Date: 24 December 2013. Running Aground.
There are two types of boaters who have never been aground.
Most common are those who
never go anyplace. As for the rest, they are atrocious liars. The last time I was aground
was back in 2012 and I anticipate being aground again. For me it's about
a once a year event that I touch bottom though thankfully never in such a
condition that I've had to be hauled off by TowBoatUS. Knock teak!
It helps that I'm a poky little trawler so that even
bumping the bottom doesn't cause much of an issue. You can get in a whole
lot less trouble at five knots than at ten, or more. Plus there's so much
to see and enjoy even in those long stretches of nothing, well, I enjoy
puttering along nice and slow. Have I mentioned the fuel economy is better
The blue arrow is St. Andrews Sound:
Running aground is not just for
novices. I've got 15,000 miles at the helm and still manage to check the
depth with my keel on occasion -- usually when I'm not thinking clearly.
Back in early 2012 I tested the bottom when traversing the southern shore of St. Andrews Sound heading east.
Yep, there was a bit less than three feet of water. Oops!
Because Skipper and I were in St. Andrews Sound the markers
had swapped sides at the channel entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. All was
well and I have a method for remembering that too. On the throttle and
gear control knobs for the engine, I have one red Turks head knot and one
blue. [If I ever get around to it, I'll paint the blue one green.] See
The knots are my memory boosters -- I know from a glance
which side the red markers belong on. That's particularly useful for those
early morning take-offs, when the coffee is just starting to percolate
through my veins.
A couple of other things that you might have noted in
looking at the picture:
The red Turks Head knot is on the left side of the throttle
control which reminds me I need to keep my red markers to the port side.
The blue (eventually Green) is on the wheel. That's tells
me to open the thru hull for my engine prior to starting her.
The cleat also has a bungee cord around it and the wheel.
That was one of those Good Ideas in Theory that wasn't so great in
You see, most boats that can track only require a bit of
help in order to stay on course. Unfortunately Seaweed doesn't have that
ability and requires constant steering. The cleat is not totally useless,
but pretty close to! Anyway, if your boat holds her course a way of
securing the wheel can allow hands off steering. I hope it works better
for you than it did for me.
And by using a bungee cord, if you had to turn the wheel
sharply (to avoid a crab pot for instance) you could do so. That's why I
advocate a bungee versus a regular line to the wheel. You MUST be able to
react immediately. Just something to keep in mind...
I want to live in Theory. Everything works
And now, back to our discussion of testing the depth so to
speak. Please look at the following chart (specifically by the red
star) and see if you can see where I goofed:
I was heading east toward a nice little anchorage doing
just fine cutting the corner as Seaweed only draws three feet. For some
reason didn't take into consideration a full moon with the associated
extra low tide.
Then just to make things a little less perfect, I forgot that heading into the
bayou meant the marker colors would again swap sides. Oh, I was doing fine (not bad at
least, and certainly not aground) until I spotted that Red #2 marker and
tucked inside it. Much to my consternation Seaweed ended up in that 1' area you
can clearly see if you look at the stinking chart -- unlike me until I
went bump, thump, and then nothing. Sigh.
Fortunately the tide was incoming (why does a rising tide take so much
longer than a falling one?!) so I could sit there and pretend I'd meant to
do this. There were of course a lot of keel marks in the sand so at least
I had the comfort of knowing I wasn't the only woman who thinks her aft
end is smaller than it actually is!
When the tide came up about an hour later Seaweed floated
off and we tucked into the bayou for a time. I prefer nooks and
crannies as the fetch is less and that means I can relax and enjoy the
scenery more. Plus it's fun to explore with Skipper in Algae my
dinghy along the shoreline.
Today's Lesson is a simple one: ALWAYS look at your chart
and remember to pay particular attention near inlets. I didn't and
fortunately it only cost me a bit of embarrassment. A boat going faster or
with an unprotected propeller could have had a serious problem. Be safe,
and happy cruising.
I'd love to hear from others who stray from the marked
And, have you ever run aground? Please provide details! (anonymously is
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