Emergency Preparedness

Running Aground Prevention and Response

Running Aground Prevention and Response

A grounded boat on the beach

The prevention of running a vessel aground is a basic and important operator aptitude. U.S. Coast Guard statistics have pointed out that groundings have accounted for many accidents that resulted in injuries, significant property damage and even death. Boaters can best avoid running aground by following a number of safe boating practices, including:

  • Becoming familiarized with the local waterways and any obstacles that may exist below and above the water. Local nautical charts should be reviewed for such obstacles as overhead barriers, cables, rapids, tides, currents and other local hazards in the area of travel.
  • Maintaining a safe speed at which you can come to a stop or slow rapidly, if necessary to avoid running aground.
  • Anchoring when stopped so that your boat can not run aground if bad weather or engine failure occurs.
  • Keeping a proper lookout. Because water hazards are constantly changing, boaters should not become complacent with their knowledge of local waterways and their hazards. Watch out for shoals, sand bars and any foreign objects that may be floating around the boat or in its pathway. Marker buoys may also be placed to alert boaters to shallow waters.

Many modern vessels are equipped with a depth finder. It is a good idea to set the depth finder to sound an alarm if the boat enters shallow waters. However, operators should not solely depend on the depth finder and should continue to monitor your location on a nautical chart.

Proper Response to Grounding

Following proper procedures in the event of grounding can greatly lessen or decrease damage to the boat and fatalities.

If a vessel runs aground, the operator should first assess the boat and surroundings for any damage or injuries. Is anyone on or around the vessel hurt? Is there damage to the boat, especially the hull?

If significant damage or injuries have occurred, immediately call for help. In cases where the hull of the boat has been severely damaged, it is best to remain in shallow waters than to attempt to push back into deeper areas. If there are any leaks you should gain the attention of another nearby boat and call for help.

Boats that are not grounded very deeply may be able to simply back away from the shallow waters. All weight on the boat should be shifted away from the portion of the vessel that is aground. Someone may need to help the boat away with a push. A kedge anchor may be necessary if the boat cannot be backed away. Kedge anchors are used in conjunction with another small vessel to pull the grounded boat away. It can also be used with a PFD or throwable device if necessary.