Would you know what to do if you ran aground? James Stevens answers your questions of seamanship

You’ve run aground. What do you do now?

James Stevens answers your questions of seamanship


Mike owns Aurora, an 11m (36ft) production cruiser.

Aurora is fin keeled with a draught of 1.9m.

Mike has invited three friends for an afternoon sail in September but there is no wind at all, so after some discussion they decide to motor up the river to a pub with a quay that is accessible at high water.

HW is about 1900, it is two days before springs so it should be okay if they head back no later than 2000.

The channel is marked by red and green posts.

It all goes well on the way up and they arrive just before high water.

Mike knows that the trip back could be tricky in the dark so he limits himself to having one drink.

The crew are nowhere near as restrained as Mike and have downed several rounds by 2000 when Mike drags them back to the boat.

Aurora is still afloat but in the dim light he can see the ebb is already flowing.

Mike positions one of the crew on the bow with a torch to highlight the posts for him to steer to.

There is a sharp bend in the river.

At this point the bow man points the torch towards the wrong post – one beyond the next mark.

Mike steers towards it without noticing the depth drop. Aurora slides to a halt. They are firmly aground.

The bottom of the river is mud and gravel.

Mike tries everything he can – ahead, astern, crew on the outswung boom, but they are hard aground.

What should he do now?

James Stevens answers:

They are going to dry out; the good news is that the next tide is higher so they are only there for the night.

It is also flat calm; the process is much more hazardous in waves.

A modern production yacht should dry out and come back up again but there could be some damage.

Occasionally yachts dry out vertically with the keel in the mud or on a wing keel, but the chances are that Aurora will dry out on her side.

If possible, the yacht should dry with the mast towards the bank avoiding trees and obstructions rather than the centre of the river.

The crew need to secure everything down below and close windows, hatches and lockers tightly.

Continues below…

It is worth getting the anchor and chain out, rowing or walking it towards the channel for later.

James Stevens

James Stevens, author of the Yachtmaster Handbook, spent 10 of his 23 years at the RYA as Training Manager and Yachtmaster Chief Examiner

The hull will need to be protected against the gravel as Aurora comes to rest.

Traditionally this is done with the navigator’s bunk cushion.

Hopefully the water will not reach the companionway.

They are in for a pretty miserable night. Mike should, of course, have had a pilotage plan with courses rather than just relying on the torch.

Returning earlier would have been sensible.

On the way to the pub it was daylight, a rising tide and everyone was sober.

On the way back there were none of those advantages.

Enjoyed reading You’ve run aground. What do you do now?

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