 14-09-2018, 09:17   #11
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

There are two kinds of sailors: those who have run aground and those who lie about it.
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Old 14-09-2018, 09:22   #12
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

You said they missed the channel. If they were outside a well marked channel, in day light, it was a case of dumb ass.
It may come down to reading the water if unmarked.
that is probably a term of yore.
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Old 14-09-2018, 09:32   #13
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

Quote:
Originally Posted by akprb View Post
“I'm new at this,“

Give it time and you’ll learn first hand why even the most “skilled” will find themselves aground or touching bottom from time to time ;-)

Two kinds of captains, those who have been aground and those who will be aground.

I have hit stuff over the years in various rivers and mud puddles. Those around me have typically ascribed this to a lack of skill and experience on my part. I consider myself new because I've never sailed a cruising boat in the ocean. I've always thought it was different. Maybe it's not.
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Old 14-09-2018, 09:48   #14
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

It all depend on where you are, what the tide and current are doing, whether it's day or night, and your experience

The Chesapeake Bay where I sail the most gets as wide a 30 miles. Most local sailors very rarely stay in the channels

One place I have run aground on is the Latimer Shoal coming and going from near Kiptopeke and Fishermen Island

There's lots happening here with strong currents near 3 knots at times and steep waves. Many times you can see where the shoal is the shallowest but not always

Near land there's a channel nearly 25' -40' plus deep but after heading out a mile or so offshore, there's the shoal. The shallowest spot is near the Southern tip of the shoal. I've crossed it quite a bit at low tide to save time but ran aground once.

I was able to bounce myself off though backing with the outboard but I was lucky because the tide was running out hard! (I was also rolling the boat to one side with my weight in hopes of shortening the keel length. It's a small boat thing)

I've also gone exploring under that bridge (out to Fishermen's Island) to the right of the shoal and South of Cape Charles bumping the bottom as I went.

The shoal is bottom center on the attached chart 12224.. Second chart just is an extension to show more of the area

The other shoal nearby is 9 foot shoal and if the bridge wasn't there, you could surf that on some days the waves are so long and large.

Chart 12224

http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/12222.shtml
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Old 14-09-2018, 09:49   #15
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Re: Aground: Failure of skill, failure of judgment, bad luck

Years ago I wanted to take my twin outboard fishing boat to Caladesi Island State Park (just north of Clearwater Beach, FL). There is a long straight section of channel through fairly skinny water. The channel is unmarked except for markers at each end of the straight section. There is a sign at the markers telling you what compass heading to take to stay in the channel.

I was in a pickle as my compass gave up about a week before, it was laying on its side in the globe.

Ah, salvation! Another boat was headed in, I'll just follow him.

I slid up on the sand about 5 seconds after he did.
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