Running aground is one of the most common types of boating accidents. While it can be difficult to avoid entirely, given the changeable nature of the underwater environment, there are things you can do to minimize your risk of running aground and steps you can take to try to free your boat if it does happen.
Running aground occurs when the water is no longer deep enough for a vessel to float. Shoals and other underwater hazards can result in the water depth changing suddenly. If a boat hits the bottom and becomes stuck, it’s known as being grounded or running aground.
In the event that you run aground, the first step you should always take is to stop and assess the situation. The next steps you take will depend entirely on the condition of those on board, the amount of damage the vessel has sustained and how far it has run aground.
First, turn off the motor and check for injuries. If anyone is seriously injured, use your VHF radio to contact the authorities and send out a distress signal to indicate to other vessels that you are in need of assistance.
If no one is seriously injured or in immediate danger, the next step is to check the boat for damage. Has the hull been breached? Are you taking on water? Stay alert for any smell of gasoline that could indicate a dangerous leak.
If there’s no structural damage, you can try to free your boat. There are a few different methods you can attempt:
No prevention strategy is perfect. That’s why it’s best to use multiple methods to help you avoid running aground.
The first and most important prevention strategy is situational awareness. When you’re boating, you should always keep a proper lookout for any indications of underwater hazards. Don’t assume that every hazard will be clearly marked with a marine buoy—keep an eye out for any changes in wave patterns or the colour of the water that might indicate a shallow patch or shoal. You can also take a look at the route other vessels take through a waterway to find safe passage.
If you’re boating in unfamiliar waters, charts are an indispensable tool to have, as they indicate the locations of things like channels, shoals and underwater obstructions. It’s best to take a good look at the charts for the area before you get underway, and keep them handy while you’re on the water so that you can consult them as necessary. There are even marine navigation apps available that provide access to the most up-to-date charts!
In order to avoid any hazards you do spot, you need to maintain a safe speed and be familiar with your boat’s stopping distance and maneuverability. You should be aware of how long it takes your boat to come to a standstill at various speeds and how sharply you can maneuver away from an obstacle without capsizing.
If you are in a situation where you are concerned about the possibility of running aground, slow down. You’ll shorten your stopping distance and reduce the likelihood of damaging your boat if it ends up grounded.
Safety is a vital aspect of boating. From the safety equipment required on board a boat to how to react in an emergency situation, there’s a lot that boaters need to know in order to keep themselves and their passengers safe on the water.
Drive a Boat Canada offers a safety course for boaters to learn everything they need to know before taking the online boating exam to obtain their Pleasure Craft Operator Card. The card is a license required by law for those wishing to boat recreationally in Canada. Register today to begin your boating adventure!