Running your sailboat or wakeboard boat aground is no fun. There’s an old adage in boating…it’s not if but when you run aground. Generally grounding your boat produces lots of panic, loud yelling and heavy-duty muscles working frantically. So, what do you do?
First, take a deep breath calm down and have someone make sure you’re not taking on water. Can you motor off in reverse? We ran aground once in a ski boat (we were in a bay crabbing and didn’t pay attention to the tide) thankfully that boat had an O/I engine. We were able to lift the out-drive just enough to clear the prop and back off. So look and see if that’s a possibility. If it’s not then you’ll need to “kedge” yourself off.
Kedging is an ancient art. It requires a dingy, an anchor and something to pull off with like a winch. Technique is more important than gear but using the correct size for your particular boat and your body’s ability will definitely make the job easier.
The anchor should be of sufficient size to hold your boat in moderate conditions yet light enough for you to handle. Nylon anchor line is a good rode, just be sure what ever you use doesn’t float. If you find you don’t have enough rode/line you can always tie two together.
Depending on the kind of dinghy you have, you may or may not want to use chain. While chain increases the holding power of your anchor and decreases the scope needed, it can be hard to feed over the side of an inflatable or RIB.
Pick where you need to drop the kedge to shift your boat in the right direction to come off the ground. Use lots of scope, it’s not fun to have to retrieve and re-set the kedge. Use at least a 6-to-1 scope, 10-to-1 being probably better. Figure out your scope using the depth of the water where you’ll drop the anchor. Remember to give extra line so the anchor can drag across the bottom and dig in, plus as you kedge off the scope decreases.
You may find you need to set the kedge at an angle to the direction you want to go if you have strong winds or currents. Think also about dinghy drift while setting the anchor. Look around for obstructions, other boats, underwater cables and lines. Check the chart (you do have a chart, right?) is there high ground between your boat and the channel?
How heavy is the anchor? If you are Amazon woman or Bionic man then you can probably just toss the anchor in the dinghy and go. If your anchor is a bit on the heavy side (depends on your boat) you may need to bring the dinghy to the bow and have someone lower the kedging anchor on the anchor roller.
The person in the dinghy attaches the anchor to the dinghy’s strong point, a pad eye or U-bolt so that it hangs over the dinghy in the water waiting to be deployed, use a slipped half hitch.
Once the anchor is secured to the dinghy, the person aboard grounded boat lowers the remaining rode and attaches the bitter end (end of line) to the anchor windless if you’ve got one (it’s a fantasy of mine to have one) or to the sheet winch.
The person in the dinghy piles the rode on the floor; don’t coil the line as that may knot up as you try to feed it out. Just pile it on top of itself as it’s lowered to you. Then you row out the kedge allowing the rode to feed out over the dinghy. If it’s choppy rough conditions row out bow first, if it’s nice row out stern first. Feed the line over as you go this makes rowing out much easier than trying to pay out the rode from the grounded boat. Once you arrive at the ‘spot’ check to be sure that all the ground tackle will play out without snagging. When you’re sure, position the dinghy bow towards the grounded boat and slip the knot to let the anchor fall.
Ah, now the fun part…if you are using a sheet winch be careful of load direction. Applying a large load perpendicularly to a wooden coaming on an older fiberglass boat can split the coaming.
So, run your windless (you luck dog!) or start grinding away.
Once you’ve kedged off, it’s just a matter of retrieving your kedge anchor. If you find it’s stuck, have the person in the dinghy grab the rode and move out over the anchor, you can pay out as they go. Once over the anchor hold the rode in the middle of the dinghy at the bow while bow is pointing to the boat. Run the windless or grind away. Generally, with the lack of scope and the dinghy’s extra buoyancy it’s enough to break the anchor’s hold.
Murphy’s Law happens to all of us. If you boat, it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself aground. A wise boater has the equipment aboard before it’s needed. The rest of us go to S.H.K. The School of Hard Knocks. Have fun, stay safe!
Would you like to learn about more knots? Check out this article!
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