How to go Aground in Style

Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
56
Look Ma! No water!

Look Ma! No water!

No doubt about it. Sailing a shoal-draft boat that can ground out easily makes you feel like you have a secret super power when cruising. My first such boat, a Golden Hind 31, drew just 3ft 8in and had a long full keel with two small bilge keels sprouting out either side—a triple-keeled yacht if you will. This gave her great directional stability when sailing and allowed her to stand up straight when she had no water to float in.

I was, of course, eager to try this trick. Soon after acquiring the boat I sailed her up the St. George River in Maine, all the way up to the head of navigation at Thomaston, on an incoming tide. When it came time to anchor I turned out of the conjested channel into open water and confidently kicked my hook overboard. Another boat that had been sailing up the river just behind me got ready to do the same.

“You shouldn’t anchor here!” I called out, feeling very smug. “There’s no water here at low tide!”

The crew on the other boat gaped at my boat as though it were a spaceship just landed from an alien planet, then turned tail for the safety of the town dock.

I had my come-uppance hours later when I returned to the scene after a long dinner ashore and found my boat standing upright, yes, but buried deep, bow down, in very soft mud. I was worried the mud would never release her and stood fretting for hours until she floated again.

Lesson learned: before parking your boat on the intertidal littoral, you should know what it consists of.

My latest boat, an aluminum-hulled Boreal 47, which has a centerboard and draws just 3ft 3in when it is retracted, also has the magic power. However, I was more circumspect this time, and before exercising it I selected a grounding venue I was very familiar with, a big mudflat just inside the mouth of the Kennebec River, where I spent summers as a kid.

I also stayed aboard this time and experienced the transformation firsthand. It actually did feel magical. Though conditions were calm and the boat was hardly moving while at anchor, my body sensed immediately when it ceased floating, as though this were a phase change as distinct as water turning to ice. I realized, too, I needed to think of things I don’t normally think about.

I did remember to shut off the water-cooled fridge before all the water went away. And when I was awakened that night from a sound sleep by the sensation of the boat floating again, I thought to turn it back on. However, one thing I had not thought of was to close the intake valve. As a result, all the water in the intake line drained out while the boat was aground, and to get the fridge running smoothly I had to open up the system’s water strainer and prime it again.

Something else I hadn’t thought of was the dinghy and the fact that it would refloat long before the boat did. The boat, with the dinghy tied off astern in its usual spot, had grounded out in line with the current, broadside to a light breeze. However, when the dinghy refloated, it was blown across the back of the boat and got pinned under its transom skirt as the water continued to rise. Fortunately, I discovered this just in time and managed to free the dinghy, in the middle of the night, without a stitch of clothing on, before any harm was done.

Next time, you can be sure, I will remember to tie off the dink amidships.

The boat was again hard aground by the time I finished breakfast the next morning, so I set to work scrubbing her bottom with a long-handled brush. The mud was just soft enough to grab my feet as I worked, which was both annoying and tiring. In all the job took about two hours, which I reckon is how long it would take doing it in the water with a mask and snorkel on.

Still, I think I like this way better. After all, there’s no point having a super power if you don’t use it from time to time. 

December 2017

Related

01b-Over-Loch-Scavig

Cruising Across the North Sea

Conventional wisdom says sleeping in the V-berth while offshore is a bad idea. It can be like a diabolical amusement ride that tosses a sailor to and fro, inducing stomach-churning weightlessness. And yet, here I am, nestled in the tilted corner created by my berth and the ...read more

GG17-SAONA47-DX0796

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

Here’s a riddle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cabins and four decks? Answer: The Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five levels if you count the large engine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.DESIGN & ...read more

RichardBennettMIDNIGHT-RAMBLER3249x202

Storm Sails: Do you Need Them?

Many sailors embarking on ocean passages will take along the obligatory storm jib and trysail, with the vague idea that they may come in handy. Few sailors, however, have a real understanding of how and when to set them.It doesn’t help matters when we hear from seasoned sailors ...read more

IntheWater(1)

Boaters University Unveils Rescue Course

Boaters University has just announced its latest online course, Safety & Rescue at Sea, taught by Mario Vittone, whose name you might recognize from the pages of our sister publication, Soundings Magazine and his Lifelines blog.Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue ...read more

IMG_20170920_132819

How to: Installing New Electronics

I had been sailing my Tayana 42, Eclipse, for a few years without any installed electronics on board. I’d gone pretty far up and down the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts with paper charts, the Navionics app on my Android phone, a hand-bearing compass and the ship’s compass. ...read more

02-Douglas-Adkins---Coriolis---Orcas-Island-KevinLightPhoto

A Phoenix-like Concordia

Cutting a fine wake on the cobalt-blue waters of West Sound on Orcas Island, Coriolis sparkles like a diamond. Her lovely silhouette is offset by emerald forests that frame the ocean, within spitting distance of the border with Canada. Seen up close, this Concordia yawl is a ...read more

IMG_1051

The Latest Boat Trends from Dusseldorf

The world’s biggest boat and watersports show, held in Düsseldorf on the banks of Germany’s Rhine River each January, is the place to scope out emerging trends in the boat design and building.What would be the new trends for 2018 and beyond? Hint—sophisticated electronics figure ...read more