They say you are not a true skipper until you admit that you have gone aground...Are you a true skipper?

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It was our maiden voyage. Newbees to the wind and riggin though savvy to ignorance as I was a three weeks young, book fed whipper-snappin captain wannabe with as much patience as a nat.. We launched at night on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas and how we got to the middle of the channel was credit to anyone/anything but skill. Thank You, 'Luck' is the word Im looking for. As we mismanaged our way about, a gust from the blackness that lurked from around the bend, or was it from over the cliffs, which ever, we spun around like a stray hubcap as a we were introduced to a serious knockdown, not to be upset however. Though as I gathered my bearings and refocused, and caught my breathe, and changed bathing suits, I reoriented as I belowed "We're Alright!" to a power boat who came over to check on us. I never successfully trimmed her to counter the blow and we were cast to the flats inevitably.

It was back to the books and I do enjoy night sails to-date.
I don't have profound stories like you guys but I do have one in a much smaller boat. I was in a 14-ft Capri in a small lake of California. I was there with my girlfriend (now fiancee) and her teenage son; I was new to sailing but they were greener than I. We were just casually cruising and nearing a shore and needed to tack but a windsufer was there; his board was less than 3-ft from my stern and if I turned, we would ram him. I kept waving him off and telling him to turn but to no avail. After about 45-seconds of this, I heard the 'crunching' of the shale agaist the dagger-board and pulled her up. We were stuck there for about 10-minutes before being towed back to open water but our charter was over.

In all the effort of NOT tacking and running him over, he still fell within moment of hearing our dagger-board running aground.
Run aground? Never, Im a prudent sailor, always knowing exactly where I am...though I will admit to a "few slow bumps" that lasted about 1-2 hours, course it wasnt my fault....freaky damn tide is what it was...
I cannot tell you how many times I have run aground over the years. Channels shift from season to season and channel markers may not always keep one safe....Fact is when sailing in a deep draft boat you will run aground from time to time....
True. For the first season I owned S/V Nautila I sailed without a working depth sounder. It happens just as much now that I have one. A friend told me, "A depth sounder shows you how deep the water was where you hit bottom."
The story goes:

A "yachtsman" is having his props changed after hitting something, bottom or a rock. An old fisherman in a beat up boat ties up at the dock in the yard and starts talking with the yachtie. The yachtie is impressed when he finds out that the fisherman has been working in the area for over a half century, not counting his childhood.

"Wow," the yachtie says, "You must know every rock and shoal in this whole place."

"Nope," the old salt replies. "I just know where they aren't."
I'm assuming that by "aground" you mean hard on and unable to move, and not just dinging a prop. I've had the honor in both power and sail.

The first time, and the second and third, all occurred in the same place: Breton Island, Louisiana. It's an island roughly thirty miles offshore, the southernmost island in the Breton and Chandeleur Island chain stretching northeastward from the toe of the Louisiana delta.

Breton Island was the working base for the Kerr-McGee oil and natural gas fields between the islands and the mainland marshes. The workers lived on the island on a 7 days on 7 days off schedule and services literally hundreds of wells 24/7 in all weather conditions short of a hurricane. To service the wells there were four crewboats to take the men around on their daily rounds, and I ran one of the boats for 2 years. They were built by Breaux Craft. 47' long, aluminum pushed by a pair of GM 871s. These were "basic" boats. Besides the engines all that was onboard were 8 three man bench seats and two tables in the cabin. The pilot house had a single berth running athwartships aft, a chair, with seat belt for rough weather, a two man bench seat on the starboard side, a radar, a VHF radio and a company radio for communication with the island, and a compass. PERIOD, nothing more.

You entered the island complex by a channel on the southeast side of the island and into a nice little lagoon that was protected from all directions. The channel was about a third of a mile long and outside the chanel on either side depths were only 3 or 4 feet. Currents of up to 3 knots would sweep across the channel at each turn of the tide, and right across the sand and mud that made up the shoals.

I was called into the island one day at mid morning and half way down the channel, and smack dab in between the red and green day markers I came to a screaching half. Bam! The engines shut down after digging into the mud. And there I sat. Everyone had their laugh until the boat coming to "rescue" me came to a stop about 100 feet behind me.
Okay, now I"ll bore you with my hard aground in a sailboat story.

After buying my Kaiser 26, one of the finest "pocket cruisers" ever built, I needed to move it from a small marina on the Miami River to the Derecktor-Gunnel yard in Fort Lauderdale. My plan, after having worked for 3-1/2 years with only 8 vacation days taken in that time, was to go check out Belize and the Rio Dulce for as long as the money held out. This was back in '92 and I must say in all honesty that the deprivation of vacation days for the previous 31/2 years wasn't exactly a hardship. I was the captain of an 85' custom-built motor sailer based in Antibes, France, between Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera for a little over 2-1/2 years, and for 7 months in Marbella, Spain, prior to sailing over to the States. In all that time, too, for reasons too complicated to go into here, the boss was NEVER on board nor were there ever any guests other than my own. Essentially it was MY million and a half dollar yacht on the Riviera.

Anyway, I asked an English friend of mine, Nigel let's say to protect the guilty, to help me bring my boat up to Lauderdale. Now, Nigel is not unfamiliar with boats. He's a licensed captain for more than 20 years, half a dozen transatlantic crossings, all over the Carribean, Central and South America. He knows that the pointy end of the boat is the bow.

We easily made it down the Miami River opening a few bridges on the way, and out into the turning basin where the Miami River, ICW and the Miami Ship Channel converge,just in time to nearly get run down by a cruise ship. Since it was a nearly windless day we decided to just motor up the ICW. Certainly no big deal. Two licensed skippers with close to a half century of accumulated professional experience on board. The ICW is no mystery to me. I've done ten trips from Mile 0 in Norfolk to Miami.

The problem came about half way up Biscayne Bay. I went down into the cabin to fix lunch leaving Nigel at the tiller. Well, being a deep sea sailor is one thing, but they get lost inside the sea bouy, and as I was passing the sandwiches into the cockpit we came to a sudden and certain stop. As far as Nigel was concerned he was perfectly lined up to pass between the two upcoming daymarkers, and looking over the bow it sure seemed that way. But never really having done any "inland" sailing he forgot how important it is to look at the markers BEHIND you, too to make sure you're really IN the channel.

I hadn't joined TowboatUSA at that time, and I didn't know if the tide was rising or falling. Stay in the channel and what's the difference? So, there we sat leisurely eating our sandwiches and drinking cold iced tea. No hurry. We weren't on a rocky bottom. After eating we pulled the dinghy up, lowered the anchor into it, rowed off to port to prepare to kedge off.

Usually the motor vessels running in Biscayne trail huge wakes but now we couldn't buy one. They all slowed down to idle speed despite gesticulating wildly in an effort to get them up on a plane to create a wave. It would lift us as it passed beneath and while at the top of the wave we could utilize the windlass to turn the bow into deeper water. They'd all slow down and give us a friendly "isn't it great that we're all out on the water together" wave.

While it seemed as though dozens of boats went by like that we certainly didn't keep count, it just seemed that way. Eventually, though, one decent sized sport fish under stood our gestures and time his wake just right and with about five or six revolutions of the windlass we were bouyant again.

All totalled we were aground for about an hour and the rest of the trip was uneventful. And yes, to all you sticklers, ultimately I was responsible as captain.
I boat on the west coast of FL...nuf said. Easier to count is the number of times I haven't bumped ground. I draw 5-3 and our whole channel maxes out at 8....

m/s Miss Magoo
Columbia 45
You bet I have!
Racing sometimes takes you closer to those sand bars than you want. Jumping in to push off is not a lot of fun.
If you forgot about the tide, you better read more time tables.
Learn how to use your depth gauge alarm, it has kept me out of trouble.
It is not so bad to run aground but can be embarassing.
Yes, I think it is true. I have run aground a number of times, mostly because I love to spend time exploring areas where the depths are not published. Must say that I have intentionally run aground several times in my ventures and one stands out most in my mind.

It was a very long crossing returning from the Bahamas to Fl a few years ago. I was dead tired and after I came into the inlet from the sea I set course for the nearest shallow water area knowing that the tide was falling. I ran my boat into the muddy bottom, put out chain and anchor, and went down below for some badly needed sleep. Just after falling to sleep I was awakened by cursing and yelling right outside of my boat. I jumped up to see what the problem was and saw that a power boat had tried to pass me and their engine was bogged down in the mud. They were angry at me and let me know it. It must have been my fault some how. Anyway, I just hope they learned from their experience. Back to sleep I went.


S/V Journey
Watkins 25


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