You’re on your boat, enjoying the magnificent coastal landscapes while cruising along the beautiful waters of Australia on a fine day. What could go wrong, right?
Actually, there are an awful lot of things that can make your boating trip a disaster, and one of them is when your boat runs aground or when it gets stuck in a shallow area, like a sandbar, shoal, or a reef in the middle of the sea.
But don’t lose your cool if you experience grounding because you can still turn the situation around. There are several steps you can take to get your boat back running on deep waters again.
What to Do Immediately After Running Aground
The first thing to do is not to panic. Don’t try to reverse or you’ll only damage the hull of your boat, especially if you got stuck on a hard and rocky bottom. Take a deep breath and be patient. Turn off the engine to avoid overheating and getting debris into the cooling water intake. Then, set the kedge anchor to keep the waves from pushing the boat further aground.
Next, check if anyone is injured. When your boat runs aground, it will come to a sudden halt throwing you and your passengers off your seats. It can also send several items flying and possibly hit people on board. Make sure that everyone is safe first before trying to unstuck your boat.
Once you’re sure that nobody is hurt, then you can assess the situation. Find out if there’s a gas leak and if so, make sure not to turn the engine back on. Then, look over the boat to see what damage it sustained.
Sometimes, boats that run aground only get scrapes. But if you’re unlucky, your boat can get cracks and holes where water can penetrate. In this case, you have to pump out your bilges right away and create an emergency plan. Act right away to make sure that you’ll get rescued. Get your radio and call the Coast Guard to inform your situation and location.
If there is another boat nearby, you can signal or radio to get help. Ask the operator if it can tow your boat ashore. If not, then call a commercial towing company to do it for you.
How to Re-float Your Boat
If the boat seems fine after your inspection, you can try to re-float it in several ways.
First, go around to see which direction has enough water depth to manoeuvre your boat. If you have an outboard motor, make sure to lift it first.
Once you’ve determined that it’s safe to do so, you can slowly push the boat away from the shallow waters using a boat hook or an oar. If possible, you and your passengers can push the boat yourselves. Alternatively, you can use a winch and kedge anchor to haul the boat away.
As you push off, continuously check that your boat isn’t running to a shallower area or getting more damage. If anything seems not right, stop pushing off. Once your boat is on deeper water, you can turn the engine on and reverse off back to the navigable waters.
It helps to lighten the load make your boat easier to float. So, try moving your passengers and other heavy items into a dinghy. Get rid of the water tanks as well if you need to. On the occasion that the water level isn’t high enough, or you have run aground on muddy water, you can instead wait for the next high tide before making your move. It will give you a better chance to get your boat afloat again.
How to Avoid Running Aground
While it’s very useful to know what to do if your boat runs aground, it’s more important to learn how to avoid running aground for your safety. Here are some helpful tips:
1. Study your navigational charts – Know the depths and features of the waters you’re boating into, especially if the area is unfamiliar. Carry the charts at all times so you can check even while cruising on the water.
2. Get advice from experienced boaters – Before going on your trip, take the time to ask other boaters who are familiar with the area. They can give an idea of which direction you ought to avoid.
3. Keep to marked channels – Take note of where beacons and buoys are located. They are your guides to safety.
4. Be alert at all times – Always be attentive and observant of your surroundings. Don’t be lured into complacency just because everything is going well. Staying alert will keep you in the deep waters.
5. Avoid excessive speed – Keep a reasonable speed so you can make the right observations. It will also give you enough time to navigate away from shallow waters if ever you get near one.
6. Use a depth finder – This equipment or application will alert you when nearing the shallow waters. Make use of it but don’t rely on it too much. It’s still best to be observant of your surroundings.
As a beginner, we know you can’t wait to have fun and we’re excited for you! But before you sail away, here are some more boat safety guidelines to learn.
Contact Us for Boat Finance
Now you know how to avoid boat grounding and what to do if your boat runs aground, you’ll enjoy your boating trips around Australia. But for the best boating experience, you need to invest in a boat that has advanced navigational equipment.