Getting Off a Shoal

We decided to leave Oxford, Maryland at 7am, during peak high tide so we could ride the current out of the small creek we were anchored in. 

The plan was to raise the anchor when the current stopped flooding and drift out of the creek as the tide began to ebb. This small, narrow creek experiences a 2 foot tidal variance between high and low tide. Such a strong tide also produces a very strong current! The forecast for the day called for "no wind" until 10am, when it would then build to 2-3kn of wind. We figured that we would drift along with the current for the first few hours of the day, and once the wind came along, we would begin sailing! 

We went to sleep with our alarm set for 6am to give us plenty of time to ready the boat in the morning to raise anchor. When the morning came, there was a very strong wind blowing right up the creek! We decided to wait on raising the anchor until the wind either lessened or changed direction.

At 730, it changed from a headwind to a cross wind on the narrow creek. This would allow us to sail out of the creek on a beam reach while still riding the current that was flowing with considerable force.

I was working alone since Maddie woke up with a fever and was not in any condition to help with setting the sails or raising the anchor. I began by raising the mainsail a little bit, then pulling the rode. As we reached the anchor at the end of the rode, the boat began to sway side to side as the bow and sail fought against the wind. I waited until we were pointed on the tack that would take us out of the creek before un-setting the anchor. 

We were aiming the right way so I quickly cranked on the windlass to raise the anchor off the bottom. We were on our way with a partially raised mainsail, taking us along on a beam reach! Just then a puff of wind hit the main and turned the unbalanced boat into the wind, sending us right onto a shoal! 

The tide was going out, so I knew the longer we waited, the harder it would be to get us off the shoal and into deeper water. I explained the situation and Maddie came out to give me a hand with getting off the shoal. I got in Tooth and set the transom of the dinghy under the anchor of Wisdom. Maddie lowered the anchor into Tooth, along with 100 feet of chain. 

I proceeded to row towards deeper water with the anchor, letting the chain fall out of Tooth as I went. By having the chain in Tooth, I was able to row away from Wisdom with more ease. The alternative of taking the anchor away while letting chain out of the sailboat would be much to difficult. The weight of the chain will bog you down and not let you row very far from the ship. I do keep a foot on the chain to avoid it from siphoning out the side. I steadily control how much chain goes out on each stroke to make sure the anchor is set as far away from the boat as conveniently possible.

Once I get to the end of the rode, I drop the anchor over the side of the dinghy and row back to the sailboat. Once on board, I begin cranking on the windlass to drag the boat over to the anchor. At first, the chain came in easily; once the chain was drawn tight, I needed to switch over to the low speed winch. The boat slowly pulled forward as the chain was brought in one link at a time. Once the keel was off the shoal, the chain went slack and the boat was easy to pull up to the anchor. 

Maddie offered to stand at the helm this time to avoid a repeat of what had just transpired. The anchor came up, the main was raised, and Maddie took the helm to get us going. Once I was back to the cockpit, Maddie returned to the bed where she proceeded to sleep the fever away.

With Maddie's help, we were able to get off the shoal in under 10 minutes. I know she was not feeling well, which makes me appreciate her help in these tense moments all the more! If you run aground, consider using a kedge anchor to get you free instead of calling a tow boat. By the time they get to you, the tide can be out, leaving you in a much more difficult situation. Acting fast with a kedge anchor will get your boat free before the situation can worsen. 

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