When a Sailboat Runs Aground

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What happens if I accidentally run my offshore sailboat into land?

When a Sailboat Runs Aground

If you are offshore sailing or cruising, your goal is to get away from land. But, even if you have a good plan and plotting chart, your boat can still run ashore. You might misjudge the wind or depth when passing a small island. You might try docking for the evening and calculate wrong. Even though you set out to sail offshore, you should know how to deal with running ashore. Some experts even say that this mistake happens to all sailors at least once. Even the best navigators eventually run into land. As a sailor, the two goals you have when this happens are: get off quickly and minimize damage to your sailboat.

After running ashore, you and your crew should first check for leaks and broken gear. Then, try to determine your location using all methods you can, including depth soundings (with a spinnaker pole or a lead line off the bow, stern or both.) Look at the state of the current wind or waves. How will they affect your recovery? On smaller boats, raising the center board and rudder may set you free. However, you may have to paddle to deeper water where you can lower the board and begin to sail again.

In larger boats with a keel, you can try using the engine if you have one. You will have to power out slowly in reverse. If it doesn't work, abandon this tactic immediately or your may do serious damage. You should be keenly aware of the boat's under-water profile. Send the crew to the opposite of where you are deepest. That might offer enough lift to get free. Putting extra weight on the boom may help tip the boat opposite the stuck position on the shore. You can also try rocking the boat from side to side. If you have a low tide, you must work especially quickly.



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